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Andy Parsons

Quit your job, become a... peace builder

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

Kimairis Toogood, 35, senior conflict sensitivity adviser at International Alert

What's International Alert?

‘We’re a charity that works to reduce violent conflict around the world.’

How do you help them do that?

‘The majority of my time is spent in Nigeria having security meetings, looking at activities teams are working on, meeting host countries’ governments and conducting training or workshops. Our HQ in London has a different pace and my work is a combination of all the above, but from a distance.’

How do you maintain relationships when you're away so often?

‘FaceTime, WhatsApp and Snapchat are godsends. Plus I’ve decided on the things that are absolutely nonmissable for me, like Christmas. The work is about bringing stability and non-violence to a small child, or allowing a woman the right to vote. It’s about fundamental humanity and somebody’s got to do it. I’ve accepted that’s going to be me.’

What led you into this line of work?

‘I got a scholarship as part of my PhD to go to Tajikistan to complete my research about community dynamics regarding conflict.’

How do you cope with such desperate situations?

‘There are days when you wonder why you’re doing it: when you’re reading the transcript about the rape of a two-year-old child, when you don’t have access to water or electricity while you’re out in the field, or when you’re met by an AK-47 in the face at a checkpoint. It’s challenging, but you have to find a balance emotionally, or you would break down and cry all the time.’

Blimey. Are there any upsides?

‘You can see that what you do is changing people’s lives. Most of the frustrations are easily managed if you put them into perspective. I think most of us want to make a difference to the world and I can honestly say that about my work. I feel very proud of that.’

Hours: 50-60hrs per week

Starting salary: £15,000 p/a

Qualifications: None necessary

Or, why not become a tube controller

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