Shelter mission to Mozambique and Malawi

20 März 2018

Shelter is a partnership between Arcadis and UN-Habitat aimed at a common goal: to improve the quality of life of citizens in rapidly growing cities around the world. We are highlighting one of our Arcadian’s stories‘ who went on an Shelter mission. In this blogpost we cover the Shelter story of Natasha Orange from the UK,who traveled to Mozambique and Malawi.

“ I was surprised by the level of vulnerability and under-development in some areas, but equally impressed by the hospitality, friendliness and willingness to help by all whom we encountered.“ 

Date: 27th February to 9th March 2018

I am Natasha Orange from the UK, and on February the 27th, 2018, I went on a two weeks Shelter mission to Mozambique and Malawi. I was thrilled to be chosen for what I considered to be an unmissable experience. I have worked in the region before and was honored to be selected to do so again. The opportunity to work on flood-related initiatives, in an area whose development I am passionate about, and being able to work with UN-Habitat, was very fulfilling. It has been excellent for my career, and priceless for my personal developmentIn this blog, I will share some of my experiences which will hopefully inspire you to take a change on signing up to what could be the highlight of your career.

Mission objective

The team I worked with was commissioned to visit Chokwe (Mozambique) and Zomba (Malawi) to critically assess the already-established UN-Habitat intervention recommendations for drainage, relief roads, river-focused interventions and early warning systems. We had to tour the study areas, meet with local municipalities and other key stakeholders, and gather pertinent information to inform our final recommendations and report. To asses the intervention recommendations, we used indicators included feasibility, sustainability factors, climate change factors, and operability and maintenance.

Each member of the team had their own skill and expertise. I had previous experiences working in Southern Africa and with flood alleviation schemes. Furthermore, I was able to use knowledge on project management and risk management and to combine it with a strong cultural appreciation for both countries.

My first impression of both Mozambique and Malawi was how similar it was to countries I had worked in before, but at the same time how distinctly different. The weather conditions were extremely pleasing, having come from a much colder climate, and the people were so very friendly. I was surprised by the level of vulnerability and under-development in some areas, but equally impressed by the hospitality, friendliness and willingness to help by all whom we encountered.

Most challenging part of the mission

The most challenging part of the mission was being able to fully deliver to the desired outcome within the time allocated, and with a limited brief in advance. This was overcome in the end, and we managed to grasp the scope and work through a delivery initiative.

Working in Mozambique was surprisingly challenging in that everyone spoke Portuguese. It was the initiation of a new skill, having to use my non-verbal communication skills to navigate situations whilst waiting for others to translate. I developed a new respect for non-English speakers or those who speak English as a second language.

Learnings and experiences

What I learned most during the mission was the technical approach to the proposal and design of drainage systems and river protection. I learned how these would unfold in a substantially under-developed setting, which I would not have seen in the UK which already has well-ingrained infrastructure. I have also come to understand how teams can form and learn to perform in a very short space of time.

BEST Part of the mission

The best part about being on this mission was being able to work with UN-Habitat as a Client and being involved in work in regions completely different to my remit, without having to leave Arcadis to do so. I found being involved with development projects in southern Africa again immensely fulfilling, being my place of birth.

If you want to get involved in Shelter and make the most of the experience, I recommend that you research the culture and location you are going to, and do not be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. You will not regret going on this mission, and it may well be the highlight of your career. At the very least, it will expand your horizons and revive you, giving you renewed focus when you return; perhaps even taking you out of that rut that you may have worked yourself into being in the same job or location for a very long time.

The international Shelter program, which allows Arcadians to share their pro bono knowledge and expertise to find solutions for global urbanization issues in the field of infrastructure, environment and water is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation.