In your opinion, what makes ALIMA stand out from other NGOs?
At ALIMA, the majority of our staff come from our countries of intervention. Whether it be in the Central African Republic, Nigeria or South Sudan, when in the field, I was almost always the only European within the team. While often times other humanitarian organizations hire many local employees, it is still rare to find so many African nationalities among the international team members.
It is encouraging to see an NGO, such as ALIMA, working with and profiting from the expertise and skills of local staff, from their own countries of intervention! Our actions in the field are even further optimized when they are led by those who know the communities best. The capacity building we provide is therefore all the more effective, as it leaves a lasting impact.
Even at the operational headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, which currently has 65 employees, we have 17 different nationalities and the majority are Senegalese. During each of my assignments, I felt privileged to learn and work in such a multicultural environment, which allows for better collaboration and impact.
During the field missions you coordinated, what did you see as ALIMA’s biggest strength?
During my time with ALIMA, I quickly found myself working on emergency response projects.
What I found interesting during these responses, was our ability to include innovation as part of the operational activities, which allows for real improvements in our future interventions.
Last year, for example, I was able to take part in our response to Lassa fever in southwestern Nigeria. The technology of the CUBE – ALIMA’s Biosecure Emergency Care Unit for Outbreaks – was being tested for the first time. It was a major challenge for our teams to test such an innovation while, at the same time, managing the response to the current outbreak – but it was also very stimulating. We identified the necessary improvements to be made and we tested its proper functioning in a real situation: choose the right location, assemble it correctly, find the right screwdriver…! What we did there allowed the team currently in charge of building and operating the Ebola Treatment Center, in Beni, DRC, to be more efficient.
Work aside, what are the “must-have” items that you put in your suitcase when you go on a mission?
Lots of cookies! I like sweet things, so I always tend to fill my suitcases with cookies that are often difficult to find in the field.
Also, what I have systematically always brought with me, is an Italian coffee maker… During each of my missions I bought one; I helped the field team discover the delicious coffee that it makes – so much so that I always ended up leaving it behind with my colleagues, who were addicted, even after I left!
One time – before working with ALIMA – I brought 20 liters of olive oil from my home town in Italy, to Juba, in South Sudan.
Lorenzo’s adventures will continue again soon, but for now, he takes a well-deserved break, headed back to visit his hometown in Italy.
*See you soon!
**Illustration: Florence Mahon de Monaghan /ALIMA