CRS' emergency HR strategy in Nepal to tap tourism industry

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake shook Bhaktapur, causing massive damages to structures in the area. Photo by: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal / BY CC-NC-ND 

Editor’s Note: This interview took place on May 11, before the second tremor, a 7.3-magnitude quake, struck Nepal.

Already the feeling of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is changing — regaining its energy from the hushed atmosphere that greeted him just days after April’s destructive 7.8-magnitude quake, Scott Webb told Devex.

Webb, a technical adviser for emergency human resources for Catholic Relief Services, plans to hire about 40 local national staff in Nepal — and has 10 days to do it, he added calmly, the Skype conversation punctuated by the sharp barks of dogs heard from the Kathmandu building that now houses several CRS staff.

What might seem an overwhelming task is business as usual for the veteran aid worker, who paused during the interview to share the view from his perch on the roof of the building: a lightning storm brewing in the distance.

Webb is recruiting for the recovery efforts from scratch in the earthquake-struck country, where CRS ended it’s official presence more than five years ago.

Currently unregistered and operating in the country through Caritas Nepal, CRS’ staffing challenge is a few degrees above his recent time in Sierra Leone, for example, where an established presence in the country meant an experienced HR manager was able to advertise jobs in advance of his arrival, allowing him to shortlist and interview candidates.

“Here it’s a few steps behind, because we have to figure out our relationship with Caritas and make sure they have the capacity for us to hire people through them,” Webb explained of the partnership.

The international NGO currently has 27 international staff in country, and many local national staff from their offices in India, the Philippines and Indonesia are getting their first opportunities to work internationally, Webb noted.

With 20 trucks scheduled to arrive with supplies in the next week alone, the current focus is “very heavy on logistics,” said Webb, who has coordinated a surge of 15 people to arrive in the next three days.

“We’re going to have to be flexible and creative,” he noted of hiring in-country, adding that if he’s looking to hire a logistics professional, for example, it might not be someone who's worked for Care or Oxfam, rather someone who has worked for the private sector or an outdoor company based in the country.

One thing that “is tragically working in our favor,” Webb said, is that the tourism industry — a normally thriving sector — has gone idle. But those operators based in the city — a hub for historical sightseeing, trekking, hang gliding, biking, kayaking and more — also have unique knowledge of the country and, in some cases, the ability to reach remote villages and hillside settlements that are still in dire need of aid.

“We’re hoping we can get these trekking professionals and others to help coordinate air drops to places inaccessible by vehicle,” Webb said.  

The challenge now is to phase out staff that have already been on the ground for three weeks; a new wave of regional staff will soon be on their way to cover the surge in distribution of non-food items, including tarpaulins and tools needed to construct temporary shelters as well as the distribution of sanitation and hygiene products.

But advertisements for local hires — to be placed in several local newspapers — will be going out today, Webb said.

CRS’ ongoing efforts will focus mainly on shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, which means high-level hiring will fall mainly in construction and WASH expertise, with full teams to support them. Open positions include program coordinators, social mobilization teams, voucher and livelihoods managers, distribution managers, warehouse managers, logistics professionals, finance managers, drivers and general administrative support.

CRS is there “for the long haul,” Webb noted, committing $10 million to the Nepal earthquake response.

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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