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A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE; Gunfire and bombs are all in a day's work for charity heroes RED CROSS ERLEND LINKLATER.

ERLEND goes into war zones to repair the damage done by years of conflict.

The 33-year-old, of Selkirk, says meeting heavily-armed rebel leaders in the middle of the desert is all part of the job.

The job: I work for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

How I did it: I went to Namibia on a development project before coming home to do a degree in European and International Law.

I became aware of the work of the Red Cross and got the job there after interviews in Geneva and London. In 2004 I was in Angola. We were trying to reunite hundreds of thousands of families displaced by the conflict.

We delivered messages between family members and arranged for them to be reunited.

I moved to Darfur, Sudan, where I was responsible for setting up our operation. The main pillar of security is identification and I spent weeks meeting rebel leaders to explain why we were there and what we were doing.

I was working in the West Bank from early 2005 where I was talking to the Israeli military and Palestinean personnel every day. You get used to hearing gunfire but statistically relief workers are more likely to be injured in car crashes.

Perks: The generosity and good humour of the people you help.

Five-year plan: To continue working with the Red Cross.

Tips: Be ready to help people and have good interpersonal skills.



EAST TIMOR'S recent history is one of violence but Mary says the atmosphere is no more intimidating than Glasgow on an Old Firm day.

Mary, 56, of Glasgow, heads a literacy programme that encourages families to learn together.

Volunteers had to sleep in their offices for eight months during the troubles in the Asian country but aim to empower victims of civil unrest.

The job: I have been working in East Timor for three years on behalf of Oxfam Hong Kong.

How I did it: I taught in London for 15 years but was more interested in the issues surrounding poverty. I joined Oxfam GB in 1992 but wanted a change.

Thousands of people were killed in East Timor in 1999 and many more were displaced. The situation is still volatile and in April last year it exploded. We were evacuated for two weeks and even though I don't feel threatened, the streets are deserted after 8pm.

I work with people in family groups and classes so they can help each other. Once people learn to write their names, they are less frightened about speaking up in meetings or going to school.

Perks: I get a kick out of this work.

Five-year plan: To continue this work for as long as I am able.

Tips: If you want running hot water and good sewers, this is not the job for you.


Kids were killed just playing in garden


BILLY grew up driving tractors around his father's dairy farm. Now he uses them to clear up deadly mines and unexploded bombs in war-torn Lebanon.

Billy, 45, of Carluke, Lanarkshire, travels the world for the Mines Advisory Group, saving lives and helping communities rebuild a future.

The job: I am a mechanical technical field manager working for MAG in the village of Yohmor, Lebanon.

Previously I was based in Bosnia, Angola and Sri Lanka.

How I did it: My father was a dairy farmer and I used to drive and maintain tractors. I was working for a mechanical firm and was considering emigrating. I saw an advert for a tractor driver wanted for an overseas mine-sweeping operation.

I knew nothing about the dangers of landmines before I started this job.

People are unable to get on with their lives and there are three-year-old children getting killed just because they were playing in their garden.

Bosnia and Kosovo was a real eye-opener. The situation was absolutely horrendous. We had quite a few injuries and a couple of the guys were killed. Landmines are dangerous but they are relatively easy to locate whereas unexploded bombs scatter for miles and there can be 800 bomblets in each one.

We stick a small charge in each device before retreating to a safe distance. When you are working, the danger element is always at the back of your mind but if you follow procedures you will be okay.

Perks: Getting people their lives back is really satisfying.

Five-year plan: Lebanon is beautiful but the situation is worse than we anticipated and I might be here for two years rather than one. I met my wife here and we have a young family.

Tips: The one quality I look for is commonsense. The decisions we make are the difference between life and death so we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.



War zone: Erlend works with refugees at Darfur camp; Caring: Mary; Bomb's away: Billy in Lebanon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 20, 2008
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