Antonella’s Journey with AVSI Foundation: A Fresh Start in the Nonprofit Sector

Uncovering Antonella’s Path to Fulfillment and Impact in Uganda

Antonella Iudici, an esteemed alumna of our Master PMC – Project Management for International Cooperation in 2017, embarked on an inspiring journey with the AVSI Foundation in Uganda after completing the Master program. We caught up with Antonella, who is currently working as an Operations Manager in Mozambique, to gain insights into her profound experiences in the nonprofit sector. Her time in Uganda left an indelible mark on her, and we were delighted to discover the positive impact it had on her personal and professional growth.

Discovering a Purposeful Path

“Looking back, I can say that I owe my current confidence to my previous failure in the private sector, when I realized that environment was not for me. Back then, I thought leaving my permanent contract with a for profit company to look for something unsure was a failure, but now I see that it has been my greatest strength. This is why I became aware of what I wanted.”

Antonella has always thrived in environments where her contributions transcend mere financial gain. The nonprofit sector’s allure lies in the shared mission and the tangible impact it creates, which holds more value for her than anything else. Additionally, the collaborative work environment resonates deeply with Antonella, as she has come to appreciate the power of working alongside like-minded individuals who share a common purpose.

Motivated by her desire for meaningful work, Antonella made the decision to enroll in Social Change School’s Master program. A significant highlight of the program was the Job Interview, during which she had the opportunity to interview with AVSI Foundation. Though initially disheartened and unmotivated due to prior interview experiences, Antonella engaged in conversation with C.S., AVSI’s Human Resources representative. Little did she know that this encounter would shape her future.

For me the Master was very useful to understand my skills and my limits. While talking to C.S., she introduced me the vacancy, asked about me and told me she thought I could become an Operations Manager.

At the time, Antonella’s understanding of the role was limited, but the job description intrigued her. Although she felt her experience fell short of the requirements, C.S. assured her that with time, she could acquire the necessary skills. Captivated by the possibilities, Antonella expressed her interest in the position, prompting C.S. to offer her a chance to gain practical experience with AVSI Foundation.

Following the initial interview, Antonella proceeded to meet F.B., the responsible party for AVSI’s local offices. While she initially anticipated working in monitoring and evaluation or administration, fate had different plans. The unexpected turn of events unfolded when C.S. informed Antonella of her next assignment: an opportunity to serve as the Administration Manager for AICS projects (Italian Agency for Development Cooperation) in Uganda. Delighted by the prospect of working in Africa, Antonella set off on her journey on September 1.

Embracing Challenges and Discovering Humanity

I fell in love with the country, the people were fantastic and Kampala was beautiful. It was great. I was always working in administration, but I was following projects in the North, so I got to visit the field to see how the project was going at least once a month, working with local staff.

Her one-year contract soon extended to a two-year commitment, solidifying her dedication to the cause. Adapting to the unique mindset and work culture in Africa presented Antonella with a transformative journey. To thrive in her new environment, she had to embrace a mindset shift. Initially, doubts crept in after just a month, making her question her ability to navigate the challenges. However, with determination and an open mind, Antonella discovered the power of flexibility and the importance of building strong relationships.

In the office environment, Antonella encountered initial skepticism from her colleagues, who perceived her as the “typical white person” arriving to issue commands. However, she recognized the importance of flexibility in such situations. Rather than imposing her ideas and strategies, Antonella approached her role with an open mind, willing to learn from her colleagues and adapt her approach to align with local practices. This approach helped bridge the gap and foster a collaborative atmosphere.

“The purchasing power in Uganda is extremely low, and many had told me that I wouldn’t be able to find true friends in the country, that everybody would have tried to use me. But they were wrong.”

Contrary to the warnings she had received, Antonella discovered genuine connections and acts of kindness during her time in Uganda. A heartwarming incident occurred when a young girl visited Antonella with a bag full of clothes, having noticed her affinity for long skirts and dresses. This gesture of generosity deeply touched Antonella, reaffirming her faith in the inherent beauty of humanity.

Another touching moment arose when a colleague, unable to attend Antonella’s farewell lunch, reached out to express her sadness at Antonella’s departure and the valuable lessons she had learned from her. This heartfelt message held great significance for Antonella, especially considering the colleague’s initial reluctance to embrace Antonella’s approach, given her own self-assured nature. Such experiences epitomize the essence of cooperation—focusing not solely on individual interactions, but on the enduring impact and continuous progress that extends far beyond one’s presence.

“And this is what cooperation is all about. If you just look at it on its own, you will not be able to understand, but if you focus on the impact, on constant change (even in the way of working) that will go on even when you aren’t there anymore, then it takes a completely different meaning.

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