This week we’d like to introduce Livia Röthlisberger, who was Country Rapresentative for Project-E in Ethiopia.
What was your involvement in PROJECT-E (department, main tasks) and for how long were you with PE?
I started as an Educational Consultant in March 2014 for the Secretarial College and then became Country Representative in August 2014. My main responsibility as CR was the handover of the previous project to Selam and the establishment of the new Hospitality Institute. By the time I left PROJECT-E in March 2017, we had created our own curriculum, equipped learning areas with furniture and tools, received the accreditation from the government, and successfully recruited the second group of girls to go through the education programme.
In three words, how would you describe your experience as a volunteer at PROJECT-E?
Empowering, Inspiring, Unique
What was the most memorable experience with PROJECT-E?
I will always remember the beginning of PEHI, when we had just found a place to rent in Ayat, without any equipment and only a few staff members. We used to decide half an hour before lunch who would take over the cooking responsibilities and eat, all from one tray, on the stairs at the entrance to the house. The team spirit that developed in those times, was unique. We all felt part of this project.
The other memorable day was my last day at work, which was a gathering of all the important people that have made this project what it is today: staff, students, local volunteers, international volunteers, partners, friends, families. It was amazing to see such a powerful group and its impact once again, all together.
What do you think sets PROJECT-E apart from other “international aid“ projects?
I always liked the down-to-earth approach that PROJECT-E has. Through the contacts and friendships that previous volunteers established with the workers from Selam and PEHI, you got a chance to experience Ethiopian life directly. Experiencing this culture and lifestyle, and listening to what people said was certainly something that influenced the way our project was designed and implemented.
Why did you have to leave PROJECT-E?
To pursue further education. I started a MA in “Intercultural Conflict Management” after leaving the NGO.
What are you doing right now professionally, and how did your time at PROJECT-E influence your choice of profession?
I am now the Country Program Manager for “Free to Run” in Afghanistan – an NGO empowering women and girls through sports and leadership skills. While we offered a pretty holistic approach in Addis (which included formal education), my current NGO’s mission is to support the development of women and challenge their role in society through leisure time activities. We give leadership, communication, and conflict resolution courses in Afghanistan and Iraq and couple them with outdoor sport activities to regain public space. My work as CR for PE prepared me extremely well for this new challenge.
Do you follow PROJECT-Es activities on Social Media or are you still involved in any way?
Of course! I love your updates on those channels!
What did you learn from volunteering at PROJECT-E?
I think the most important thing to learn from any volunteer experience is to be honest with ourselves and to realize that, apart from supporting the cause, we do volunteer mostly for ourselves: we volunteer to learn, to experience, and to challenge ourselves in a new environment.
Why would you recommend someone to volunteer for PROJECT-E?
Volunteering for PROEJCT-E, with its down to earth approach, really allows you to feel and experience the true “Ethiopian” Ethiopia.