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 Jiří Škvor, the Head of the Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation department.
How long have you been working at Caritas Czech Republic and how did you find your way there?
I’ve been a part of Caritas Czech Republic since 2017. That is when I returned after two years in Geneva, where I used to work for UN OCHA, a UN agency which oversees the coordination of humanitarian aid. I wanted to be back in the Czech Republic. I applied for this job and now I’m here.
What do you enjoy the most about your work at Caritas Czech Republic?
The thing that brings me the most joy is seeing the successes of us all. I am a big fan of the atmosphere that we have in our department, the enormous motivation, dynamic and at the same time openness, kindness and respect that we have for one another. We cooperate together, support each other and simultaneously give way to a lot of great work. I also enjoy that the people that we have here are professionals that know how to do their job, move it forward and bring in new ideas.
How has the work in the area of humanitarian aid and development cooperation changed in the past few years?
I think that the work itself has not changed much – if I don’t count the fact that when I started working in this area in 2001, we used to send documents via fax and used paper maps for orientation. However, the area has progressed quickly and a lot. Organisations that want to succeed have to remain competitive by keeping many different qualities up to the highest standard – ranging all the way from diplomacy (and also politics), PR, programme and project management to finance and people management – all that with very limited resources. Everything gained momentum, even in our sector there has been a big push towards new technologies, innovations and ties with business. Which is obviously good, if you still use all these new enhancements well.
When it comes to Caritas Czech Republic specifically, the financial turnover of our international missions has tripled since 2017. I might be responsible for laying our eggs in the right basket and for choosing which way to go and how to focus on global donors. But it’s mostly the success of our amazing team both at missions and in the Czech Republic. For us, money is only a necessary means to make sure that we can help people get back on their feet. And knowing this is very important and motivating to us.
What are some of the challenges that Caritas Czech Republic has recently encountered?
Caritas Czech Republic’s international operations are unlike most European organizations from the Caritas network fully dependant on institutional donors, which basically means that we have to ‘fight for money’ with many different non-profits. We therefore have to try very hard so that we can run our international projects from our own resources on such a scale and quality which we operate in. Moreover, finances from institutions (be it the European Union, UN agencies or other donors) require organisations to partly fund their projects from their own money. That is a completely legitimate requirement, however, it is a big challenge for an organisation like ours. We get a lot of help in this area from small donors, particularly via the Three King Collection – and we are very thankful to them. We have however gained such a momentum that we need a lot more resources – which would allow us to help in countries where we are present on a much larger scale.
What are some of the challenges that you yourself encounter in your position?
I have tackled a lot already, mostly establishing Caritas Czech Republic at the very top of Czech NGOs, in some countries we are at the top even at a global level. To accomplish that, we had to show a lot of strategy, consistency, stamina and the will to overcome struggles. Like for example finding a stable and a highly professional team. We have accomplished a lot (and I’d also like to say we’ve already tackled the most difficult bits) but there are obviously always new obstacles coming up. A strong team like ours can however face them together, which makes everything so much easier.
What exactly are your responsibilities as the head of the Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation department?
The whole agenda of the international part of our organisation. Which is currently over 250 people at 6 missions in different countries. The strategy where and how to go to fulfil the mission of our organisation in the quality I talked about before. Team at the headquarters. Connecting different parts of the organisation together. A little bit of diplomacy and politics both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Intervention in situations where a little push is needed, be it whatever.
Although you travel virtually a lot in your job, do you also like to travel in real life? Which country stole your heart?
Of course. I’ve always been interested in travelling and in foreign countries in general. I’ve tried living long-term in various different countries, ranging all the way from Ethiopia and Sri Lanka to Switzerland. I also had the opportunity to visit many countries for a shorter amount of time. It wouldn’t be fair if I answered this question only briefly and unequivocally. But if I had to choose a country where I felt the best, where I enjoyed living and where I was happy in all areas, it would have to be Ethiopia. And on a very close second place, Switzerland.
What do you do when you are not at work? What are your hobbies?
I need nature in my life. Very often, we spend our weekends with my family by choosing a random spot on the map and sleeping somewhere in a forest. So, mountains, fields and forests. Walking in nature. I love playing with my daughter. Right now, our favourite game is “kitty”. There are also a lot of elves living in our home and they have a lot of (mostly crazy) ideas. I like sitting down with a book, watching a good movie. I enjoy educating myself and learning about new things. Training my brain and having new material to think about. It is a nice match to having such wise and inspirational people around me at my work. I don’t have much time for many more things but for me this is enough.
What does the job in the Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation department of Caritas Czech Republic look like? Read our previously published interviews, for example, with senior financial coordinator Michaela Čermáková or with a logistics assistant at our Iraqi mission, Shirman Mohammed.