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The humanitarian communicator

Linda Tom, BA 98
July 4, 2022
By Charlie Fidelman

Communications expert Linda Tom has amassed a wealth of experience in providing crisis communications in countries torn by strife — Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Central African Republic and, most recently, South Sudan.

Tom spent years with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNICEF to ensure that millions of people affected by conflict would have access to food, shelter, water and health services.

In January 2022, Tom became spokesperson for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, whose mandate is to build durable peace in the conflict-riven country.

“We don’t see a lot of results in these conflicts,” concedes Tom, “but we’re working towards a small window — towards peace, and it’s absolutely worth pursuing.”

Proudest professional moment

“The job I’ve just taken on as UN spokesperson in South Sudan. It’s a big responsibility and an honour. I’ve worked in some geopolitically complex areas, all devastating and difficult in different ways, and I feel that it prepared me for this moment.”

Challenge that marked you

“I was working with a colleague in northern Central African Republic when the conflict began. It took days to get to a temporary safeplace but the UN plane couldn’t come for us — it was too dangerous — so we had to figure out how to leave. Sometimes it’s just between two colleagues, there’s no guidebook on how to leave a conflict zone.”

Job satisfaction

“I took a small-plane tour of all four corners of Afganistan; I had no idea how beautiful it was. I remember meeting one nurse who was dedicated to helping sick women who could only receive medical help from other women. She was passionate about helping. Meeting amazing people is one of the biggest joys of this work.”

The Concordia factor

“The program [communication studies] was such that you could experiment and hop around among film, television, multimedia and design. I also took courses — like sound, media theory and screenplay writing — that taught me the importance of narrative. All were extremely helpful in preparing me for a career where anything can happen.”

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