My name is Gemma Houldey and it is with a sense of commitment, determination and hope that I bring my ideas and wellbeing practices to the aid and development sector, to support organisations and staff in transforming the way they work. I believe that we can achieve so much more as change-makers if we infuse all our work and activism with greater awareness of human connection, diversity and difference.
What I offer, in the form of research, workshops and wellbeing practices is inspired by over 15 years of experience with human rights and humanitarian programmes, particularly in the Middle East and East Africa, and by 5 years of research and learning focused on staff care in the aid sector. Whether working on advocacy campaigns in Palestine, or with peace-building groups in northern Uganda - I have seen how unhealthy working practices and lack of self-care affect our ability to respond effectively to the communities we serve as humanitarians and human rights defenders.
My PhD, completed at the University of Sussex, investigated how the intersections of gender, race and nationality and organisational policies and systems contribute to stress among aid workers in Kenya. I have collected stories from a diverse range of people, both national and international staff, from the humanitarian field officer to the regional programmes manager. Their experiences inform my ideas about the policies and systemic changes required to ensure we really practise what we preach on equality, inclusion, participation and accountability. You can read a journal article that draws on my doctoral research in Kenya here.
I love to write about these ideas on my blog and I am currently writing a book that will build on the findings of my research and my own experiences to provide the sector with practical solutions for some of its current problems concerning burnout, bullying, discrimination and abuse. I have also been discussing these issues on different media platforms, including France 24, Voice of America, The Conversation and Open Democracy. You can also listen to some of my reflections on the challenges of aid work and how this affects us on the One Step Forward podcast.
I believe that we must truly embody all the change we want to see in the world. For me that has meant a continuous commitment to wellbeing practices that support my own health needs, and which can support aid workers and activists not only in healing and relaxation, but also in building awareness and compassion; so that we may continue on a positive path of human connection and understanding. You can read more about my approach to wellbeing here.
You can read more about my professional skills and background via my LinkedIn page. And you can keep up to date on my learning and engagement around wellbeing and organisational change in the aid sector by signing up to my newsletter below, or contact me directly to find out more about how I can support your organisation.