Tímea Kramcsák is zone financial controller for IFRC Europe. Recently, she was part of a team that carried out a scoping mission together with Ukrainian Red Cross Society to plan how best to continue supporting the 1.3 million internally displaced people living in the country.
As a finance expert for the IFRC Europe zone, I am involved in the emergency operations of many National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, but usually from a distance, sitting behind a desk. Recently, as part of a scoping mission, I experienced a different side of an emergency, coming face-to-face with those we work together to help.
Supporting Ukrainian Red Cross Society, I worked alongside other technical experts; making assessments through field visits. I supported the cash delegate on the field visit, conducting interviews in banks and voucher suppliers. We went to a collective centre where I met volunteers and talked to beneficiaries. I saw the Red Cross in action, and better understood what it means to both those we serve, and those who serve.
Expecting to see anger in the eyes of those who have been displaced by the fighting, instead I saw the light of hope. They are looking to support themselves. They want to improve their own lives and the lives of their children. I listened to their stories and their dreams for the future.
A single mother approached us whether we could support the project she intends to kick off. As a former teacher, she dreams of establishing a kindergarten for the small kids and provide educational activities for the children accommodated in the collective centre. This dedicated woman asked for nothing else than teaching materials and toys.
In the middle of Europe, fleeing the fighting, despite the hell surrounding them they have hope. Despite living in small containers, sleeping on mattresses packed in like sardines next to each other, they want to return to normalcy. Despite their eagerness, they lack the means to take back their lives. It reminded me of the dignity I saw in the rural villages of Kenya years ago, where I worked as a volunteer in a small orphanage.
The most vulnerable of course are the first to suffer. The cancer patient has to make a choice between food and medical support. The mothers of disabled children and the elderly struggling to make ends meet due to the lengthy registration process. If there were no donations from the humanitarian aid organisations, these people couldn’t even feed themselves.
Those who flee from opposition-controlled areas are not automatically entitled to assistance from the authorities. If these people fall sick, the only support they can seek is from the volunteers working in the collective centre.
Some have benefitted more than others; information is shared on various forums about the distribution centres and the kind of non-food items that are given by various aid providers. Many of those in need do not even get the information about it. Ukrainian Red Cross Society is doing it’s best to ensure that those who need it most are those who receive assistance, but it is a constant struggle. Before this crisis, the focus of the National Society was entirely different, and they have had to adapt to meet the evolving challenges.
Being alongside volunteers, meeting beneficiaries provides me a motivation that keeps me motivated for months at a time. Many years passed since I supported the Haiti operation, and some of the memories had started to fade, leaving me without inspiration. When sitting in an office, one can easily forget the real aim and the actual work that we are supporting. For a finance person, IFRC can easily become an organization as any other. TB, migration and floods programmes could be exchanged to any business project, could be chocolate bars or vehicle parts. Numbers are numbers everywhere.
I worked in the private sector for many years, but I left because I wanted to make a difference, and decided to utilize my professional knowledge for the benefit of people. A series of coincidence brought me to the IFRC. Here, I felt I could use my skills to help those that needed help, but it is through experiences like my time in Ukraine that I can understand the actual meaning of my work; keeping hope alive.