Dr. Paul V. Hebert ’68
For more than 30 years, Dr. Paul Hebert has worked to promote and support humanitarian action in less developed countries. He graduated from VMI in 1968 with a BS in Civil Engineering, earned an MS from UNC/Chapel Hill, and served two years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Following a one-year position with Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco as an environmental Engineer, he began his dream of a career in development and humanitarian action through an assignment with the Near East Foundation in Iran, helping the government to improve water supplies, sanitation and tackling the environmental control of Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) in southern Iran from 1974-1976.
His work has spanned 4 continents, including Asia (Southeast, South, Southwest) and Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Americas. He has lived fulltime in 8 countries, including Iran, Philippines, Nepal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia (covering Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia), Geneva, Switzerland (where he covered Iraq, Former Soviet Republics and Former Yugoslavia), Ethiopia and Kenya. His development and humanitarian coordination work also took him to other countries in Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Thailand); South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh); Former Soviet Republics in the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and in West Asia (Tajikistan) and in Southern Africa (Swaziland, and Malawi).
After completing studies for a PhD in Environmental Engineering from UNC in 1981, he worked with the World Bank assigned in the Philippines from 1981-1985, where he trained local engineers to plan and design low-cost water and sanitation systems for small urban and rural communities using the first microcomputers on the market. He carried this training eventually to 12 Southeast and South Asia countries. Over the next five years, he continued as a consultant for the World Bank as well as the United Nations and the US Government and worked for the Research Triangle Institute, as Chief Technical Advisor to develop a management information system for the water supply sector in Nepal.
In 1991, he made a career shift after his wife had taken a job with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. This shift led him into humanitarian work with the United Nations for the next 17 years. By 1995, he had become a senior officer with the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affair (OCHA). His main focus was to raise funds for humanitarian action for those affected by man-made humanitarian crisis in Iraq, in the former Soviet Republics, and in the former Yugoslavia and to coordinate on-the-ground humanitarian action as the senior officer in charge of these regions.
From 2000-2003 he was Head of the UN Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA) Office in Serbia (Belgrade), following the deposing of Slobadan Milosovic. He was also UN Regional Humanitarian Advisor covering Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. In April 2003, he took over as Head of the UN OCHA Office in Ethiopia and Deputy to the Humanitarian Coordinator during the worst humanitarian drought crisis (affecting 13 million people) since the 1985 Ethiopian Famine. During a five-year tenure in Ethiopia, he negotiated with senior government ministers including the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to ensure that response to various humanitarian crises was able to take place. This effort evolved into a fund that in 2008 garnered $80 million for rapid humanitarian action.
His final assignment with the UN was as senior advisor in the post election violence in Kenya from February-June 2008, where he helped coordinate UN response to the crisis, working directly with the Government and Red Cross of Kenya. Since June of 2008, he has been working as an independent consultant for Catholic Relief Services and other Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in East Africa in assessing success with community based water resource management, sanitation programs and in using new humanitarian funding approaches. In a private volunteer capacity, he is currently assisting a primary school adjacent to the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, one of the largest slum in all of Africa. The Anajali Primary School serves 450 of the poorest children from the slum. He is now working with the School Director and with a few other individuals to sponsor graduates for high school and now to build a high school for the primary school graduates. He has donated his honorarium for the Daniels Humanitarian Award for this project.
Throughout his career, Dr. Hebert has worked alongside his wife, Dr. Mayling Simpson-Hebert, a medical anthropologist, who has also devoted her career to helping communities help themselves to improve their water and sanitation situations, improve health and prevent HIV/Aids. She retired at the end of 2010 from Catholic Relief Services, where she was a Senior Technical Advisor for East Africa. During their life and work abroad, while raising two children, they have supported a number of disadvantaged children and young adults through fostering and supporting their education. Both Paul and Mayling have been active in their home community in Steamboat Springs, Co, during periods they resided in the USA. Paul is an active member of Rotary International.