A day in the Life of...Simon Reid, Capacity Development Programme Manager
During my childhood I was a bit of a global nomad, which resulted from my dad's work in the international development sector. My experiences of the people and nature in the places that I have lived have gone on to shape my career, as well as my outlook on life.
We generally moved every three to four years. People often ask, "Don't you wish you had a place that you call home?", but I don't feel that home is about location; it's about who you have around you. I feel at home in many places.
At the ripe old age of two weeks I went to live in Kano, Nigeria, where my parents were working and living at the time, my mum having flown back to the UK to give birth to me. A few years after that I went to live in Kasama in Northern Zambia where we lived until I was eight. I recall we had a brilliant old house and lots of pets, including guinea pigs and peacocks, as well as less welcome visitors such as black mamba snakes and poisonous scorpions. We also travelled around Africa and saw much of the wildlife - it was here I first developed an interest in nature. One trip clearly stands out. We went to Ndole Bay on the South Western shore of Lake Tanganyika in far Northern Zambia. The place was swarming with crocodiles, touted as the biggest in Africa, and watching them feed was an unforgettable experience. There was also a cheeky monkey who stole food from the back of our car.
After Zambia we returned to the UK, to the beautiful village of Abbotsbury in the south of England, famous for its swannery. We have a lot of history here and my gran lives here to this day. From the sedate tranquillity of life in a small English village we moved to the frenetic and wild frontier town of Peshawar in Pakistan. Here I recall travelling to the Khyber Pass - a key gateway into Afghanistan - and seeing Kalashnikovs (automatic weapons) and heroin for sale in shop windows on the border. We also travelled around much of northern Pakistan, which has some spectacular scenery; the Swat and Kalash valleys stand out as particular favourites. Peshawar was followed by the much more orderly and westernised capital of Pakistan, Islamabad - where I finished middle school.
We then moved to New Delhi in India, which is where I first began to understand the complex relationship between people and their environment. The subjects of poverty and environmental degradation have interested me since India, and combating these two injustices is a key driver in my career. India is an incredible country which, despite being poor, is home to some of the most friendly and welcoming people I have ever met. I will definitely go back to live there again one day.
After India I moved to Manchester in the UK to do an undergraduate degree in biology, later followed by a masters degree in Environment and Development at the Institute of Development Policy and Management. I then moved to Oxford and started working for Earthwatch.
I get up between 7am and 7.30am. I don't seem to function very well until I have a shower, so that is usually the first thing that I do. One of my favourite parts of the day, especially if it's raining, is cycling to work. It takes about 20 minutes from where I live in east Oxford to get to the Earthwatch office in north Oxford. It's a great way to wake up your body, clear your mind and get some exercise before commencing what is an inevitably busy day at work.
After changing out of my cycling gear, I get stuck into my emails. As Capacity Development Programme Manager I am responsible for making sure that the 200 plus people joining more than 25 training teams this year make it to the project and are prepared for the experience. I work closely with the Fellowship Programme department officers who do a lot of the hard work making sure the teams actually happen. I also have regular communications with other Earthwatch departments, particularly Field Management and Research.
Our Capacity Development Programme is training the next generation of conservation professionals - and the skills they learn on their projects will be applicable to their jobs. Hearing feedback from trainees about how much they enjoyed their experience and how it has improved their work performance is hugely rewarding. It gives me faith that what we are doing is having a really positive effect. Since 1995 Earthwatch has trained more than 1,000 young scientists from Africa, Eastern Europe and Southern Asia. We are currently looking at re-focussing the programme, and as Capacity Development Programme Manager this means the next few months will be very exciting.
I usually leave the office before 6pm. I am definitely sharper in the morning than in the afternoon, so I try not to stay too late. In my spare time I like to stay active. I am keen on the great outdoors and on my last holiday I had a great road trip around the UK. This included hiking and mountain biking with friends in the Lake District, followed by a walk up Ben Nevis in Scotland, the UK's highest mountain, with my partner Katie. We were very lucky; it was a beautiful day and there wasn't a cloud in sight - they say you have to climb Ben Nevis seven or eight times before you get a clear view from the top.
Before sleep overtakes me I like to read and have just picked up a fascinating book about the history of maps and cartography.
28th May 2008