"No day is like another"

by Katja Weber, Ruth Bücker, 2011/08/13

In order to implement and plan relief goods distributions and other relief measures the optimal way, a country coordinator is employed in each affected country that depends on external help. These coordinators manage relief measures and projects directly in the country. Katja Weber is active as humedica coordinator in Kenya. With this article we would like to introduce her to you.

Dear Katja, could you please tell us a few words about yourself?

The first thing you clarify in Kenya is to what tribe you belong. So: I am Swabian! However, I lived in Berlin for the past few years.

I am 36 years old, studied International Business Administration some time ago and worked at Daimler as Communication Manager. Until I switched sector in 2008 and started to work in the humanitarian sector with my first humedica project in Haiti.

What is the work of a country coordinator like? How would you describe your “every-day routine” to our readers? What are your responsibilities?

Our experienced coordinator Katja Weber loves her job, but nevertheless she hopes that it will no longer be necessary someday in the foreseeable future. Photo: humedica/private

The good thing is that in my job no day is like another. I like that. For example, I spent my first working day at the cargo airport of Nairobi. There, we received 30 tons of relief goods from Germany – and some journalists whom I was responsible for over the next few days.

After four relief goods distributions that took place this and last week, we had to turn our stocks upside down and take inventory: we counted boxes and boxes and boxes.

And then we are going to spend some days in the office and we'll spend our time settling the accounts, giving interviews to Kenyan radio stations and preparing and planning the next distributions of food and medical goods.

You have already worked for humedica in Sudan and you are working at refugee camps. Do you think that the situation in Kenya will reach a similar extent?

Partly, we are already observing this situation. Dadaab is located in the east of Kenya, about 80 kilometres from the border to Somalia. And there you can find the largest refugee camp with 400,000 people who have fled Somalia due to civil war and famine. But some of them fled already 20 years ago.

Currently, new families are arriving every day, 1,500 persons per day. Since there will probably be no rain in most regions even during the so-called short wet season from September to November, we are expecting yet another crop shortfall – and people will continue to starve. Therefore they must try to find a place where they can get food.

What was your motivation for giving up your quiet life in Germany and for going on missions with humedica?

I have always spent a lot of time abroad. It is wonderful to live in another culture, get to know people who come from a completely different background.

Actually, I don’t feel like I had to give up a lot of living standard. Also far from home it is possible to live well – but I have to admit that sometimes I do really miss the constantly warm water during my morning shower!

Is it difficult for women to gain acceptance in Kenya?

No, the Kenyans are very attentive and polite towards women. Women are really respected here. The only thing I had to learn is that I have to bargain about twice as hard as my black colleagues – because every shop owner spontaneously decides to raise his prices when a white person enters his shop!

You are very fond of the country and the people. Are you grateful for the fact that you can offer aid and help the starving people?

Of course. Other people’s misery often seems so far away, even being here in the country. In Nairobi, life just goes on normally. And then we drive to a region that is affected by the drought and we encounter people who lack something as fundamental as food. And we can – at least for the time being – help them so easily. It's a good feeling.

What are your concerns regarding the next few months?

Actually, my only concern is that these months will turn into years. I like being here and I will stay in Kenya anyway. But I would prefer that my job would not be necessary in future, because people will be better off in the long run. At the moment, however, this future is not foreseeable.

What are your hopes? For yourself and/or the people living at the Horn of Africa.

For myself I hope that I will be able to live happily in Kenya. And this is also what I wish all the people here. Some happiness. Or at least not constantly burning hunger.

Dear Katja, thank you very much fort his interview and above all for your commitment and your charitable heart! We wish you all the best for your work in Kenya and God's blessings.

Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea: people there depend on our help. Photo: humedica/Nehemia

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