Made in Maastricht: Paulien de Haes
We spoke during Pentecost. Although much of the population is Christian, there's no day off for Paulien and her colleagues.
Ten months ago, Paulien de Haes (32) moved to Tripoli in Lebanon for the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). With her degree in business economics and majors in organisation and sustainability, Paulien is the perfect generalist for the multifaceted job of Finance and Administration Manager. 'I have always been internationally oriented. I also find it extremely motivating to work for an organisation which I believe in. That really runs deep. As a result, it didn't come as a shock to my parents when I started working for the ICRC and was posted abroad'.
'As one of the neighbouring countries, Lebanon is faced with numerous Syrian refugees. With a local population which has little itself and the fear that the conflict might spill over, the situation is not always easy but the relationships are not at breaking point.' Quite a change from her previous posting to Djibouti. 'In Djibouti we worked to support Yemen with a sense of urgency, as emergency help was required and the security situation made our work more difficult.'
As an administrator, she provides all the administrative support which is required to allow the aid workers to work for and with war victims as efficiently and effectively as possible. Together with her team, Paulien is responsible for the internal travel agency, accommodation, human resources, finances, logistics and purchasing of this delegation. She is also responsible for the administration of a hospital in Tripoli, in which the ICRC treats and rehabilitates people who have been injured in the war.
As a member of the support staff, she is not directly involved with the people who are helped by the ICRC, but she does often visit the tent camps on the Syrian border. She works with the logistics team to organise the basic necessities such as food, drinking water and blankets in places where refugees gather. 'Whereas my colleagues identify the kind of help which is required, I make sure that everything is sorted out and present to ensure that the process runs smoothly. During my work for KPMG, I noticed that I liked "nerdy tasks". This is particularly useful when I am looking up procedures and rules and simplifying them for my colleagues in the field.'
'We work intensively with the local Red Cross. In addition, our employees are mainly local people: only 20% are international staff. As a result, we are very effective and are also more accepted by the local environment. Our staff know their way around, know how negotiations take place here and can speak the language. Together, we're rather similar to a tutorial group. Just like in Maastricht, I present things to my team so we can examine them from various different perspectives and reach a democratic and accepted decision for our work. I have also noticed that this really helps to motivate the team; everyone feels that they are being listened to. It is an approach which suits me and which was fine-tuned in Maastricht'.
'When I go back to the Netherlands, I mainly seek out peace and quiet. My job is very demanding and the fact that you have to operate in a foreign country is very tiring. Everything is predictable in the Netherlands; I know my way around.' As well as making up for lost time with her family and fiancé, she also tries to meet up with old friends from Maastricht from time to time. During her studies, she and a group of fellow students joined the international student recruitment team. In order to promote the university, she travelled to Indonesia, Estonia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. 'As fans of UM, we shared our stories with future students there. I have some really great memories from that time!'
Paulien de Haes graduated from the School of Business and Economics in 2007 with a master's degree in Management, Change and Consultancy.
By Charlotte Groven, June 2017