Interview with Heidi Nicklin

by Ruth Bücker,  2011/05/02

The past six months, coordinator Heidi Nicklin worked for humedica in the south of Pakistan, where together with our local partner she set up a project for supporting undernourished children. Before Heidi returned to her home in Scotland, she had a stopover in Kaufbeuren; we took advantage of this time for interviewing her about her work in Pakistan.

Dear Heidi, what was your motivation to go to Pakistan for a total of six months?

It started with me being asked by humedica CEO Wolfgang Groß if I wanted to travel to South Pakistan as a coordinator. And when he told me that the project to be implemented was a programme for undernourished children, I immediately was highly interested. After I had made the decision, I really started looking forward to implementing the project, because I love children.

What was the content of the project in Sukkur, the town where you were active as coordinator?

This is already the third humedica mission for Heidi Nicklin, here during a stopover in Kaufbeuren. Photo: humedica/Ruth Bücker

Together with our local partner, the Riverside Slum Children Project, we developed a programme for helping the starving children in the country. This was implemented on the one hand by means of providing severely undernourished children with high-calorie energy bars.

On the other hand our local colleagues and we also took care of providing those children who were given lessons by the employees of the Riverside Slum Children Projects in the morning with a meal after their lessons. So the children had at least one healthy meal per day.

As far as you can talk of every-day life - what did this look like for you?

I spent every morning doing fieldwork. That means I visited those persons who had lost their homes during the flood and were living at camps. We gave advice to the families, examined and weighed children and kept an eye on the development of undernourished children who were already being supported by us.

During these visits we also distributed the energy bars to those children who needed them.

And in the afternoon, I did all the paperwork. That means I wrote down the morning's results, planned the further course of our relief measures and simply recorded all the morning's events in writing.

Was it difficult for you, being a European and Christian women, to find your place in the Pakistani culture?

Almost all the employees of our partner organisations were Christians. This at least made our cooperation effective and uncomplicated.

humedica coordinator Heidi Nicklin together with a colleague of the Riverside Slum Children Projects (right). Photo: humedica/Simon Gelzenleuchter

In public life, however, it was immensely difficult. Being a foreign woman, I often had the feeling that I did not really belong. It is very difficult to feel at home in this culture. I could hardly act on my own.

I could not leave the house alone and take a walk when I felt like it. I could not do my shopping alone. But I knew from the very beginning that I would spend only a limited time in Pakistan and therefore I accepted all this.

What are you looking forward to most about your return to your home in Scotland?

I am looking forward to the normality I am used to. To the freedom I am allowed to enjoy as a woman here in the western world. I no longer take this for granted - this is an important thing I have learned.

If something is normal for a person - like for me the freedom to do what I want - then it is hard to accept other circumstances. But as I said, it nevertheless was a good time and I was definitely prepared to accept these circumstances for the period of six months.

How will the project continue after you have left Pakistan?

We worked together with our partner in a way that children will continue to receive their meals after lessons. This scheme will be continued until the end of August for the time being.

And the few children whom we encountered at the camps in a severely undernourished state and fed up once more will still be provided with energy bars and observed regarding their weight and health by our local partners. Luckily, there are not many children in this state left: only six.

Dear Heidi, thank you very much for your work and this interview. We would like to wish you all the best and God's blessings.

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