Sarah Dixon, financial controller of the Aga Khan Foundation, tells Raymond Doherty about making the move to the international development sector, and why she loves being out in the field
I’d always wanted to be part of the humanitarian aid or international development sector and getting an accountancy qualification was a way into it. I’d spent a year at PwC after I qualified when a job at PKF Littlejohn, which specialises in charity and non-governmental audit work, came up. It was a very specific role: humanitarian aid project field auditor.
This involved travelling to conflict zones or areas where there was a humanitarian emergency. We would go to the field where a project was being implemented with European Commission funds and make sure the money was being used as intended. This meant travelling 60% to 80% of the time in up to four-week blocks. It was very interesting and quite intense – and it was expected that you wouldn’t do the job for more than two to three years because it was so full on. They were very up-front about that in the interview, but I loved it.
One of the first trips I went on I worked with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) in Tajikistan. I thought they were doing amazing work, and I’m not just saying that because I work here now! I worked in Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon for the Syrian refugees, Israel, Palestine and Gaza, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, Uganda and Greece. A situation that always sticks in my mind is a refugee camp in Northern Cameroon for 70,000 people. You’re driving through scrubland and it just appears on the horizon like a town. It’s so removed, especially coming from somewhere like London. It was extraordinary.
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