/ / AHA Centre Diary 2


I am Excel Botigan, and I am currently pursuing a master’s degree under the NOHA+ Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Programme in International Humanitarian Action. I spent my first semester at University College Dublin in Ireland (home university) and my second semester at the University of Warsaw (host university). Considering my goal of broadening my knowledge in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), I chose to take the work placement track for my third semester. That is how I decided to apply for an internship at the AHA Centre.

My interest in DRRM and humanitarian action was shaped by my work experience at the Office of Civil Defense, which is the implementing arm of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in the Philippines. This is where I first heard about the AHA Centre. However, I never thought that I would have the chance to do an internship in this regional organisation that facilitates disaster management in ASEAN. It was indeed a great opportunity, and I am very grateful for it.

Throughout my internship, I was given interesting tasks, but there are two assignments that I consider to be the most memorable. First, I got the chance to listen to the unedited conversations between the first two AHA Centre Executive Directors, Pak Said Faisal and Ibu Adelina Kamal, when I was tasked to transcribe some of their recorded exchanges to be included in one of the AHA Centre publications. Through these recorded conversations and the AHA Centre at the Crossroads podcast on Spotify, I came to know and understand the birth pains of the AHA Centre as well as how the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) was organized. I was amazed while listening to how these two leaders worked during the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and during Cyclone Nargis in 2008 when there were no specific central coordination mechanisms and no ready-to-deploy emergency response teams. They showed passion beyond duty, and their stories made me reflect on my personal DRRM experience. Compared to them, I would say that I am still a toddler in this field – a toddler who is very much inspired by their stories.

Second, my task to gather some pieces of information about the ten ASEAN National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs) served as a window for me to take a glimpse at how the other ASEAN countries deal with disasters. Although these NDMOs are structured in different ways, most of them involve a council or a committee composed of various government agencies, private institutions, and civil society organisations, among others. This further proves that a multidisciplinary whole-of-nation approach is necessary to efficiently and effectively address all aspects of DRRM and that no single agency/organisation can handle it all.

Despite doing the whole internship online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was manageable because my supervisors were responsive, and they made me feel that I was part of the team by including me in their discussions, meetings, and training. Personally, I believe that it is important for an organisation to make their employees and interns feel a sense of belongingness, especially during these times when almost everything is virtual, because it boosts the individual’s productivity. These experiences motivate me to visit AHA Centre and meet my supervisors Ms. Caroline Widagdo and Ms. Merry Rismayani in the near future.

In summary, I would say that my six-month internship at AHA Centre was EPIC (exciting, practical, informative, and constructive) as it has greatly complimented my educational learning objectives, and it further encouraged me to continue my career in DRRM and humanitarian action.


Written by: Excel Botigan | Photo Credit: doc. Excel Botigan