Every day, Hakhim Ondonga checks his truck up and down, inside and out, from the tires to the brake system. As one of Action Against Hunger’s drivers in Uganda, he plays a critical – and unsung – role in driving the fight against hunger forward. Without drivers, lifesaving supplies could not be delivered to remote health centers and our nutrition team could not safely reach people in need.
For Hakhim, helping staff get where they need to go is the most satisfying aspect of the job. And it’s not easy: roads, where they exist, are often in very poor conditions. They are slippery in rainy seasons and dusty in the dry seasons. And very few are paved.
Drivers keep their passengers safe. Their familiarity with the local roads and terrain allows our teams to reach remote nutrition centers. And, in areas affected by conflict, drivers are the ones to negotiate security checkpoints, helping protect our staff and deliver aid safely to communities in desperate need. Well-maintained vehicles also help Action Against Hunger be more efficient and cost-effective.
“Our drivers are always there,” says Nathalie Rothschild, Action Against Hunger’s Associate Director for Logistics. “When our team gets where they need to go, when a truck works as it should, when supplies arrive at a community in time for a project to launch, that’s because of a good driver.”
Fortunately, Hakhim is up to the task – and his skills are getting noticed. On May 24-26, he will represent Action Against Hunger in the Championship of the 2019 Driver Recognition Program for East & Southern Africa.
Launched in 2015 by a global driver safety group called the Fleet Forum, the Driver Recognition Program is an annual competition that celebrates the vital role that drivers play in humanitarian organizations. The qualifying rounds began with 914 drivers from 15 organizations across 14 countries. Just 15 drivers — including Hakhim – were selected to compete in the Championship, which takes place outside of Nairobi, Kenya.
“The competition builds my skills and will help me improve and achieve Action Against Hunger’s goals,” says Hakhim. “It is also a chance for me to interact with people from other parts of the world.”
To identify the best driver, the competition recreates a typical day behind the wheel and assesses drivers’ knowledge and skills based on these criteria:
- Road safety
- Fuel efficiency
- Ability to use vehicle functionalities in challenging circumstances
- Friendliness towards staff members
After the competition, participants will receive feedback on what they did well and where they can improve.
“I am really proud of all of our drivers,” says Rothschild. “Drivers are so committed to their jobs and our mission – they are often the employees who stay with us for years and years. We’re all behind them, and we are so excited for Hakhim and his skills to be in the spotlight.”
Hakhim will have a lot of support at this weekend’s competition: Action Against Hunger drivers from Somalia and Kenya, along with staff from East Africa and New York, will be at the Championship to cheer him on.
Update: May 30, 2019
Competing against the top 11 teams from across East and Southern Africa, Hakhim completed a range of tasks from a knowledge test to driving on an off-road terrain with 45-degree climbs and descents. He was tested on safety, accuracy, vehicle knowledge, and collaboration. While he did not take home the top prize -- which was awarded to Salim Masete from the World Health Organization's Kenya team – Hakhim has returned to Uganda with pride, enthusiasm, and new skills.
"Chosen as one of 15 finalists from more than 900 drivers, in our books, Hakhim was already a Champion!" says Douglas Isaaka Mose, Action Against Hunger's Head of Logistics in Kenya. "Colleagues from across East Africa and New York all enjoyed the day and had great fun."