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Human Relief Foundation

Blog

An audience with

Shareen Nawaz

Fundraising Manager, North West, Human Relief Foundation

When were you happiest?

I’m an outgoing person, and happiest when I am around those close to me. My motto is to work hard for something that means a lot to you without neglecting those that mean the most. Life gets busy but there is always time to chill out!

How did you fill your days before you stepping into HRF’s world?

Before HRF I was working as a manager for the UK’s largest independent insurance broker. It was a career I really enjoyed and excelled in. However, as I got to know more about HRF, I threw myself into every volunteering opportunity I could, from helping at events to climbing mountains. I spent all my spare time with HRF, and I’m sure it was assumed by others that I was already a staff member!

What project first got you involved in HRF?

I initially got involved volunteering at local events, but what really caught my eye were the international projects. Travelling abroad opened my eyes to a whole new world, as well as allowing me to personally see the difference donations make. My first deployment was to Jordan to aid Syrian refugees. After that, life was never the same!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

As a child I wanted to be an aid worker, or a journalist. I love travelling, learning, and exploring new cultures but at the same time I wanted to make a difference. Although I had this dream, I ended up graduating with a Science degree, so I think at some point in my life I must have thought my childhood dream wouldn’t be possible.

What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had whilst working with HRF, or life in general?

The diversity of the role is unusual. On any given day I could move from organising orphan sponsorship, to recruiting volunteers for international deployments, before finally looking for princess costumes, and bouncy castles for a fun day!

You’ve recently become the Fundraising Manager for the North West; how will this change your life?

Does this now mean that I will have more paperwork to do...? If so, my first major task is to see who I can delegate paperwork to...

 

If you had the power to fix any of the world’s problems (and let’s face it there are many), where would you start, and why?

I really believe that to be informed is to be empowered. Education is the key to empowering people and tackling problems. Through education, we can work towards breaking cycles of poverty, and really learning how to embrace equality.

If people aren’t taught what’s good or bad, or if they don’t learn important life skills such as moral correctness, social responsibility, integrity, and consciousness, they’ll always make wrong decisions. Over time, this is something that begins to shape the world around us.

What advice would you give to someone taking their first steps in charity fundraising?

The first step should be to speak to someone within the charity sector, and ask questions. I’d also advise them to explore the many areas they can get involved in, as it’s important to do something you enjoy and believe in. It’s also important to understand that no change is too small. No impact is too small. Every single act counts towards the bigger picture.

What‘s been the best moment of your career to date?

As I travel abroad regularly for work, I have come across so many moments that I thought were the best but it just gets better! So this is quite a difficult question.

I’d say one of the best moments has to be when we attended the opening ceremony of the Hope Centre in Zataari refugee camp in Jordan. It’s a medical rehabilitation centre built for child refugees who have suffered psychological trauma. The HRF Team worked incredibly hard to raise the funds to build the centre. So to see it completed and hear the many success stories has been the most rewarding feeling to date.

And the worst?

The worst part for anyone in this field is having to turn families away when you can’t help them. It’s very difficult to accept that you can’t help everyone. I’m often asked if I ever get immune to this feeling, or the stories of conflict that I hear. My reply is always the same - ‘Every single person is different. They all have a different story, a different pain, a different struggle. If we avoid seeing every person as another conflict statistic, it’s impossible to become immune to this pain. Every person has a name, not a number.’

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

You will have to go through my music playlist to know this! Do I have to tell you...?

OK, my all time favorite movie is Beauty and the Beast, but that is not where the guilt lies. Sometimes, I sing along to ‘tale as old as time’ on a late night drive home. It’s not all that bad though, I add some bass into the track to make up for it!

I can’t believe I have openly admitted this, there goes my ‘strong independent woman’ reputation...

What is the closest you’ve come to death?

You would think it would be when I was working in Iraq, but it really isn’t. There is nothing that can bring you closer to death than not doing what you're told by your mother! I remember a time she sent me food shopping and I brought back nothing but sweets. She chased me out of the house… Send me back to Iraq, it’s safer!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you to date?

Trust the process of your life. Trust that there is benefit In everything that happens, good or bad. This does test your resilience but once you have mastered this faith, it brings about a strength you may never have realised you have. Take this faith, and carry on…

Who would be your guests (alive or dead) at your dream dinner party?

I would have to say Princess Diana. If I had the choice to have a conversation with one person then it would definitely be the ‘Peoples’ Princess’. She was an extremely charismatic person who held a genuine passion to help people. I quote - “anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be, doing what I can’’ (Princess Diana)

What is your most treasured possession?

Knowledge; knowledge through experience and knowledge through learning from other people. Wherever I travel, I seek wisdom. I love to learn from the life experiences of others. Not only is it useful to me but also to others. I believe sharing experiences and wisdom with each other is so important as you just never know who it may benefit. For knowledge to be of value, it must circulate not be hidden.

Of all the projects you’ve been involved with, what has been the most personally satisfying?

Working with widows and orphans through HRF’s orphan sponsorship campaign. This is a project I work on all year round, and I’ve personally seen the positive effects on families and children. Helping families keep a roof over their head, food on the table and getting children settled into school is all part of it.

A refugee once said to the HRF Team, “You are like the backbone in my body, your help has kept my body straight and my family together.”


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