Federica is a young Social Change School alumna with extensive experience in project management. She is currently working in India on a project for Terre des Hommes Core Trust, a children’s organization for relief and education, after earning her diploma in Social Change School’s Master PMC – Project Management for International Cooperation.
In this From The Field article, Federica shares her story and discusses her experience in India.
“My story started last summer. During my search with the Career Development Service, I had many possibilities to choose from. I knew what I wanted to be a project manager, but I didn’t really know, unlike many of the other Master colleagues, where I wanted to start my path geographically. I didn’t have a clear destination.
And then something changed. I did the first interview with Terre des hommes CORE Trust, then the second and after that the third one. They told me they needed me in India. Uncertainty and enthusiasm both pervaded me at the same time. The biggest question and the greatest fear was that India was a completely unknown place for me and that I was about to move for a year to a country I knew nothing about.
And then I left, after weeks of many questions and few answers, and I arrived in Tamil Nadu. The emotional and visual impact was extremely strong. The city I live in is in the middle of the spiritual pilgrimage and is developed in a semi-urban context. But Terre des Hommes’ office is in the rural area. I looked around and saw surreal panoramas and landscapes: streets governed by chaos and by the sound of honking, where pedestrians share their path with cows and goats, offices inhabited by monkeys who steal all the leftovers they can find, stretches of rice fields, huts, palm trees and saree of flamboyant colours.
Though, from the very beginning, I didn’t really have the time to feel lost. From the first day, I already had a deadline: by the 15th of December I had to complete the first assessments of the pilot projects, to thoroughly study the programmes, identify the standards, areas of activity, results, indicators of inputs, outputs and outcomes based on the objective: to establish the starting point of the projects’ quality through evidence-based data and initiate an internal monitoring and evaluation system. From that moment it was like I added an extra gear to my brain.
In my Department, Quality Assurance and Project Management, where I cover the position of Project Quality Assurance Control Manager, everything is at a developing stage. Our most important goals are to study the baseline and comprehend how to better execute the monitoring and evaluation of efficiency and effectiveness of each single project. I already had some experience, which undoubtedly helped me, but I was not expecting the challenge to be one of the greatest I ever had to live! I knews the mechanisms, the structures, the professional vocabulary, but accepting this position, as well as the autonomy and responsibility connected with it, was a very intense transition. Everything I learned during the Master, the workshops, the field experience, the trainings and while reading the book on Project Management (my sacred text) was extremely useful. Today I am proud to do what I have studied for, to unite my passions with a job that I love. I am committed on many fronts. Maybe I never really expected such a workload, both from a technical and human side, but besides learning everyday more and more, understanding how much my work is essential to other people is a great source of motivation, just like finding out how much your dedication can make the difference, also in the smallest things!
The human context I live and work in is honestly so beautiful. I am incorporated into this reality, which every day makes me reflect on the fact that the complexity and at the same time the simplicity of relationships is the same everywhere in the world. If you share something true, it will always come back to you, sometimes even amplified. In this sense, kids are the best: their smiles and love are immeasurable.
During the Pongal festival, celebrating agriculture, sun and harvest, one of the girls we host in the houses we work in took me by the hand and led me in the house to do the puja together, the prayer. She made me sit down and prepared the typical feast of worship, with fruit and flower petals. After that she made me stand up to light the flame of the puja, teaching me how to pray. She made this moment very profound, and without even saying a word she showed me how much it meant for her to pray with me.
The relationship I am slowly building with the staff is also significantly stimulating. I am happy of the smiling and positive connection we are creating. Working in Quality, Monitoring and Evaluation, it is easy to seem like an intruder, but it is essential for me to get in contact with the local actors and communicate a substantial message: the need to work together, for the kids’ and projects’ sake. And this message, even if with some trouble (first of all Tamil!), was understood and accepted by everyone, which was really and without doubt my first victory”.