High Altitude Social Isolation Tense Political Situation = Dream Job for Foreign Aid Worker in Tibet

In the best cases, one of the unheralded side benefits of being a professor involves the holding of office hours, the offering of an open door.  This morning, the open door resulted in two very interesting meetings.

My first meeting was with a very sharp ROTC officer, and ran the gamut of globe and various points of American military intervention.  To the benefit of readers of this blog focusing on Korea, the meeting resulted in me learning that we have whole batteries of anti-North Korean missile defenses already set up in Hawaii.  (Read the Chinese concerns about these batteries –”actually aimed at China” — here.)

My second meeting, with a student who is auditing my lectures on Japanese war crimes in China, led me to the following question, which is the focus of today’s post:  “Have you ever considered working for the United Nations?”

What a great question!  Why a great question?  Because it leads one to UNJobs.org.  Should you have missed it, the UN jobs website is itself a treasure trove of information about global development generally, even for those of us who have full employment.  It should be read more frequently.  I mean, wouldn’t we all benefit from a little “Training on Energy Efficiency and Passive Building Design for Cold Climate Conditions, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia“?  Doesn’t knowing about such things help to sharpen our understanding of the problems of architectural design in Mongolia, or in empty Inner Mongolian cities around which French photographers are prowling as my very keyboard clatters?

And for globally-minded graduates who can’t find global opportunities for which their are qualified, it is good to find the UNJobs.org posting entitled “Driver, Abuja, Nigeria,” a position for which one needs a Secondary school education, English fluency, a good driving record, and the ability to check the car’s oil and keep track of “vehicle logs, office directory, map of the city/country, first aid kit, [and] necessary spare parts.”  What a fantastic job!  Driving in Nigeria and keeping track of documents, yeah…

Attention unemployed college seniors: the window for this entry level UN job closes today!

Much closer to the heart and the content of this East Asia blog is the following, fascinating, job posting for Handicap International Belgium, which is seeking a Program Manager for its Tibet office.

Before you cross yourself off of the list of potential applicants or click on to some other, more relevant station on the Electric Carnival which is the Internet, you may wish to read the job description, for it reveals the difficulty for foreigners working in the Tibetan Autonomous Region in a way that is, to me at least, more interesting than a Heinrich Harrer memoir.  Aside from its (always-inspiring) requirement that the candidate be fluent in both English and French (because, really, who shouldn’t be working on their French proficiency?), one can learn a great deal about the aid environment in Tibet from the job description, which I will quote at length:

Handicap International Belgium is seeking a Program Manager for its Tibet office.

Specifics: High altitude (3600 m); Weather conditions difficult, cold in winter;
Accommodation in a hotel; Social isolation, rare entertainment and difficulty travelling out of the city (permits required); Tense political situation; Very few other expatriates living in the area

Job financed: Yes; Donor: Belgian Development Cooperation, EC, Luxemburg Cooperation

Possibility of a couple: Yes (but no possibilities to get a job for the accompanying person)
Possibility of children: Yes (but no access to an international school which makes schooling difficult; no local initiative for foreign children schooling)

Context: The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) remains one of the latest developed areas in China. Given the natural and socio-economic level of the region, the situation of disabled persons in general and children in particular remains precarious. Very few services or specialized facilities for people with disabilities are available in the field of rehabilitation and the needs remain tremendous in terms of detection and diagnosis, special care, physical rehabilitation, technical aids, integrated education, vocational training, information, counseling, awareness and social integration.

Description of the projects:  The recent “Second China national sample survey on disability” estimates that more than 75 percent of people with disabilities in the country are living in rural areas where they often represent the most vulnerable group with difficult access to basic health care, rehabilitation and education. Although the Government has set up very concrete and ambitious objectives for the coming years to improve the situation, measures taken by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and its branches at provincial level do not reach yet people living in rural areas. In these areas, the level of knowledge of the local authorities and the general public on disability is still extremely limited and disability management skills are almost inexistent. In this context, Handicap International has initiated disability programs in 5 provinces/regions of the country (Guangxi, Tibet, Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan).

Handicap International has been operating in the TAR since 2001, in cooperation with its partner, the Tibet Disabled Persons Federation (TDPF) and its branches at prefecture levels. 7 different projects have been implemented since then:

  • Support in the set up and management of orthopedic workshops in Lhasa and Chamdo cities, provision of on-site orthopedic services in Shigatse prefecture, and delivering physiotherapy services at the 3 centers;
  • Community-based rehabilitation and inclusive development for persons with disabilities in Lhasa Urban District, 2 rural counties of Lhasa municipality, namely Medrogongka and Qushui; Shigatse and Chamdo;
  • Support to the set up and capacity building of the Disabled Persons Associations (Deaf, Blind and Physical).
  • Delivery of Vocational Trainings, internships and job placements of PWD from TAR. This project has been extended with a livelihood project (employment and grants for PWD).
  • Inclusive Education for children with disabilities in mainstream schools and kindergartens in Lhasa and Shigatse prefectures;
  • Social Protection and Security for persons with disabilities in health, education and employment in TAR;
  • Mother and Child Health prevention project in Lhasa (end on Dec 2010).

Dalai Lama, Goal in the Distance -- photo by Heinrich Harrer