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Stories from the field

Joining efforts to strengthen capacities: my experience as an EU Aid Volunteer in Peru

Marta GUALTIERI in Peru
Suomen Punainen Risti (Finnish Red Cross)
About the Project
Natural hazards pose a significant risk to the three project countries Peru, Ecuador and Colombia and will increase further in its frequency and intensity in the future. Already today, the increased occurrence of extreme weather events (heavy rain, drought, cold spells, storms, etc.) poses a major threat, especially to vulnerable groups. In addition, despite the strong economic development, a high number of people in these countries, especially in rural areas, continue to live below the poverty line and in vulnerable contexts, which makes them particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. In Colombia, the Red Cross faces the additional challenge of responding to the changing needs after the signing of the FARC-government peace agreement in 2016, and of adapting strategy and intervention lines to the new tasks in a post-conflict phase. The project is aimed at the three National Red Cross Societies in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, strengthening their capacities to fulfil their mission to provide indiscriminate assistance to those in need. The existing strategic development plans of the three Red Cross Societies will be used and selectively supported. While the project sets specific priorities in each of the three countries that meet their respective needs and levels of development, many of the planned actions will also strengthen cooperation at the regional level. Coordination networks are developed between the national companies involved in the project in order to develop regional solutions. The development of conditions conducive to humanitarian action by volunteers is of great importance to civil society in general, but especially to the Red Cross, whose actions rely almost entirely on volunteers. It is essential to create a framework that guarantees the protection of the volunteers' work and has therefore become a concern of this project. Advocacy actions are designed to influence governments to create and / or improve the necessary framework for volunteer assistance.

 My decision to apply to the EUAV Programme.

When I saw the job posting of German Red Cross on EUAV platform, I applied straightforward. I had just completed the EUAV training course in the Netherlands and I was extremely motivated to be deployed in the humanitarian field. Thus, the possibility to acquire some practical knowledge of the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s work sounded very appealing to me. Given my previous experience in Peru, I had very good knowledge of the humanitarian context there and I was willing to contribute to foster Peruvian Red Cross capacities as to have a positive impact on vulnerable communities.

My consideration about the project of organizational capacity building.

The project of organizational capacity building is financed by the German Ministry of Cooperation and Development and promoted by German Red Cross. It aims to strengthen the capacities of RC National Societies of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia to bring more effective assistance to vulnerable communities and it comprises three main areas: management and empowerment of RC volunteers, RC branches organizational development and finally RC positioning with its state counterparts.  I consider this project extremely important in the humanitarian field, given that it is planned to provide funding for RC National Societies in order to develop their organizational structures. Indeed, the precondition for international organizations to provide effective humanitarian assistance is linked to their existing organizational structure and capacities.  And this project is a great opportunity offered to RC National Societies involved to tackle organizational weaknesses, create a network and build up a plan to make their organizations more effective and sustainable for the future.  

My tasks as an EUAV in Project management support.

I am based in Arequipa, working in coordination with PRC local branch and supporting other two branches in the region, PRC branch of Abancay and Tacna respectively. The objective of my work is to foster the capacities of the PRC, in order to ensure effective management and implementation of the project of organizational development. During the first months of my deployment, I have been assessing the capacities of PRC branches and developed a plan to tackle the problems identified. Indeed, being involved in the activities of PRC branches allowed me to better understand the work and scope of action of PRC, and thus provide effective support to local team and local project coordinator, based on their real needs. Then, together with PRC local staff, we have formulated the action plans aimed at fostering the development of the PRC branches, and according to the AP, I have designed and lead a set of workshops addressing PRC volunteers and staff on project management and formulation. Currently, I am developing a tool for the assessment of PRC branches capacities, which will be particularly useful for PRC local staff in order to formulate the action plans and monitor the achievement of objectives.

Partnering and coordinating activities with Peruvian Red Cross.

The world of Red Cross is extremely complex as it comprises different actors, including National Societies, IFRC, ICRC, so I had always to take into account and comply with my role as German Red Cross within the project of organizational development. Given the fact that the project is implemented by PRC and in order to ensure local ownership of the project, I had to take many steps back, but on the other side I have been very active in suggesting new visions and approaches to PRC and its branches. It was extremely inspiring and motivating to share experiences with PRC volunteers and to contribute to their empowerment. One of my biggest challenges was to make sure that their voice and needs were taken into consideration by the management board and translated into actions. Also, I had the opportunity to share experiences with the Ecuadorian Red Cross and in particular the Branch of Imbabura as I lead a workshop for ERC volunteers and contributed to the organization of an exchange between PRC Branch of Arequipa and ERC Branch of Imbabura. I got really impressed by the organizational structures of the Branch of Imbabura and it was also extremely important to acknowledge how NS of different countries can build coordinated actions to have a stronger impact within the project of organizational development.

My learning outcomes and future career plans.

This experience has notably increased my knowledge of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, as well as provided me with valuable skills, especially in the management field. Red Cross’ local volunteers of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia have been a source of great inspiration for me, as they gave me the motivation not to give up and stay focused to reach objectives, increasing notably my resilience. Regarding my professional future, I see it in the humanitarian sector. 

the precondition for international organizations to provide effective humanitarian assistance is linked to their existing organizational structure and capacities.