Commitment leads to action. Action brings your dream closer. – Marcia Wieder
How it all begun
The apprenticeship as a travel agent might definitively not be enough to calm the questioning temper of a child of the 70’s who witnessed the environmental movements of the 80’s unveiling our ecological sins of the past centuries. To be fair, with my work at a travel agency I contributed to make people happy (at least for a few weeks a year). But my education as a business woman did not help to answer the questions that really bothered me. How could it be that I was sitting in a well-furnished office, selling airline seats and beds in stunning hotel rooms while people who live at our holiday destinations are not able to feed their kids or to have a roof over their heads? What is the reason for such disparity? Is it possible to make a difference? And – the main question of all – can I make a difference?
Taking these questions as an incentive I was motivated to add my commercial apprenticeship something “more meaningful”. Something, that should help to deepen my understanding for these opposing realities. And finally, I wanted to make a contribution to a better world. So, I decided to go to University where the “knowing people” are and where I expected to find answers to those questions. Studying geography as a multidisciplinary subject linking social and natural sciences was the right thing for me.
Many roads lead to Rome
Well, before joining the campus I had to overcome a 3.5-years-obstacle meaning that I had first to caught up the Higher School Certificate by second chance education. In other words, I was working at the office in the mornings and went to High School during afternoons (and horrifyingly on Saturdays too!!!). Actually, I could have had that maturity certificate much easier. But at the age of 18 years I decided not to listen to my parents who recommended me to join High School instead of going to Business School. At the end of the day, many roads lead to Rome. And although I did not choose the easiest path, in the aftermath, my first education proved to be very useful e.g. to find well-paid jobs during my student days and to know how to deal with paper work of all kinds. Likewise, the extra occupational education did not only teach me in biology, math and French but also in “maintaining discipline”, “time management” and … in “perseverance” – attributes that turned out to be of much benefit to graduate University efficiently.
Seeking for answers
During my studies in Geography and Environmental Science I plunged into the deep ocean of development cooperation and absorbed everything that contributed to broaden my knowledge about poverty alleviation, sustainable development, environmental protection… Besides studying development theories (which was not really my favorite…) I headed for mind-breaking work experiences. Finding an NGO which mandates a greenhorn (as I was at that time) to the field was not easy. But in the end my insistence on finding an engagement paid off and I was mandated twice to Ethiopia by a Swiss development organisation.
Ten years after graduation my employments at Governmental Organizations, NGOs and within the private sector brought me to the understanding that every lens we are looking through shows just a part of the full picture. There is not “one answer” to my burning questions. Realities are complicated and complex. And I understood that international cooperation can make a difference- but it is far from being perfect.
Now, one might tend to conclude that my initial eager to contribute to a “better world” yielded to widespread “realism” and to the acceptance that “you can’t change human nature”. But far from it!
No doubt, we should not shy away from critically questioning 60 years of international cooperation history. And the more I do that, the more I am undoubtably convinced about the universality of human rights, humanitarian principles and values. Furthermore, I observe that the different aid instruments release lots of potential once they interlock efficiently and work together – instead of competing each other.
Getting close to the people and being open to listen and learn from them is the key. This world is made by individuals. And it is often the little and simple thing applied by an individual that makes a difference – rather than sophisticated theories and complex project designs aiming to be as holistic as possible. And finally, I am utterly convinced that it is worth making any difference – no matter how small it is.
My sincere thanks
At this place, I want to express my sincere thanks to all persons who supported and encouraged my personal and professional career with their confidence, knowledge and friendship.