Andrew Simmons completes his PhD in sustainable development
Vincentians continue to make strides all over the world and prominent among these is Dr Andrew Simmons.
Simmons, a Vincentian originally from Enhams, who has been involved in development work for the last 40 years, has recently completed his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in climate change and sustainable development.
He completed his doctoral degree in three years, half of the time he was given to do it by the De Montfort University in Leicester, UK.
His thesis looked at the impact of climate change on young people and their communities and how one can build resilience to prepare generations to deal with these impacts.
Simmons, during a recent visit to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), said he is willing to work with locals to help address certain issues that are facing the country, among them climate change, the rise in violence among the youths, and other social problems.
He revealed that he has some 21 years experience, working on society changing initiatives in places like Sierra Leone, Northern Uganda, Darfur, Sri Lanka and India.
He noted that he helped designed a program for 1.3 million refugees in Uganda while he also worked with the Tamil people during the active years of the Tamil Tigers.
“…And one time, just instinct and God’s guidance, I asked a group to shift and 10 minutes after, an entire entourage of military personnel was blown to pieces,” said Simmons, while sharing some of his experiences.
He added that he has worked in extremely unstable places doing negotiations, including the Solomon Islands in 2000 where they had civil disturbances.
One of his most scary experiences was being caught in the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014.
“I remember in Sierra Leone when Ebola struck, I said, ‘God if you save me, tell me what you want me to do’…the place was a ghost town, people dropping like flies…
“So, when it comes to working in conflict areas and so on, I am fully trained. I trained with some of the top persons in Harvard in the area of conflict resolution,” revealed Simmons who said he has ideas that can help local youth.
“We have to see that the crime that is being committed by young people is not just a drop in the sea, but that it is part a systemic problem we have, and I am willing to work with government and communities,” said Simmons who noted that he had a bad experience while working here in 2006, after he was fired after a few days on a government job.
“I took up the post as national coordinator for the Agriculture and Economic Diversification Program working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and was fired after two weeks for no reason,” recalled Simmons, the person responsible for starting the JEMS Progressive Community Organisation.
The climate change specialist has held many jobs, including Director of Community Services in SVG responsible for leading government’s social development programs and providing technical advice to government; Chief Technical Officer at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London; and he also once ran a financial inclusion and financial literacy program across the Commonwealth.
Simmons has also worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sierra Leone on youth development programs and along with another Vincentian colleague, wrote the National Youth Program for Sierra Leone.
He is also an evaluator of projects and has run projects valued at up to $50 million.
Simmons is well recognized for his environmental work as he has won several environmental awards.
“The only award left to be won is the Nobel Peace Prize,” he boasted to SEARCHLIGHT recently while adding that he has won the Goldman Environmental Prize and The UN Global 500 Award (youngest person at the time to do so) while he has been recognized for his contribution to Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Simmons is now working with an international consultancy firm based in Italy that has hired him to implement his PHD thesis in Africa.
“Africa is like home,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.