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Employee profile: Su'ad Jarbawi

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Team Leader, Strategic Response and Global Emergencies

Su’ad Jarbawi shipped out to Yemen for her first assignment as a team leader in the Strategic Response and Global Emergencies group. She’d been asked to conduct an assessment of the situation on the ground in that conflict-ridden country. “Just getting to the field location was a big challenge,” she remembers.

Looking back, Su’ad Jarbawi remembers the beauty as well as the challenges. “There were numerous checkpoints along the way,” she says, “where as a foreigner I had to show permits. So a drive that should have taken a few hours took much longer. The scenery was astonishingly beautiful. The country is very dry. And there are old houses with unique architecture that almost blend into the mountains behind them.”

As there was no Mercy Corps office yet, Su’ad and her team set up a meeting at a hotel with young people who they’d learned wanted to help with the emergency assessment. “After we discussed the survey questions,” she relates, “we hired a taxi driver, asked a local government official from the water authority to join us — that was important — and set out for the rural villages.”

She found the visit “most interesting — and emotionally tiring. We reached villages that were absolutely in dire need. They were living without water, without sewer facilities. Folks were huddled around the one water point to capture what little water was coming out.” The information her team gathered was vital. “It went directly into our proposals,” she says, “and we were able to get funding for emergency programming to meet basic needs.”

Su’ad is a longtime Mercy Corps team member. She began her career with the agency in 2003, when she was just 21. “There’s no prejudice in the agency in terms of your age, your culture, your ethnicity,” she says. “One simply tries to capture good ideas that lead to good impact. And ideas can come from anyone, anywhere.”

She has worked in our Sudan and Haiti programs. And she sees her work as vital to who she is. “It is in the core of my being, to do international relief and development,” she says. “I am attracted by human psychology, the anthropology of how societies develop and why they sometimes reach a stage where there is so much poverty, so many vulnerable people. I feel that it’s my responsibility to do something to help — even if it’s on a the smallest scale.”

Su’ad carries with her the experiences she’s had and the people she’s met. “You fall in love with your first mission,” she says. “For me it was Darfur, where I spent a year. It will forever mark my career and me as a person. We went back to the most basic way of living — team housing, no electricity, barely any running water. You get to know your colleagues and your neighbors really well. When you’re stripped away from technology, building a community is essential. That team is always close to my heart.”

“At Mercy Corps you are able to give in unconventional ways,” she concludes. “You have that luxury — the doors of the world open to you. And everyone has a great story to tell.”