Greetings! My name is Gagandeep Kaur, I’m Indian American, and I work as an Instructor and Employment Specialist at International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Turlock, California. I have been working at the IRC for almost two years now and it has been a rewarding journey both professionally and personally. I love waking up every day knowing that I am doing meaningful work and have the opportunity to help others.


Hi Gagandeep! Can you tell us a bit more about your role at the IRC?

My journey with the IRC started as an intern during my Undergraduate years. I came in as an intern for Vocational English as a Second Language (VESL) aide. I dedicated 6 months to helping VESL student’s in basic English skills, job readiness training, and imperative life skills. As my internship came to an end, I went back to complete my Undergrad.

Upon graduating I applied to the IRC and was offered the position in the Economic Empowerment Unit for a VESL Instructor role. Along with teaching VESL, I was also given the opportunity to start Financial Literacy workshops in collaboration with our local banks. I taught workshops on important topics such as taxes, banking, credit building, and debt management to our beneficiaries. After a few months, I also started assisting the Employment Department as an Employment caseworker, and kickstarted our Career Development program once again.

How did you hear about the Humanitarian Leadership Academy’s e-learning platform Kaya?

The IRC’s Learning Department does a tremendous job in sourcing learning opportunities to its employees every time a prospect emerges for higher learning. There is a lot of value placed on continuous learning and developing professional skills. I learned about Kaya through our company’s employee homepage and weekly bulletins, on Rescue Net, where a fellow colleague had written an article for a new learning opportunity with Kaya. I quickly jumped on the opportunity and was elated to see a plethora of courses I can take to develop my professional skills.

What kind of learning opportunities does the IRC offer its staff?

The IRC offers learning opportunities through the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (Kaya). They also offer courses through eCornell for higher education. Recently, IRC partnered with 2U GetSmarter for short course scholarships in any participating university programs around the world.

Which courses have you taken so far? Did you find them useful?

On Kaya I have completed a Data Analysis Training course, Networking Technique course, Building Personal Resilience for Humanitarians, PMD Pro: Project Management, Innovation Essentials course, and Introduction to International Humanitarian Law (IHL), to just name a few. I have added many more courses to my list on Kaya to be completed.

The courses were extremely relevant and helpful in establishing a solid foundation for each subject course, whether it be in the Humanitarian Essentials, Technical Sectors, Programmatic Support, or in Management Essentials. It allows you to venture into various sectors in the Humanitarian field and learn about the different pillars that encompass it.

I enjoyed how each of the courses I have taken have been very interactive in how they were designed; it allowed the user to navigate easily through each of the modules all the while taking in the abundance of necessary information.

It would also be very helpful if there were short video clips or documentaries included in the modules to compliment the information. It would be interesting to see if Kaya could start implementing webinars for a greater and faster transfer of knowledge and information.

Did the courses have an impact on your daily job/career? Would you recommend Kaya to your colleagues?

The first course I had taken on Kaya was the Innovation Essentials course, which was aimed for all the humanitarian workers, no matter your role in the organisation. It demonstrated the first steps in how we can use innovation within our organisation to make it more successful in terms of its culture, strategy and support, how we utilize our resources, risk management, and even partnerships and collaborations. So, this helped me develop a stronger foundation for what the humanitarian sector is and stands for, as a newcomer in that field. In that sense, these courses have impacted my daily job and how I interact with our beneficiaries and how we develop and design our programming.

I have already recommended Kaya courses to my colleagues and expressed how helpful it is no matter what department you are in. I have enthusiastically shared my certificates with my network on LinkedIn about the courses I have completed.

What would you say are the greatest challenges surrounding humanitarian learning today?

The greatest challenges surrounding humanitarian learning today would mostly likely be its reach and access. Accessibility still remains a huge hindrance in terms of technological output. Offices in remote areas with a lack of internet access are usually the one’s that benefit extensively from these learning platforms. Finally, in order to support our employees and colleagues in and out of the field, it is imperative that these learning opportunities reach a broader audience and drive engagement through circulation and marketing strategies.

What can organisations like the Academy do to support the sector to overcome these challenges?

Organisations like the Academy can market and promote their online learning platform at a much broader level by driving their engagement among different audiences in the humanitarian field based on region, languages, and specialized situations/scenarios.

Conclusively, we are grateful to have access to this free learning platform and excited to be able to develop our professional skills in the humanitarian field even further.

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