Aid worker stories

"RedR cured my fear of log frames!"

Boy on bike (cropped)

Christoph Altheim is Head of Mission for the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (DHW). With a background in civil protection, he's a relative newcomer to the humanitarian world - but RedR's training has helped him hit the ground running.

I studied civil engineering, and during my university years I worked as a firefighter and paramedic. I went on to work at the municipal office in Munich, where I managed the fire department. Later on, I was trained in civil protection under the EU’s Civil Protection mechanism, and since then my work has taken me all over the world.
My first international deployment was to Jordan. I was involved with Za’atari from the very early days of the camp’s existence. It would be misleading to talk about the "planning stage" of the project, because in truth, there wasn’t one: hundreds of thousands of people crossed the border from Syria in a very short space of time, and we had to provide shelter for them.
The first thing I did was to help put in place water and sanitation infrastructure within the camp. You have to remember that before it became a camp, Za’atari was an airfield in the middle of the desert - there was literally nothing there.
Thanks to my experience in civil protection, I was familiar with emergency contexts and the challenges that come with them. But moving into the humanitarian sector, there was a whole new language to learn: the processes and procedures were entirely different. I would say that working in Jordan presents a special set of challenges, because you find yourself in a "grey zone" between emergency and development.
I started by learning from my colleagues - by asking questions and looking over shoulders - and through doing. I signed up for RedR’s 'Managing Projects in Emergencies' training expecting to acquire a more detailed and practical knowledge of how to write log frames and proposals. It met my expectations perfectly.
My group was brilliant. It was a perfect mixture of profiles: four experienced heads from different backgrounds coming together. We were the first to finish all our tasks - and we managed to have some fun in the process! The trainer was great, too: not only extremely experienced, but a really kind and funny guy.
From May 2014 to March 2015, I worked as Head of Mission for the DHW. I was responsible for drawing up templates, legal contracts and human resources documents, and setting standards. 
My RedR training came in very useful, particularly towards the end of the year. It was proposal season: the time of year when big institutional donors are accepting proposals and deciding which projects to fund. The future of our mission was at stake and I had to ensure that the projects we were submitting were useful and viable. I was under a lot of pressure.
In my current job, I write log frames for other missions, and I regularly draw on my RedR training. Writing log frames is not rocket science. But it can be very time-consuming, even when you’re experienced. You need space and time to think - but you don’t always have that luxury in the humanitarian sector. I suppose the training demystified things for me. I’m not afraid anymore!

I would love to see RedR take on a larger role in the region. I think there’s a real need for training, particularly in Project Management, Safety and Security, and Information Management.

Find out more:
- RedR in the Middle East
- A beginner's guide to log frames, from The Guardian
- Humanitarian and development work overlap in Za'atari, from Bond
- Support our Christmas appeal

Photo © Ehab Othman for RedR

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