Sinan Al Hawat giving a presentation.
Click to enlarge photographSinan Al Hawat (AKDN-Chevening 2007-08 ) obtained a Master’s degree in Rural Development from the University of East Anglia and on his return to Syria worked for the Aga Khan Foundation’s Rural Development Programme as a Programme Associate.
I was born and grew up in Damascus and decided on a career in agriculture and rural development as a response to what I perceived as my country’s problems and difficulties.
The economy of Syria depends to a great extent on agriculture, which prompted me to study that sector, and after university, to work for the Ministry of Agriculture, where I got a good introduction into field. Later on, I learned of the projects and programmes in rural development pioneered by the Aga Khan Foundation and became interested in the holistic concept of rural economy and society. The Master’s degree course at the University of East Anglia was critical to my understanding of the theoretical background of development. It provided me with a wide range of ideas and opened up many opportunities. My dissertation research, for instance, enabled me to obtain hands-on experience in the water management endeavours carried out by AKF (cf. http://www.akdn.org/rural_development/syria.asp) and helped me to get a job with the programme’s Monitoring and Evaluation Unit. My job with the M&E unit includes looking into the work of AKF in Syria, monitoring its progress and evaluating its impact. My responsibilities include helping AKF staff to develop clear M&E plans that can have measurable and specific indicators. This is a new field in Syria and offers a lot of potential for my career development.
I have learned that it is very important for those working in the development sector to be responsive and sensitive to the societies they are working with. Development should be a two-way process - teaching and learning, and giving and taking. Development professionals should appreciate people’s efforts and their means of survival and should try to learn from them, so they can eventually participate in helping people to improve their capabilities and circumstances. I believe no one can develop this sensitivity and appreciation without opening their mind by reading and learning about development scenarios, whether successful or unsuccessful, in different parts of the developing world, taking into consideration the distinctive circumstances that change from place to place, and from time to time.
Besides my studies and further reading about development, volunteerism has played an important role in improving my capabilities and skills. I had the opportunity to volunteer with our National Ismaili Council in different activities like youth, cultural and educational programmes. I developed the skills of working in teams and under pressure and many others that helped later on in my career. Volunteering, in fact, is one way to overcome the catch-22 situation, where one cannot get a job without some experience, while experience cannot be obtained without a job.
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