New Zealander Kimberley Hikaka left a career in TV and film production to become a logistician with Médecins Sans Frontières. Seven assignments later, she reflects on her time in the field.
Kim on the job at the Médecins Sans Frontières mobile clinic in Khuber, Iraq. © Kim Hikaka / MSF
What led you to apply to work with Médecins Sans Frontières?
I became aware of how important it was to me to feel I was spending my time wisely on this planet. I realised that I have a freedom of choice to do so which many others don’t have, simply by virtue of the place I was born, the environment I was born into and the education, passports and support network that provided. I was attracted to the principles of Médecins Sans Frontières, as well as the organisation’s focus on providing emergency medical care.
How did your skills and experience from previous jobs prove useful for the role of Logistics Manager?
The skills required in TV and film production are surprisingly similar to those needed for a Logistics Manager role in many ways. For both, it's about organisation: making sure that everything is set up and taken care of so that it all works on the day – whether that’s securing unusual locations for filming or sourcing clean, safe water for the hospital. Both contexts require a team of people with diverse skills to work together under time and resource pressure to make something happen. You are also usually working long hours “on location” (i.e. where people are away from home and staying in close quarters). I did have to stop using the phrase, “It’s not like we are saving lives,” which we used frequently in TV to keep things in perspective...
“I did have to stop using the phrase, ‘It’s not like we are saving lives,’ which we used frequently in TV to keep things in perspective...”
What does your role typically involve?
The role is very broad – you are responsible for all logistical support for the project including water and sanitation, energy, construction, movement (of people and goods), supply including cold chain, vehicles, stock management, premises, IT, communication, biomedical equipment, waste management and security management alongside the Project Coordinator. If something is broken, usually it’s eyes on you to fix it!
What have you found the most challenging aspects of the job?
There is a significant readjustment that you have to undergo when you move from the private sector into the humanitarian sector. The film and TV industries are highly competitive and accordingly have quite rigid requirements. In the humanitarian sector, you are working with a variety of international staff from different countries who arrive with different expectations, different ’normals’ and different approaches to working. This can also be one of the more rewarding aspects of the role – it encourages you to think differently, be open to adapting to other ways of doing things and teaches you how to consolidate the essentials to constructively navigate the group towards cohesive solutions.
Kim with colleagues in Kerema, Papua New Guinea, in 2016. © Kim Hikaka / MSF
Could you describe any particular moments that stand out for you?
The best mirror to the work you are doing is in the response of the community and your local team. I was in Yemen and Iraq during times that most other international organisations were withdrawing for security reasons, but we stayed. You can really see the appreciation that people have, not only for the continuation of services but the solidarity that it represents.
What inspires you to keep coming back?
I have met some of the most extraordinary people in this line of work, especially in the communities I have been fortunate enough to work in. Through our presence and our work we can hope to make a positive contribution to the lives of people who aspire to the same things most people do: a peaceful life, a healthy family and children who are safe and educated. I’m looking forward to my next mission as Project Coordinator in Syria.