Cristina: EU AID VOLUNTEER

Cristina, 26 years old, Spanish

I wouldn´t imagine myself doing anything else

My name is Cristina and I have been working in Cooperation for Development and Humanitarian Aid for the past 3 and a half years. And to be honest, I wouldn´t imagine myself doing anything else.

I studied Marketing and Sociology, marketing because I wanted to go into business, sociology because I thought it was a way to satisfy that small nagging I had inside my brain telling me there was something more to just a job and money. But marketing won and I was convinced I wanted to become a businesswoman. However, after a year working in a multinational, the nagging came back and, encouraged by my mother, I flew off to Nepal to volunteer for six months, where I ended up staying nearly two years.

Nepal: 6 month turn into 2 years

First, I worked in a small school in the city of Bhaktapur, giving support in the management and working in marketing to improve the school´s image. The idea was to attract families with resources that would pay the school fees and so be able to give scholarships for those children in risk of social exclusion. It was a tough start for me, a completely different culture, levels of social exclusion I had not even imagined, very little resources and essentially the only volunteer in the city. But it was a challenge, I adapted and loved it. I decided I wanted to stay.

And then the earth trembled, and I was witness to the devastating earthquakes that shook the country in April and May of 2015. More than 9000 deceased and more than 600,000 homes destroyed, my town being one of the most affected. There wasn´t really a choice for me then, to leave or stay.  I led the fundraising campaign for three months, and with the funds we raised, we began to provide emergency aid and work with local NGOs in construction of semi-permanent homes, schools and psychosocial camps. I stayed for another year as project manager and during that time Nepal became a part of me and developing a career in cooperation for development and humanitarian aid, especially focusing in DRR, the only logical way forward.

Building a career in DRR

When I returned to Europe I spent a year in Vienna, working for Red Noses International, a Healthcare Clowning organisation. I learnt the importance of art and culture in the humanitarian field and the importance of laughter in psychosocial support and empowerment. Sometimes, where an aid worker can´t reach, a clown can.

And finally, I came to where I am now, part of the EU Aid Volunteers Initiative, working with Ecuasol and La Guilde in a project of Disaster Risk Reduction in Ecuador. Why did I choose this project? As I mentioned before, it was logical. The earthquakes in Nepal where probably the most important event in my life until now. But I needed more experience working in projects focused in DRR with professionals of the sector. So I chose to become an EU Aid Volunteer. I have now been in Quito for three months and have loved every moment of it, working in project management and coordination giving support to the project leader.

The team is great, I am learning constantly and even though there are a few challenges, I feel satisfied with the work I am doing. I´m excited to see what the next months bring.