Published: Oct 11, 2018 Reading time: 3 minutes
Francesca Puricelli, EU Aid volunteer in Cambodia
© Foto: People in need


If you had asked me one year ago, I would have not had a clue that the UN, almost 30 years ago, had designated October 13 as the day to celebrate Disaster Reduction. Back then, I barely knew what Disaster Reduction stood for.

Today, three months into my assignment as a EUAV for PIN’s Disaster Management Team, I am proud of being an advocate of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and grateful that, thanks to PIN and funds from ECHO, I am taking part in building more resilient communities in Cambodia, the incredible country that is hosting me. 

The International Day for Disaster Reduction serves as a way to promote a global culture of risk-awareness and disaster reduction; my team here in Phnom Penh, together with our partners, is working really hard to promote disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness, since Cambodia is still one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters in Southeast Asia and the world. So, I want to take this day as an opportunity to honour every single one of my colleagues.

Working as a EUAV in the field of DRR is gifting me with knowledge and precious insights, as well as the skills and capacity to contribute to a more resilient Cambodia. Today, I want to reflect on all the memories that this experience has given so far. As you will find out, aside from the hard work, there’s a lot of fun involved in between an office day and one in the field. And I am only halfway through my time here – I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

It all began when I woke up at 6am on a Sunday morning of July… Plastic Free July! To launch their “Green Starts Here” Campaign, my fellow EUAV colleagues coordinated a clean up day through the streets of Phnom Penh. A great start to this adventure in the Kingdom, getting to know so many people that care about the environment and each other.

Soon after that weekend I was on my way with Monyvann to both Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, to inform communities about disaster risk reduction and our tool, the early warning system (EWS 1294), to which they can subscribe for free in order to receive timely information on floods, and therefore be prepared should any natural disaster occur.

At times, we had to cross the Mekong river by boat to get to our target communities located on remote islands.

And along with work in the field, comes all the cool stuff – temples, sunsets on the Mekong, and traditional Khmer dinners…

After a few days back in the office, we were back out to the field again. I remember that day when Monyvann, Chenda and I went to Kampong Thom to check if one of our water level monitoring sensors was working correctly - it was, hurrah!!!

On 19 & 20 September, colleagues from Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar Vietnam and the Philippines gathered in our office in Phnom Penh for a “Visioning Workshop on DRR”, to discuss how best we can synergise our efforts in the future in the South East Asia region.

Lastly, another event worth mentioning among my memories is the PIN staff retreat, a great occasion to get to know each other better, both on a professional and human level. Together with our Country Director, Paul, we learnt about PIN’s global initiatives and gained inspiration from other Country Offices; we exchanged lessons learnt from each other and went through fun teambuilding activities.

I am grateful to have taken on this challenge as an EU Aid Volunteer in a new field, that of DRR, which one year ago was very unfamiliar to me; and I am curious to see what the next 3 months hold for me. So far, what has been key to this beautiful experience is to stay open and not be scared to try new things.

...except for when Dan challenges me to try a tarantula :-)

Learn more about the European initiative EU Aid Volunteers HERE.

Autor: Francesca Puricelli

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