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Stories from the field

Meet Angela, volunteer deployed to LWD office in Cambodia, sent by Diaconia ECCB-CRD

About the Project
EU Aid Volunteers ACTing against disaster risks (EUAVACT) is an EU Aid Volunteers project. The project is implemented by a consortium of ACT Alliance organisations and involves 38 EU Aid Volunteer placements. The project aims at contributing to more effective (EU provided) humanitarian response, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and resilience in five countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, Nepal, Bangladesh and Cambodia) through strengthening local NGOs and vulnerable and disaster prone communities members.

Interview with Angela, volunteer deployed to LWD office in Cambodia, sent by Diaconia ECCB-CRD

1. What made you become an EU Aid Volunteer?
I decided to apply to become an EU Aid Volunteer because from the very first moment I grasped the great potential of this programme compared to other opportunities. Being an EU Aid Volunteer has allowed me, recently graduated with some experience in the fields of human rights and development, to mature an authentic first-hand experience in a challenging, yet safe, environment and prepare me well for a future career in humanitarian contexts. This was possible because as an EU Aid Volunteer, I supported – not substituted – the professionals working in local organizations, thus allowing a real exchange of a competencies and a strong communication of the respective aims, ways of operating and values.

2. How would you describe in your own words the EU Aid Volunteers program?
A challenging professional experience providing a first-hand exposure to the work in humanitarian contexts.

3. What was your previous experience with volunteering, possibly with humanitarian aid or development cooperation?
I volunteered for three years with the Restoring Family Links office of the Italian Red Cross providing support to tracing and reunification of family members of migrants. I furthermore supported the work of Misiunea Sociala Diaconia in the Republic of Moldova and participated as the practitioner in the community driven development projects of Bala Vikasa Civil Society in Andra Pradesh, India.

4. How did you learn about the EU Aid Volunteers?
I learnt about this opportunity from a former EU Aid Volunteer who participated in the pilot edition in 2012-2013.

5. What does one have to be able to do, if he/she wants to become an EU Aid volunteer?
He/she should be able to be a resilient person, able not to give up at the first difficulty and be willing to be open to different ways of working and communicating.

6. What process a person has to go through to become an EU Aid volunteer?
He/she should apply for the vacancy which is closer to one’s aspirations and competencies, go through the selection process, attend and actively participate in the pre-deployment trainings.

7. How long is the pre-departure preparation process?
In my case it was 4 months.

8. Why did you choose Cambodia as your area of operation?
I choose Cambodia as my area of operation because I am very interested in building resilience of communities to climate-driven disasters and this country is an emblematic of these challenges and efforts.

9. How did your arrival to Cambodia look like? Your first day at work?
When you arrive to a new country as Cambodia you feel overwhelmed by all the things which are new to the eyes. You have barely the time to think if the reality you are in, is at least close to what you expected. I was warmly welcomed by the staff in my office and introduced to the place. However, finding my way into the new work and within my role within the organization took a while at the beginning

10. On what projects did you work in Cambodia and what were your roles in them?
I participated in several trainings, attended some conferences and prepared few workshops. I took part in the preparation of the DRR guideline created based on DIPECHO guidelines in order to be used to mainstream DRR in LWD program 2017-2018. To help to the hosting organization, I have reviewed and updated their Empowerment towards Self-Reliance Program “ESRP” Program, documented Draft of a brochure of good practices for waste management aiming for broad distribution in the five LWD targeted provinces in Cambodia until 2020. I also drafted a grant request to IFAD in order to support the financing of the testing phase of a “green” waste incinerator or the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Disaster Risk Reduction/ Climate Change Adaption Impact and Migration Context Analysis.

11. How often have you contacted other EU Aid volunteers?
On a weekly basis.

12. What is the specific about the working environment in Cambodia?
The work environment in Cambodia tends to be quite relaxed. Co-workers are nice and willing to help, but sometime difficult to communicate with (i.e. they don’t say if something is not clear to them; tend to postpone assigned tasks). 

13. How did your normal working day look like?
Every week I spent some days in the office and some days in the field. In the first case, I was going to the office at 8 am, had breakfast with my co-workers in the office kitchen, worked on my task and eventually participated in some meetings on behalf of LWD with the other partners and NGOs involved in LWD’s activities. Then I was usually sharing lunch with my co-workers and continuing the activities until 5.30 pm. When we were going out in the field, we were usually leaving very early in the morning, travelled to the communities interested and conducted the programmed activities. The visits on the field were usually happening in one or more days and, in the latter case, we were spending the night in safe places nearby the visited communities.

14. If we neglect the working environment, what is the difference between the nature of the Cambodian people and the Italian nature?
Cambodian people are relaxed and it’s very difficult to see them showing extreme emotions.

15. What surprised you in Cambodia the most?
Everything and everyday was a constant surprise! However, above all: the immense resilience of Cambodian people!

16. Have you had time to look outside of your office?
Absolutely yes!

17. How often did you go to work in the field?
On average, 1 or 2 days per week.

18. What is your best experience in Cambodia?
The birthday party organised by my co-workers. They thought about every detail and, most importantly, they wanted – and managed - to show me their closeness and make me feel at home.

19. What is your worst experience in Cambodia?

20. How are your plans now when you came back from your deployment? Do you go abroad, or do you take a break and work in Italy?
I’m currently working in Italy in the humanitarian sector, but I strongly hope to go abroad again soon.

Life With Dignity