Hellen Atiol

MA in Development and Emergency Practice, Brookes Alumni Fund scholar

Hellen Atiol received a Brookes Alumni Fund scholarship to study the MA in Development and Emergency Practice, completing the course in 2014. She is now working as Civil Society Co-ordinator for ADRA in South Sudan.

Hellen and her family had to leave Sudan during the ongoing violence there, and were helped by a German nun in Uganda who gave them shelter.  They were then sponsored by a church in Canada and spent some time there before Hellen returned to South Sudan in order to make a difference to her home.

She has been working with an organisation which has been involved in a number of projects to try and improve life in her local area.  One initiative has been working with farmers to improve yields on their subsistence farms, in turn improving life for their whole family.

Another initiative saw Hellen work with local young people. Sport and drama programmes have made a significant difference in terms of occupation, producing something worthwhile for local celebrations, and playing sport across a league with teams from different areas.  

The latter has also helped cross-area relations with one youngster describing how they now ‘interact as brothers’ with those for whom they had previously held suspicion.  In an area with the violent history of Sudan that is a significant achievement and will make a wide-reaching difference well into the future.  

One person with vision and drive can make a significant difference to a whole area, and Hellen is an example of such a person.  

Without funding from the Brookes Alumni Fund, alongside some funds from the Windle Trust, attending Brookes would not have been possible for her.  Of her time at Brookes Hellen says "I continue to be grateful for the study opportunity the Brookes Alumni Fund has provided me. The CENDEP program has contributed significantly to my understanding of what is essential in development. ”

Her current role includes "raising the level of community participation, empowering them in the identification and analysis of their problems, improving the level of ownership of the projects, and improving the sustainability of projects."

She is certain that studying at Brookes has had a big impact on her work: "The courses have encouraged me to think critically about sustainable development.  I particularly remember the concept of ‘Rights-based approach’ and participatory development, which focuses on encouraging the most vulnerable in implementing their own development initiatives."

And Hellen is very clear about the way forward: "I believe building the capacity of individuals in communities and empowering them is the only way to bring effective change.  Therefore, my goal will continue to be providing the right skills, tools and attitude, in order to encourage, strengthen and support local efforts."