Graduate swaps her passion for disaster management to child development

Ashelle Maricel Paras

Maricel Paras, known to her colleagues and friends as Ashelle, will be proudly looking forward to starting her new career when she receives her MA in Childhood Studies (Distinction) today (Tuesday 26 January) at the Swansea University winter degree and congregation at the Brangwyn Hall.

Ashelle, who is from the Philippines, was a humanitarian aid worker for a large international relief, advocacy and development organisation (INGO) for more than a decade based in Singapore. She served in various capacities including in emergency response, capacity building and advocacy on disaster management.

She supported various global emergency responses (e.g. Syria Crisis, Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan, Haiti Earthquake, Asian Tsunami, Myanmar Cyclone, etc.) and served in different capacities including but not limited to programme monitoring and evaluations, grants management and Child Protection in Emergencies programming.

Ashelle said: “I decided to leave the disaster management role to pursue my passion and affinity for children and marry it with my life values and vision, which I (re) discovered and was strengthened during the course of my studies.

“I took my postgraduate study to take a break from my humanitarian work – nothing more, nothing less. I was a dreamer without a dream. But my master’s study has inspired me to dream again, and dream bigger. It has (re) ignited a passion within me and birthed a vision, a purpose. I want to see a restoration of "childhood" and "family" as a value that results as children living a meaningful life and reaching their full potential. 

“I am setting up a small consulting firm - a social enterprise that provide services and innovative solutions for vulnerable children, families and communities with organisations who work directly with them, in Wales and globally. Its mission is to advocate good practice, stimulate and facilitate learning, strengthen capacity, and recognise achievement in children’s wellbeing programme and services. It will offer strategic and pragmatic advice, services and innovative approaches to organisations and individuals who work directly with children and families, dedicated to using their resources to achieve sustained, positive social change impacting the long-term trajectories of children’s development.

“I also aspire to continue to influence early childhood policy and strengthen programme quality of national and international organisations by bringing innovation that will bring sustainable positive impact to children’s wellbeing. The result of my masters gave me the confidence and courage to set up my own social enterprise. My qualifications gave me the vision to do something and be the change I want to see happen in the lives of many children and families.

“I think that I could offer a more credible and reliable services to strengthen the quality of children’s programming that are fully grounded with sound and tested theory and practice.

“The postgraduate study did increase my knowledge on child development and helped me identify who are experts and champions in various child sectors/programmes. But most of all, it has helped me (and I’m still learning) how to be ‘the credible voice’, be pioneering and visionary for children to have greater opportunities and realised their full potential..

“Additionally, I have gained valuable academic skills such as critical reading and analysis, academic writing and systematic research. These skills would be very useful in my social enterprise undertaking, as I will continue to learn and innovate to provide thoughtful and appropriate services that bring sustainable and positive impact to children, families and communities. “

“The MA in Childhood Studies is an excellent way to ground you with theoretical knowledge and understanding of child development. The multidisciplinary approach helps broaden  understanding of child development and explore the current issues of early childhood development (that is children born in the digital age) from international perspectives.

 “Swansea University also encourages you to do volunteer work with children and this is an opportunity to see, understand and apply what you learn in the classroom. It is amazing when you discover how theory and practice work.

“The emphasis on academic excellence, the support you receive academically and personally, the multi-cultural diversity, the beautiful Welsh people and culture, and of course the stunning location. are all good reasons for going to Swansea University but it also provides a great platform to learn, prepare you for a great future and do great exploits!”