Leandro Salazar Liévano
Education in Emergencies Officer
Leandro is a 29-year-old Colombian linguist and educator with a master's degree in international negotiations.
He joined NORCAP in 2016 and worked a year in Colombia for NRC before being deployed to Africa, as he wished.
Leandro has had three missions with NORCAP, to Tunisia, Uganda and Mali, where he worked as an education officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Leandro is truly appreciative of the opportunity to serve education where it is most needed, to work all over the world in challenging settings and fulfilling positions, and to be trained and closely supported by NORCAP.
The road towards humanitarian aid
After teaching languages for a few years, my master's internship at the United Nations oriented me towards the humanitarian sector. And I joined NORCAP in 2016.
I started my career teaching English and French in Colombia before moving to France as a Spanish teacher. There, I took a master's degree in international negotiation in 2013. I had no precise idea as to which sector I wanted to work for. Thus, I applied for internships to the greatest organisations in different sectors. And I was selected by the UN, for an internship in Geneva at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
This internship oriented my career towards humanitarian aid. And now, I do would not consider going anywhere else! I was teaching in order to serve and help others. Well, in my work today, I can serve in the best possible way: using my skill where it is most needed.
Securing access to education for children
In July 2018, I started my second mission for NORCAP: Education in Emergencies Officer for UNICEF, in Gulu, Uganda. I worked for UNICEF’s office in Gulu, north-west Uganda, close to the South Sudanese border. In this area, there are several refugee settlements – among them Bidi Bidi, the biggest settlement in the world, with more than 220,000 refugees from South Sudan. (NB: Ugandan authorities use the word settlement instead of camp to reflect their efforts towards sustainability and integration.)
My mission, with support from district authorities, was to ensure that all the children in the settlement, both refugees and local children, had access to education. Therefore, we had centres where we educated children from the age of 3 to 18. We helped the younger ones through programmes called early childhood development, and we had education programmes for adolescents who had dropped out of school.
From the Gulu office, UNICEF covers the seven refugee hosting districts of the north-western region. As I was the only focal point for education in emergency settings there, I travelled to the field every week to support day-to-day implementation and monitor the activities of UNICEF and our NGO partners.
I supervised teaching programmes, followed the construction of classrooms, playgrounds and latrines, and helped pick out play materials for the kids. In order to give a comprehensive service to the refugee children, it is important for me to work closely with experts in other sectors, such as child protection, water and sanitation, and nutrition.
On a national level, I am part of an education working group that meets monthly to coordinate education activities between the UN agencies, NGO partners, and the Ugandan authorities.
Never miss an opportunity to play football with the children!
I like to connect with kids by playing. This is my way to break down barriers, to get closer to them, to hear if they feel comfortable, if they are treated well, if our support to teachers and parents is having a lasting positive impact on them – and of course, if they are happy.
An incredible professional experience
NORCAP gives me the opportunity to help where it is most needed. And an incredible professional experience!
At NORCAP, I work all over the world, in challenging settings and fulfilling positions. I receive training to help me become the best humanitarian I can be. I am individually followed and listened to.
I can talk wonders about NORCAP. I have developed a strong sense of belonging because of the way NORCAP treats me, and the appreciation I receive in return for my services.
NORCAP calls me for deployment on a regular basis, giving me the opportunity to work all over the world in challenging settings and fulfilling positions.
NORCAP trains me to become the best possible humanitarian. Since I joined, besides a very complete induction training, I have participated in the HEAT (Hostile Environment Awareness Training) training and an Education in Emergency programme that focuses on innovative approaches for responding to crises from an educational perspective. My colleagues at UNICEF were jealous of my training opportunities and my briefing sessions in Oslo!
NORCAP is person-centred. We have an individual deployment adviser who can be reached whenever we deem necessary. The way we feel and what we think are important to them, and we feel listened to. If we are unhappy about something, they take immediate action to help us feel satisfied in our position.
NORCAP is a lifelong membership. At the end of my contract, I can get an extension with UNICEF in Uganda, or be deployed somewhere else, or pause. The choice is mine.
I have also developed my adaptation skills here. We say: “We are ready to hit the ground running” because we get to work immediately. We only take a week or two to observe and learn before jumping into the situation and adapting to what is needed.
PS: Any advice for candidates?
In my eyes, NRC, and NORCAP, is the world’s greatest humanitarian organisation. Do not hesitate! If you are qualified, if you are willing to expose yourself to new environments, situations and challenges, if you like to achieve results, if you are dedicated to serving others, just apply.
And if you are not 100 per cent qualified, go for it anyway. If you are the right person, you will receive training and support to help you become the best humanitarian and the best version of yourself.