Would you like to know more about the Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation department in Caritas Czech Republic? We launched a series of interviews with our colleagues who will tell you more about our work across the world. This time we interviewed Anna Volfová, our desk officer for the Middle East.
How long have you been working at Caritas Czech Republic and why did you decide to work here?
I have been working at Caritas for over two years now. It was my first job after graduating from university and I was looking for something meaningful, a job that could have an impact on people’s lives. I definitely knew I did not want to work just to make money, but to make a difference.
How do you find working at Caritas Czech Republic? What do you enjoy the most about it?
I really enjoy working at Caritas Czech Republic. I like how international it is, not only because we are in contact with other country offices every day, but also because the headquarters in Prague is a very international environment. There are colleagues here who come from different parts of the world. It is much easier to become friends with your colleagues because we share the same values, beliefs and motivations.
Since you started at Caritas Czech Republic, you have been working in two different positions. First in the MEAL Unit and now as a desk officer for the Middle East. How would you compare these two positions?
MEAL Unit stands for “Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning & Scale-up Strategy Unit” and I would describe my work there as more internal, in the sense that we were developing and working with some tools that were trying to make life easier for other colleagues within the organisation. Working as a desk officer, instead, has to do more with communicating with the country offices and doing different types of activities.
How do you enjoy working as a desk officer and what has been the biggest change for you at the new position?
I am very happy to be working as a desk officer for the Middle East, especially because I enjoy working with my Iraqi colleagues and I am able to get to know the projects much more in detail. The biggest change is definitely that I am much busier now and the work is not as structured as it was while working in the MEAL Unit.
How does your typical workday look like?
My day usually starts with a coffee, then I look at my calendar to see what is planned for the day, or if there is something urgent that I have to work on. I browse through the emails and usually I look at my notes to see if I have things I have to go back to or that I left for that day. We also have weekly meetings with the country office in Iraq and with our partner organisation carrying out our projects in Syria.
What would you say was your greatest achievement while working at Caritas Czech Republic?
It is not really related to my own achievement, but what I was extremely proud of my colleagues' response to the war in Ukraine, how quickly everyone got organised and was able to put extra energy into this emergency. Which continues till this day with the work we are currently doing both in Ukraine and here. But I will likely remember that "buzz" in the office in March for a long time, and it's one of the things that keep me motivated to give my best in my work.
Have you ever visited our country office in the Middle East?
Yes, I have visited the Iraqi country office in January this year. At the time I was working for the MEAL Unit, so my job was to monitor the development of a big UNDP project that our colleagues in Iraq were working on. I also got the chance to meet the team working for the Iraqi country office and we were able to visit the project sites. I also visited the offices of our partner organisation in Turkey to observe the progress of our partner’s activities in Syria and to plan new ones for the next year.
Are you planning to visit our country office in Iraq anytime soon?
Yes, I really hope so. Caritas Czech Republic is currently looking for a new country director for the Iraqi country office, so as soon as we find someone, as the desk officer I should visit the office to set up the communication and carry out other administrative tasks.
What is Caritas Czech Republic doing in Iraq and Syria?
In Iraq, we have an important programme concerning livelihoods, which means that we are supporting locals to find jobs or start small businesses to earn a living. In previous years we focused more on delivering humanitarian help, but now we are focusing more on development aid and training for workers. We teach participants, usually students or recent graduates, some types of skills so they can find better jobs.
In Syria, we have a very specific project funded by the European Commission. Its aim is to provide youth civil society organisations with the skills and knowledge that they might need for their activities. It is really interesting that we get to support civil society in Syria because it is not so common.
What do you like to do when you are not in the office? What are your hobbies?
Although I come from the city I enjoy spending time in nature, like hiking or cycling. When I am not working I prefer to move my body by doing yoga for example, or any other activity that includes being outside.