New Zealand Permanent Mission Geneva, Switzerland
Ana Zarkovic: Making a difference
The term ‘making a difference’ could almost be the tagline for humanitarian work. Different experiences trigger the need to make a difference for different people. For Ana, it was travelling through Peru, Thailand and Brazil.
“While travelling you see the challenging conditions people live in, this gave me the desire to make a difference,” says Ana.
With a background in engineering and various projects in water and sanitation Ana is an ideal candidate to use her skills to improve people’s living conditions.
Ana became an aid worker in 2011 and headed to Pakistan to specialise in water and habitat work. For eleven months she implemented small water supply schemes, assisted in Jacobabad designing a new water treatment plan and filled in as the ICRC’s deputy water and habitat coordinator in Peshawar.
Her next two missions took her to the Republic of the Marshall Islands responding to a severe drought.
The lack of water had caused a number of health problems including diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, and influenza as well as killing breadfruit and banana trees.
“When we arrived the situation was reaching crisis point. Some people were using coconut water or the limited fresh water for drinking and the salty water for cooking. They were incredibly resourceful and resilient but were running out of resources.”
On this mission Ana and the rest of her team used reverse osmosis desalination units to produce a total of 12,630 litres of water and developed hygiene and water usage plans with local communities.
This interaction with the local communities is an important aspect of the work that New Zealand Red Cross does. It also enabled Ana to see the effects of her work first-hand.
“The community was overwhelmingly grateful and we were thanked a number of times by the mayor, church ministers, the police, and other local people. It was such a good feeling to be able to help,” she says.
Ana is currently on a six month deployment to the Marshall Islands as an early recovery delegate, something she is excited about.
“I feel like I have a connection with the community there and I aim for my projects to be led by the communities I am assisting. Strong community ownership of water supply systems often leads to more buy-in by the community, making the projects more sustainable,” she says.
Ana is working to help the drought affected communities recover by making use of rainwater harvesting systems and supporting the emerging Red Cross society to prepare its response for the next drought.
On top of all this hard work Ana intends to try something different for herself. A secondary goal for this mission is to take up windsurfing.