In profile: CARE Canada’s Maxime Michel

Here is one of many inspiring CARE Canada staff members we’d like to introduce you to – Maxime Michel. Maxime is a Program Manager in CARE’s Humanitarian Assistance & Emergencies Team (HAET). She shares her passion for her job and what has inspired her to continue to do the work that she does.

What is your role at CARE Canada?

I am a Program Manager in CARE’s Humanitarian Assistance & Emergencies Team. I work with our CARE teams across Africa to obtain funding for their crucial emergency work, and support them in delivering high-quality assistance that focuses on the specific needs of the most vulnerable, which are often women and girls.

On any given day, I can be discussing the construction of wells in Cameroon, reading lessons learned on houses we built for displaced people in Chad, or strengthening our monitoring and evaluation plan for Ethiopia’s response to El Niño.

I have been with CARE for nearly three years, managing emergency programs – from conflicts to natural disasters – in more than a dozen countries across Africa and the Middle East.

I travel frequently to support our local colleagues with their work and responses. I recently spent a few months launching three new projects in Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working with my colleagues in each country office is my favourite part of the job. I am amazed by the humanitarian aid workers across the world who are committed to improving people’s lives in their own countries. For example, my colleague Fatouma from Niger is an outspoken advocate for women and girls’ rights in emergencies, and working with her is incredibly inspiring.

I seek financial support from the government for our important work in crises. This is always a challenge, as resources are limited and so many organizations are worthy of support, especially when the needs are so high. It makes me incredibly happy when our projects are approved – my favourite part is telling the country office that they will be receiving support!

I am so grateful that I can visit our teams and our projects across the world. I witness incredible hardships on these visits, but seeing it firsthand allows me to better explain these crises to my colleagues and to donors.

What is the biggest challenge the humanitarian sector is facing today?

The scale of humanitarian need today is unprecedented – in fact worldwide, it has doubled between 2004 and 2014.

This is due to a whole host of reasons, including climate change, political changes, urbanization, migration, rising inequality and so much more.

Nearly 130 million people need help, and organizations are trying to support 90 million of them. Barely a third of the funding needed to reach that many people has been funded.

The biggest challenge for our sector will be how to adapt to this growing need. We can’t keep delivering assistance as we have been. Moving to cash-based responses, and increasingly local ownership of those responses, will be essential.

What do you think makes CARE different from other organizations?

I think CARE’s focus on women and girls, not only through our words but through our actions, is what distinguishes us from other aid organizations.

CARE has made incredible commitments to focus its emergency response on the specific needs of women and girls. Our teams are keen to do this. I love it when water and sanitation engineers make it a point to include women’s menstrual hygiene products in any distribution we are doing – those needs are so important and are often forgotten, especially in an emergency.

Can you tell us about one particular experience that made a significant impact on you and why?

In early 2015, I sat in a tent in a returnee camp in Southern Chad during one of CARE’s cash distributions. We were providing cash to selected families for the third month in a row, for people to spend on their own needs. The returnees, Chadian nationals who fled from the Central African Republic, recounted their stories to me, one by one, detailing the inexplicable horrors that had happened to their loved ones prior to them arriving at the camp. It was in that moment, in that tent in Southern Chad, that I knew I had chosen the right profession.

Which country/region have you not travelled to but would like to? Why?

I have never been to Nigeria, where CARE has recently started operations, and where a massive humanitarian crisis has been unfolding for years. I have worked closely on our response to this conflict in the Lake Chad Basin, which encompasses Niger, Chad and Cameroon. These countries are hosting people who have fled Nigeria due to the violence there.

I would love to travel to Syria. Having worked on our response to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and here in Canada, I have gotten to know Syria indirectly. I would love the opportunity to one day explore the country and I hope that peace can come soon for the Syrian people.

What would you like Canadians to know about humanitarian work?

Canadians are doing so much to help people in times of crisis. Canadian organizations, funded by Canadians, are providing life-saving support and it is something we can all be incredibly proud of. Though the scale of the need is huge, any support is welcome and makes a difference in an individual family’s situation. On my travels, I meet so many people who are thankful for Canada’s assistance, and I’d like to pass those thanks on to my fellow Canadians.

You can help support CARE’s life-saving emergency work.