"Working in a developing country is very stimulating"
|Hermen Ormel, aged 43
Graduated in 1991
Senior advisor on HIV/AIDS for the Dutch Royal Tropical Institute in Namibia
Namibia is one of the world’s top-five countries with the highest degree of HIV-infected people. Hermen Ormel works there as a senior advisor on HIV/AIDS, through the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). He has been there for four years and likes working in an African country. For his job he advises local governments, NGOs and companies on HIV/AIDS-related issues: “For instance [on] the role of political and traditional leaders, … care for orphans and guidance on schools” says Hermen. He also trains people in public outreach who pass on their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and the fight against it to civil servants in the provinces and ministries.
“It is not always easy to work in a developing country. The needs are high; it’s about peoples’ everyday lives, but not everyone has the same sense of urgency. The available resources are limited: also in staff capacity and organization. Especially in a country where until 17 years ago black people didn’t have access to higher education. That is the reason why I’m here: capacity building. I’m here to make a difference. But you need to be modest in your goals, or frustration is right around the corner. I find that stimulating: professionally it is an interesting challenge.”
Hermen already knew that he wanted to work in development cooperation, so he took all the opportunities he got during his education. He did a research internship in Peru and two other internships while he was writing his thesis, one with the Dutch Directorate-General of Development Cooperation and one in Costa Rica. “For your career it’s very important to have experience in the field you want to work in. As soon as you know that, try to find relevant work even while you are studying: through internships, student jobs, or by taking a year off. Future employers like to see that your knowledge isn’t only derived from books.”
After graduating Hermen did the post-graduate programme Master of Public Health at KIT. It helped him get a job in the organization, and the programme also gave him the knowledge to do what he’s doing now. “You graduate, but you never finish learning. Keep stimulating yourself.”