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Why do you do Humanitarian work, when you could probably be doing something easier, safer, less time-consuming and more financially rewarding?
DR EATON: Humanitarian work is very rewarding in many ways - relationships with people, seeing positive change in people's lives, changing the balance of global injustice just a little. I have a drive to try to make the world a better place and for me this is more of a motivation to get out of bed in the morning than if I worked for a business.
Describe an average day in your life
DR EATON: No such thing exists! Some days I work directly with partners delivering services, for example training nurses or field-workers, or going into the field to see clients with them. There is also quite a lot of supporting the management of programmes; thinking about spending budgets wisely, making sure personnel are working effectively, or that what we do is evidence-based and has a positive impact. More and more now I am working with government departments to motivate them to invest time and resources in mental health, which is a very low priority at the moment. With a little persistant effort, a lot can be achieved with such advocacy.
For example, we have been very involved with policy and legislation in Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana. Today I am working with the West African College of Physicians to find a way of sending two young doctors for psychiatric training from Sierra Leone where there are currently no working psychiatrists.
How does your work affect your life and that of your family?
DR EATON: Mainly I think it is a priviledge to do this work and living in Africa enriches my life and that of my family. We have a good life with a good network of friends. I am quite happy only visiting the intensity of Europe (so many adverts!) occasionally, though of course we enjoy the luxuries when we do. In this work, knowing when to stop is a problem, because there is always more to do. I travel too much and need to be more disciplined about making sure I have enough time at home.
Do you have any specific or general hopes for the future of humanitarian work?
DR EATON: My main hope is that we get the balance right between humanitarian work being organised as a business (sometimes good for efficiency and professionalism) and keeping a spirit of service. It is important to give security to people wanting to do this as a career, but we also want to attract people to the work for the right reasons.
My hope is for a future where there is less 'going there to do good' and more 'enabling people there to help themselves'. This involves taking the bold move of investing in developing people in the southern part of the globe, knowing that there will always be a need for committed professionals in humanitarian work.