/ / The Other Side


My name is Aulia Dara Nur Arifin (Dara), and I first discovered the AHA Centre many years ago when I was a fresh graduate looking for a job. Being involved with a humanitarian or development organisation has always been my goal, so I bookmarked the AHA Centre’s vacancy page, and it has remained there ever since.

Years passed, and after a somewhat life-altering decision to resign from my previous job and enrol for a master’s degree in Social Welfare, I visited that page again and was delighted to find a vacancy for an internship with the ASEAN Standards and Certification for Experts in Disaster Management (ASCEND) Project, which I applied for in a heartbeat.

Long story short, I received an acceptance email during one of my classes, which luckily was online; otherwise, I would have to excuse myself to express my excitement. Thus began the 6-month-journey of my internship at the AHA Centre.

Previously working in a profit industry and being out of touch with a humanitarian environment made me wary, and I questioned myself numerous times if I could be of help to the project, especially since it focuses on the certification process for disaster management, an area I was eager to learn about but was far from understanding. I was very glad this thought was immediately shattered as the team, consisting of Mas Andrew, Excel and Kak Haura, guided me thoroughly. They not only introduced the project and my responsibilities and tasks within this internship, but also explained how a regional organisation/project operates, maintain its relationship with Member States and other stakeholders, as well as how they carry out their mission through various projects within the AHA Centre.

Not long after I joined, I was greeted with ASCEND’s first project, which was the first Assessor Training in Viet Nam, exposing me firsthand to a regional project’s preparation prior to an event. Although I didn’t attend the training myself, I had a very strong sense of belonging as I was included in every step of the event, an amenity I continued to feel throughout my internship period. Soon after this event concluded, I was greeted with the project’s next event, which was the Benchmarking Visit to the Republic of Korea. Even though the logistical and administrative work were similar to the previous event, the objective was different, and I got to be more involved in the development of its handbook to facilitate the visit.

Upon completing the Benchmarking Visit, I was again greeted by the project’s final big event of the year, the ASCEND Certification Trial Simulation and Evaluation Workshop. It was around this time that my understanding of the project and its objectives became more solid. The prior activities, such as the Assessor Training, the development of the toolbox and its competency standards, as well as the continuous efforts to improve the process through discussions with relevant parties, served as significant steps for this event. My responsibilities grew more diverse, and I was glad to carry out different tasks and become more involved in its logistical and administrative work, which proved to be a crucial process to ensure smooth implementation. I was very delighted and proud to end my internship with such an inspiring event and had the chance of working alongside hard-working, kind, and supportive people.

If I had to describe my internship experience using one word, it would be FUN. The word itself is often associated with an easy-going picture of life, but for me, through what seemed like a roller coaster ride and quakes (literally) of lessons and experiences, I was able to enjoy every second of it and still crave more. Balancing my studies with my internship was challenging, but the ASCEND Project Management Team (PMT) made it easy and was very supportive as they provided me with the flexibility to attend and focus on both without jeopardising the other. This was also the word I used to describe ASCEND’s fifth Project Steering Committee (PSC) Meeting, an occasion I was honoured to be involved in and attend, which provided me with knowledge on how regional forums are conducted, and I was also very impressed to learn a new language. English was spoken – however, I realised how communications used within this setting is always geared towards positivity and encouragement, a significant tool to achieve collective development and progress, which resulted in fruitful discussions and inputs.

People go through different experiences to understand and find meaning in the work they do, and for me, this internship brought it back from a deep slumber. It was here that I discovered how my studies are not just a shortcut to improve someone’s social welfare or achieve a better quality of life. It is an elaborate and comprehensive process of planning, identifying issues and potentials, designing growth and development strategies, and having a well-thought-out implementation and evaluation and monitoring process of its activities and objectives to achieve social welfare as its ultimate goal. For the ASCEND project, the goal is improving people’s lives by providing competent experts and professionals to facilitate disaster management activities. It has shown me that social change takes time because the goal is the development of human capital through capacity building, a valuable investment for the people, which I was very fortunate to be able to witness and experience through my internship for the ASCEND Project at the AHA Centre.


Written by: Aulia Dara Nur Arifin, ASCEND Intern