Meet Dina — on the front-line of responding to disasters in Indonesia

“I think everyone working in a disaster setting should be passionate about it. Because everything there is difficult”

WFP Asia & Pacific
Mar 8, 2019 · 5 min read

Dina is a fiery, mother of two who is the strategic front-runner of the Emergency Preparedness Response (EPR) team at World Food Programme Indonesia. Without her, the EPR team couldn’t function as well as it does today!

“Disasters are stressful. But what motivates people is the passion to succeed despite the lack of infrastructure or resources.”

Wipsar Dina Tri Andari or Dina as she is known, has over seven years of field experience in disaster management. She has been the tactics-queen for disasters in Indonesia and the ASEAN region.

We talked to Dina about her role as the Emergency Preparedness Response Liaison Officer at the World Food Programme Indonesia for the past four years.

Dina, you’ve had seven years of experience within this field. Tell us a bit about your background.

After I graduated from my bachelors degree I directly took a masters degree concentrating on Crisis Management. My thesis was how the government of Indonesia dealt with the Bali bombings. I started looking for work in the same field, and so I began my career at the ASEAN secretariat as a Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Officer. That’s when I first worked within the humanitarian landscape.

After four years, I accompanied my husband when he was posted as a diplomat to Cuba. When I returned back to Indonesia, I remembered how much I loved humanitarian work, so searched for a similar role to my job at ASEAN. For the past 4 years I’ve been WFP Indonesia’s EPR Liaison Officer.

What is an EPR Liaison Officer?

An EPR Liaison Officer is a fixer. A people’s person. An initiator J who can build bridges between WFP and our government counterparts.

Disasters can be unpredictable. How is your typical work day?

With WFP, there are two different kinds of work. In “peace time” or non-disaster periods, we liaise with the government and help them in implementing their projects to prepare for emergencies.

Disaster strikes suddenly, and the government asks WFP for our technical assistance that’s when we switch into emergency mode!

Tell me more about the large-scale Palu operation in 2018? What was your role there?

In late September, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Palu, Central Sulawesi — and was followed shortly by a tsunami with waves up to 6m high. WFP Indonesia was on ground, supporting the Government of Indonesia as well as the humanitarian community by providing transportation, warehouse facilities, and coordination & information management.

WFP worked more effectively in Palu because the EPR team are very close and we support each other. In WFP, there was no competition between the officers and the associates. We each know our roles and how to work together to reach our goals.

In the Palu Operation, we had two officers. My role was dealing with strategy and liaison. The Logistics Officer was in charge on the ground for the hardcore logistics. We worked together as one because we needed to be strategic and technical at the same time to add value to the government.

Before the Palu emergency I ensured that the Government of Indonesia knew that WFP’s international and national staff members were the experts in logistics. When the earthquake and tsunami hit Palu, I negotiated with the government so they gave us the green light to support their emergency operation. During this time I was liaising with the Government in the capital, Jakarta, feeding the information to the team in Palu.

What was the most fulfilling part during this operation?

I think everyone working in the disaster setting should be passionate about it. When there is no infrastructure or resources, everyone becomes heavily stressed. But what motivates and drives people is really the passion.

Being able to work in a field that helps people, that really satisfies me.

We’re out here giving hope, we’re being useful to others. I say to myself, “I have value to add!”, and “I can help people”. That feeling and how people expressed their appreciation for our work — how we (WFP) helped the government in delivering the logistics. For me that’s already a satisfaction, I feel like I’m doing this job because I love this job that’s and that’s why I haven’t changed my passion to something else.

Let’s talk about the fact only one third of the EPR team are women. How is it working in field that some might say more of a “male dominated” line of work?

Traditionally logistics and disasters is dominated by males. But being with ASEAN or WFP, I’ve never been looked at differently because of my gender. I’ve never felt that because I’m a women, I’m a burden in a disaster. In the same way, I have never felt a burden working in this field. I love the fact that in my team, people just respect other people, we consider eachother’s opinions and we talk.

Do you have any advice to women who want to come into this line of work?

It’s a very stressful environment! The key is remembering the satisfaction that you gain. You have to have a passion for the job or it will become a burden to you. Sometimes I have to be deployed away from my family, and sometimes it has some stress on my kids and that affects me too.

But one day, I accidentally came upon a journal that my 8 year old daughter wrote for school (they’re not meant to show it to us) and it read: “my mother works to help people who are affected by earthquakes, I love my mother because she helps other people”.

Although I don’t say it explicitly, my daughter can see how much I love my work and I’m touched at how understanding and empathetic she is towards it. Remembering moments like this make me very proud of my line of work. I strive to be a role model for other women, especially those close to me, like my daughter.

Do you have any passions outside of disaster management?

I’m actually quite the nerd — I really like to study! That’s why I will be taking my PhD in Disaster Management because it’s my passion! (laughs). People keep asking “Why are doing it? How do you still have the strength to study?”, and I think it’s because it took me 10 years to finally decide on continuing and pursuing my passion in . . . . disasters!

Story written by Nabila Ernada

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