rita : EU AID VOLUNTEERS

Rita, 39 years old, Portuguese
Studies : Geophysics in Anthropology

My name is Rita and I am Portuguese. I am a geophysicist and a social anthropologist. During the last 12 years I have been researching natural hazards and disasters. I have done that from both the engineering and the social point of view. I have, for example, helped to create a preliminary alert system for landslides on the Madeira Island, and have modelled floods on the Tagus River in Portugal. I have also researched the social impacts of floods and droughts on the Brazilian Amazon and studied rural communities’ perceptions on risk.

Overall, I lived and worked on the Brazilian Amazon for almost 5 years. Actually, my first volunteering opportunity abroad was in 2002-2003, also with a European volunteering programme – the European Voluntary Service. I have lived for one year with the indigenous Tembé-Tenetehara people from the indigenous land Alto do Rio Guamá, on the Brazilian state of Pará. Besides participating in the daily activities of the village (plant, fish, make manioc flour, etc) and on traditional events and meetings, I have supported school activities, elaborated and managed several projects and organised the “First meeting of indigenous women from Pará”.

Make the link between the team of volunteers and the more scientific and technical aspects

More recently I was in UN-HABITAT in Barcelona, in the “City Resilience Profiling Programme”. I have helped develop the City Resilience Profiling Tool, which assesses the resilience profile of cities worldwide at city-level, taking into account both natural and anthropogenic hazards.

On this EU Aid Volunteers project, I do the connexion between the team and the scientific and technical questions, the bridge with the scientists and the research institutions. Amongst other tasks, I “translate” the scientific knowledge so that the team can use it in their awareness and prevention activities with communities and schools. I am also responsible for doing the diagnostic of natural hazards, risks and vulnerabilities in Ecuador. Truthfully, this project is a unique opportunity for me, to come back to South America, to meet a new reality, to be a European volunteer again, and to put into practice my interdisciplinary knowledge and skills. I believe in interdisciplinarity, especially when addressing a matter such as risk prevention, where the social and the scientific knowledge need to be aligned in order for prevention strategies to work. This project is the possibility to distance myself from a more theoretical research, and to try to make a difference in a more applied manner. Furthermore, it is the opportunity to get to know an interesting country such as Ecuador. A country that it is interesting from both the geophysical and the cultural points of view – presenting such diverse hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, floods and tsunamis.