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United Colors of ICV

Left to right: Lwiise, Ylana, Zainab, Sarah, Elmira, Jonathan, Pauline, Vish, Rabah
Left to right: Lwiise, Ylana, Zainab, Sarah, Elmira, Jonathan, Pauline, Vish, Rabah
Irene Amodei, traducción española Miguel Ortiz
11 September 2008

Geneva is an international city, they say. A "global city", using the term coined by the famous urban sociologist Saskia Sassen. It is an old and, maybe, abused singsong talk, but still it remains an undeniable fact. People from the four corners of the World walk everyday along the lake Leman and you can easily spot them talking in Arabic, Portuguese, English, when not in Farsi, Cambodian, Wolof or Swahili. So, it is not an extraordinary coincidence if the ICVolunteers headquarters reflect this melting-pot of cultures, origins, languages and experiences. This summer the mix was specially coloured and varied and we think the team deserves at least a brief snapshot.

Vish Mannava, from Montreal, Canada, but originally from India, is a 28 years old accountant. Two years ago, during his holiday, he reached his family in Geneva, and started an internship with International Organization for Migration (IOM). He also registered in the ICV database, but did not have the time to volunteer. This year, back to Geneva for vacation, he took his revenge and helped during the Geneva Music Festival and the Global Humanitarian Forum Annual Meeting. "Both experiences were really great, especially GHF, with all that dignities and celebrities," he comments. "I was in charge of the princess of Dubai, can you imagine? I mean, I had to deal mainly with her personal assistant and her security guard, checking her schedule, etc. It was my first time doing such a thing. That got me really excited about ICV". Planning to stay in Geneva since the end of August, Vish is now involved in the World Cancer Congress, helping in recruiting volunteers, scheduling them, and dealing with the International Union Against Cancer staff. "In June I was a volunteer, now I am the one that coordinates them!" Asked to share his thought about volunteering he says: "Many people think that is better to get paid, than to volunteer. But during the GHF, I was so closed with people that I have only seen on the TV screen or in some pictures on magazines -- Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, Javier Solana. If I was in a paid job I've never got them seen so close. I know people who work for the UN who never saw Mr. Annan. I did. You do not have to get paid to have great experience!"

Elmira Yermagambetova, 27 years old, is a medical doctor, precisely an oncologist, from Kazakhstan. Three years ago she started an MBA at the Webster University and she will be graduated next December. The plan was to go back to Kazakhstan and open a hospital there, but things evolve and priorities change... Elmira is now planning to stay in Geneva and is helping ICV as Project Coordinator for the World Cancer Congress. In the past she has already organized a 20 people medical seminar in Zurich, but she still wants to improve her management skills. "I am learning a lot. This conference will mobilize over 3000 people, and I have to find 150 volunteers". The multicultural environment of the office is the greatest asset for her. "Yesterday I prepared a caviar aperitif for people in the office. I talked about my country, -- I had to show it on a map! -- before listening the others talking about Tanzania, Algeria and Pakistan. People learn from you and you learn from them, and everybody needs to find the most appropriate way to approach the others, depending on the cultural or religious belonging". After a two-months experience with ICV, Elmira ends up with a simple suggestion: "Shy people definitely need to join the ICV team. The ambiance here is so communicative that they will kill their complex in a couple of weeks!"

Jonathan Moy de Vitry, Swiss-American, 21 years old, has a business and marketing background. He discovered ICV through the web. During the Global Humanitarian Forum Annual Meeting, last June, he was appointed at the welcome desk at the airport and was also in charge of preparing badges for participants. Now he is working as a team member for the Blind Union Congress volunteer team. "I am here to gain experience. I really would like to become more organised, in order to be able to function more effectively". Dealing with 250 volunteers certainly gave him the chance to test his management skills!

Zainab K Ahmed, from Pakistan, 25 years old and a BA in Journalism and French, volunteered as a reporter during the Global Humanitarian Forum. "It was my first experience with an international forum," she noted, even if she has been involved in volunteer services for a long time. In fact, three years ago, she started teaching community kids and also helped the Geneva Red Cross. Besides, she is an activist of FLP (Future Leaders of Pakistan), which is a youth awareness organisation created to promote the development of leadership in Pakistan through knowledge dissemination and scholarship. After this debut, she started a summer internship, helping as a reporter and translator. "I'm going to stay with ICV till September but I'll always try to volunteer in ICV's projects even after, inshAllah".

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