Profile – Julie Williams, Action Against Hunger

Julie Williams is getting used to being on the move in her new job. As the local financial administrator for the charity Action Against Hunger, Williams spent the latter part of last week putting together budgets and paying for food in Skopje, Macedonia that would be taken into Kosovo when UN peacekeeping forces and relief agencies re-entered the bomb-ravaged province.

Williams previously worked for pharmaceutical company Novatis but responded to the charity’s Accountancy Age advertisement last year. ‘I decided I wanted to do something that benefited people more than working in the corporate world,’ she says.

In January, Action Against Hunger posted her to the Kosovan capital Pristina.

When the political situation worsened in February, the charity evacuated the office to the Macedonian border and moved it again to the capital, Skopje, in March. When NATO stopped its bombing campaign last week, the 60-strong Action Against Hunger team in Skopje began to put its relief plans for Kosovar refugees into action.

As the charity’s financial administrator, Williams is in charge of the accounts for a refugee transit centre at Blace on the Kosovo/Macedonia border and for monitoring the costs of delivering food such as onions, oranges and potatoes around the Gostivar region.

Moving into Kosovo with UN’s taskforce, Action Against Hunger is extending the distribution service into the region. The charity’s mission head negotiates with funding bodies such as the UN, the European Commission and the UK-supported DFID programme and then works with Williams to flesh out budgets for specific relief projects.

Williams has authorised i1m (£653,000) in the past two months, and was last week preparing to commit o3m over the next two months.

‘The controls are the same as in the corporate world, but tighter,’ she says. ‘It is more high-impact: you have to spend more in a shorter time and be able to produce reports at any time.’

Because the Skopje mission works with four or five different funding agencies, Williams has to draw up proposals and reports in each of their standard formats.

Working in the region can be restricting – when she was in Pristina before, Williams was subject to a 7pm curfew, but Skopje, she says, ‘is more flexible’.

When she went through her English ICA training with the Automobile Association in the early 1990s, she never conceived that a knowledge of financial reporting would lead her into humanitarian work, but she is very glad that it did.

‘It’s very good experience and you can actually see everything you’re buying helping people,’ she says.

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