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Paul Jawor

Paul Jawor, 37, is a full time relief worker. He has been involved with RedR for four years but has been working for organisations including Voluntary Services Overseas, Medicins Sans Frontiers and the Department for International Development for the last 12.

My full name is Paul Andrew Zeibignew Thadeuz Jawor. But even Paul Jawor can be a bit of a mouthful in some languages and in Kosovo there was a danger that people would mistake the Russiansounding part of my name as Serbian. So to simplify things I am generally known on assignment as Mr Paul. By happy coincidence Paul sounds very much like the Kosovan word for Yes. In Kosovo, therefore, I am Mr Yes, which is great for dealing with contractors.

I often end up working in countries where there is no effective law - the contract means nothing really. You have to coerce your contractors into meeting deadlines by threatening to withold payment, or by shaming them into action - saying they cannot be trusted. Any advantage helps.

One of the reasons I am a reliefwork junkie is the reward you get from seeing people's faces when you do something for them that they just cannot do for themselves.

That was especially true with hospitals in Kosovo, where we were dealing with people whose kids had been injured by landmines. There were no hospitals when we arrived, and at last there was somewhere these people could take their children for medical help.

I am looking to go off next to Gujarat, the area of India that was hit by an earthquake last year. With natural disasters you can provide a solution - in India there are no codes for building houses. I am hoping to help local builders improve the design and construction of their structures.

They need to take up the idea of a self supporting floor slab with interlinking columns that will not fall over when an earthquake strikes.

By contrast, although you can make a big difference in a manmade disaster, it cannot be resolved in the same way. In the Balkans, for example, the problem is ethnic and political.

And there is a down side to relief work. In the Balkans I felt the aid effort was being manipulated:

During the first year people were really pleased to see you. But in the second year people started getting greedy. People started demanding second or even third houses for non-existent relatives, and suppliers were bumping up the price of cement, taking advantage of the aid agencies. That left a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Wherever you are, what is most important is to get the best translator possible. Do not get an engineer as a translator - you end up competing with them. In one case I employed a guy who had his own ideas about how the project should be run and was deliberately misinterpreting - pursuing his own agenda. The best interpreters are graduates who have no engineering skills at all, and no ambition in that field.

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