Christopher Mathewson (BA 2005 IDS and French),
Project Officer – Canadian Red Cross (Ottawa)
Christopher Mathewson's work took him from Afghanistan to Central Africa.
To current students he suggests getting field experience outside of the classroom however they can.
In his final years of high school, Christopher Mathewson says he developed a passion for “anthropology and learning about differences between the first and third world.”
That passion, he says, turned into the decision to study international development.
Originally from Muskoka, Mathewson says his experience at Dalhousie University was “very rewarding.”
Mathewson says his biggest takeaway from the International Development Studies program was the interactivity of the classes and insistence from professors that students take part in tutorials, discuss and engage with the material.
“Now I reflect back on that and see the importance of really engaging with the material and digging deeper and asking more questions,” says Mathewson. “I think that’s what has carried me through any of the jobs I’ve had.”
In 2005, Mathewson received his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Development Studies and French. Five years later, Mathewson graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Master’s degree in International Development and Global Studies.
After receiving his graduate degree, Mathewson travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan to work with the United Nations Development Programme on a project called “Making Budget and Aid Work.” Mathewson says the funds channelled through the project were used to help strengthen the Afghan Ministry of Finance, improve budget departments and provide services to citizens.
Now I reflect back on that and see the importance of really engaging with the material and digging deeper and asking more questions. I think that’s what has carried me through any of the jobs I’ve had.
In 2014 and 2015, Mathewson worked as a project officer for the International Medical Corps (IMC) on a healthcare project in refugee camps in Guéréda, Chad. In 2016, Mathewson moved to Bouca, Central African Republic to act as a field manager for IMC on another healthcare project. Mathewson says nine clinics were dispersed throughout the jungle – in rebel-held territory – providing primary healthcare and services focusing on child malnutrition, mental health and child protection.
“I’m most passionate about the healthcare side of development,” says Mathewson. “I made sure that the doctors and nurses on my teams were always in a position to do their work and support those people in the jungle, or in the desert, or wherever it might have been to make sure they have a better chance at life in a very precarious situation.”
Since 2017, Mathewson has held the position of project officer with the Canadian Red Cross in Ottawa. Mathewson works within the International Operations department to support the Emergencies and Recovery Team in emergency response around the world.
“If there’s a flood, or an earthquake or humanitarian disaster, we support the International Federation of the Red Cross,” says Mathewson.
Mathewson says the Red Cross provides support in various ways: sending out people or delegates who have expertise in responding to disasters or crises, providing mobile health clinics and supplies.
“It’s really interesting to watch how the machine works,” says Mathewson. “To be able to really respond with the funds and personnel and resources needed to be on the ground within a day or two of a disaster happening. The Red Cross has that capacity.”
Nothing matters until you understand what it means to be out in the field and engaging with populations and know what development is all about.
Mathewson advises current and future students to get field experience outside of the classroom, whether it is a co-op placement, internship or aligning with an NGO.
“Nothing matters until you understand what it means to be out in the field and engaging with populations and know what development is all about,” says Mathewson.