I was working as a chemist in a Uruguayan military hospital when my friend returned from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). Hearing about his experience as a member of the Uruguayan contingent serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) inspired me. I immediately applied to serve in the mission through the Uruguayan military and in a few months received news that I was hired. This opportunity would begin a new chapter in my life.
I was stationed in Bunia, DRC as Officer in Charge of Water Treatment Plants with the Uruguayan military contingent. My task was to supervise the water treatment plants that supply safe water to the peacekeeping mission and to help write standard operating procedures directing employees on ways to improve their work. I was amazed to see how proactive and dedicated the employees were in making sure that our colleagues had clean water.
For any United Nations mission to function properly, a reliable water supply is necessary. However, when our neighbors needed water, we were quick to support them. During the cholera emergency in Bunia, our staff provided safe drinking water to people in a nearby refugee camp. My colleagues, as well as nearby communities, benefited from the self-sustaining water supply.
Motivated to explore new opportunities while positively contributing to improving the quality of life of other people, I joined the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme. As a UNV, I continued to work in the water treatment field, spending three years in Kinshasa with the Engineering Section followed by two years in Goma at the Contingent Owned Equipment Unit.
During my first few years at the United Nations, I met people from all over the world. I saw how a simple conversation with someone in his or her native tongue was a great way to build a bond. This drove me to further my education, and I spent three months studying Arabic while living in Jordan.
With my new language skills, I was excited to return to work. I had been away for far too long and I missed the dynamism that came with mission life. This time, I returned to the field, not as a volunteer, but as a United Nations staff member, working in Facilities Management.
At my current post in Bamako, Mali, I ensure that the compounds are equipped with the services they need to operate. For example, we manage services that provide food, electricity, water, laundry, waste management and building maintenance to United Nations offices and staff accommodations.
Often we travel two to three days at a time, ensuring that team sites have what they need. It has been during these visits that I have grown closer to my colleagues. I came to the mission alone, but I have gained a family during my time here. The people around me have showed me true friendship, offering kind words when work gets tough and I am faced with unfamiliar challenges. I have learned to embrace traveling, living and working in the field because my colleagues are always there to support me.
The challenge and possibility of improving the lives of the community and staff motivates me every day. I give my all and in return the field has given me some of the most meaningful experiences, lessons, and friendships of my life.