Written by Placidia Vavirai, WASH Specialist and Field Delegate in Sudan for Swiss Red Cross

I could never believe that this photo was taken during an international training on WASH Mass Sanitation Module of the IFRC Emergency Response Unit (MSM 20 ERU). Many thanks to the Austrian Red Cross for the extended invitation, it was such an honor. Most importantly, in case no one realizes, this photo was taken at a restaurant/hotel nearby a workshop where we were doing concrete practicals and the moment, I saw the Zimbabwean flag, my heart was blown away. First time that this hotel hosted a Zimbabwean participant – they had to buy this flag for me. I felt home away from home and it was super emotional for me, the way I never feel when I am in Zim itself. We also sang  (on the Austrian National day) each one  participant (s) the National anthem of their country and I found it quite interesting –  at home I don’t really sing the anthem, but on this day I did well.

Placidia and Nuria walking in a forest, a group of people walks behind them, everyone is holding torches as it is already getting dark

On one of the days, after a full day of lectures, we were invited to what was named “witch tour” and where we would learn about Austrian Herbs and collect some evening salad. After some careful thought, I was like, “Placidia, just join, you will rest later”. The tour was super relaxing, (not much salad we got by the way) but learning about the town of Attersee was wonderful (it is one of the holiday destinations in the world by the way – what else could a girl ask for), and the training gave me an opportunity to tour and stay in this place – free of charge (someone else paid for sure).

The witch tour also reminded me how simple things as planting trees (many people before us did this) , is of generational value  and how in the thick of forests we can go and find ourselves – relaxing, yoga, hikes, you name it.

On another day or two, there were some serious issues to deal with and to remind us that – being a WASH emergency ERU requires stamina and stress management. The practical sessions, excluding us from sanitation facilities, being in group works and simulating scenarios was really something to remind ourselves if this is the work we want to do. It was also an eye opener for me, and I told myself I will not accept leadership, especially on first rotation because the chaos in emergencies is real, however the work of preparing people for ERU is also real.

Placidia infront of a self-constructed toilet or latrine on a parking space with cars in the background

I am sure the people who took/will take part in this training walk away with something and guess what my biggest take away was..….

Decision log – Often times, even in non-emergency situations, we scratch out heads in reports trying to figure out why certain decisions were taken. This must stop, professionals must be obliged to log their decisions as a way of handover and continuity. Today I pride myself that I already adopted a decision log in my current project and will keep on if possible. We also had some controversial discussions and some frustrating for others but the idea behind is to learn and challenge ourselves on :-

  • how do we really ensure climate friendly interventions?
  • do we really need to have equipment in our ERUs?
  • should ERUs be dominated by Europeans because that’s where the money comes from?
  • do we really have capacities in the regions normally affected by disasters and emergencies?
  • what about cross cutting issues?
  • and what about the real role of IFRC and HNS?
5 people sitting around a table, Placidia standing closest to the camera; people work on laptop, paper and pen are on the table

I would like to pass my gratitude to Georg Ecker – crazy how a small meeting can bring Placidia to Europe. To Alex Oeze, thanks that we could reconnect again and not only that, but catch-up time to time on other WASH issues.

Once a WASHie, always a WASHie and I am looking forward to my next appointment as Secretary General of a National Society, thanks @Alex for the motivation. Importantly I hope to come back and support trainings in the future.

One WASH, one love.