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"I wanted a new way of life and to help people in difficulty"

05-03-2009 Feature

Marine, 33 years old, has been working at the ICRC since 2005. After receiving five months’ training at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva, she has been on missions as a secretary/assistant to Kuwait, Uganda and Chad. Her present posting is in Peshawar, Pakistan.

“After working for several years for a multinational where the watchword was ‘turnover’, I wanted to change my way of life and to help people in difficulty. As a secretary/assistant I don’t help people in need directly, but I support the teams working in the field. I contribute to their daily work and that already means a lot.

Each day is different because the work is extremely varied. It depends not only on the context and the delegation to which you are assigned, but also on your own ability to immerse yourself in the team’s work and to play your supporting role

My main duties are handling the flow of information, ensuring compliance with the rules on internal communication, teaching these rules to other colleagues and assisting the management of the delegation.

What I find particularly interesting is acting as one of the main sources of information for other members of the team in the delegation – helping to find a message, assisting with the organization of a seminar, attending meetings and taking notes at them, helping a colleague to plan his or her return from mission, telling newcomers what one can do at weekends – and that is far from an exhaustive list.

I have sometimes joined our teams in the field to give them a helping hand. These trips are really enriching and enable me to participate more actively in operations such as distributing aid to people in need. 

 The challenge of living with others  

At a personal level, one of the biggest challenges is getting along with colleagues from all four corners of the world, who often have very different customs. This can sometimes be daunting, but it makes for more interesting experiences and interchanges. 

But there’s a downside. The fact that my family lives thousands of kilometres from here and is worried about my being in a country at war is a bit chastening. Having said that, my colleagues are in the same position and once again one can learn a lot from talking with them. It is always a thrill to open parcels from your family and receiving letters and e-mails from friends is a real pleasure. 

In short, my new life is a very enriching experience in many respects. I have discovered a country very different from my own, I mix with colleagues from a variety of cultures who become my friends and even if I am only a tiny link in the chain, I am doing something useful to help others. "