|Carolina amongst children in Congo. Click on photo to view the rest of the slide.|
Carolina Buglione, had just spent four years in what some have branded the most dangerous place on Earth. A job opportunity in Washington, DC enabled her to leave behind a destination located in the Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC). The late endeavor enabled her to participate in the installation of the American version of a Spanish NGO, called CODESPA, an organization that works towards eradicating poverty and has managed around 800 international development projects in 33 countries to this day.
Though it is presided by HRH the Prince of Asturias and in collaboration with various multilateral organizations such as the EU, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, CODESPA, finds itself attempting to rebrand its efforts in the United States and garnering further interest in its initiatives, creating CODESPA AMERICA. Over the past year and a half, Carolina has been part of that reestablishing process. However, she departs in key timing as the organization enacts a strategy.
Buglione’s current role at CODESPA America is Executive Director. In Congo’s capital Kinshasa she was the country representative for Fundación CODESPA and presided over multiple programs that aided the very poor. “Our work there was mainly providing vocational training services to young people… We would support very small micro enterprises that need help in different ways, especially in access to credit, training, basic equipment... ”.
CODESPA wanted her to lead their efforts after making contact with her at a youth center in Goma, Congo, where they provided the vocational program training. “My experience in Congo started in Goma, which is located on the border with Rwanda. It’s one of the most difficult towns in the country, with a complex war going on since more than 20 years”.
Her destination in Goma was an appointment awarded in scholarship by the Italian government. She was assigned to an Italian NGO by the name of VIS Volontariato Internazionale per Lo Sviluppo (VIS). In Goma, VIS dedicates its efforts towards training minors in a Salesian ran youth center called Don Bosco Ngangi. Don Bosco aids vulnerable and displaced children, such as those that are affected by HIV/AIDS, and even child soldiers, refugees, orphans and street children. Carolina states that, “They provide assistance to around 3000 kids everyday in school and food and different kind of health services and professional training”.
In the initial stages, Buglione was a bit distressed by her deployment. The realities were far more disparate than what she had been used to “...I was pretty scared in the beginning of course. It was really tough and it’s a very difficult environment”.
Rightfully so, Congo is also considered the most dangerous place for women. Aside from the sorrows of children, women are likely victims, caught between rebels and soldiers that have been designated to protect the villagers. In-spite of the risks, Carolina explains that there are many women that work for the NGOs in Congo. “In Congo, generally speaking, there was a majority of women working with NGOs, also at higher level and in big organizations”.
Even though there are organizations like CODESPA or VIS that are making significant strides, Buglione is concerned about the country’s stagnant progress. “Congo is such a complex country. It’s such a complex situation, that actually when I left, the situation especially in Nord Kivu where Goma is, was exactly the same as in 2008 when I arrived...The population was still suffering at exactly the same level. The level of insecurity was very high”.
“Safety is a big issue. You have curfew... especially in Goma there were moments when we were evacuated in Rwanda for example because the rebels were coming in town; there were shooting and everything...there was a cholera epidemic, so we were evacuated again...then managed to deal with that, taking thousand of precautions 20 times a day and try to be careful,...the life you live there is very small somehow because there are so many things you can not do, like walk around by yourself”
However, Carolina believed in the work that she was doing which is why she is a strong advocate of sustainable techniques. “In my opinion most of the time the humanitarian aid is just the giving of things and equipment. It’s not sustainable. And it doesn't really help the population from real improvement. It’s always very temporary. And it creates a very particular view from the population on international aid. We are perceived as some sort of actors that arrive and provide things. And you can find yourself in front of a situation where some local community is actually waiting for someone to come and bring, food or stuff instead of like putting themselves to work.”
Though she doesn’t negate the necessity of humanitarian aid, justifiably so, Congo’s conflict puts it at high risk. However, she is a champion of sustainable action. “Even though the humanitarian aid is sometimes extremely necessary,... especially in a place like Congo, where its conflict situation is going on for so long...So you have a whole generation of people that was born and living under this situation, …..it’s like kids that now has grown up have seen this humanitarian aid like a very important part of their economy…This is very sad for me”.
She doesn’t regret her time spent there. Actually, she came to enjoy the country. However, It’s realities started to wear thin. “It was really tough and it is a very difficult environment and you come so close to difficult realities. It kind of changes the way you see things”.
Buglione was fortunate. She found love in the belly of the harshness. Her husband-to-be was working for the United Nations, in particular on forest management issues. She talks about the survival rate of relationships and family that are comprised of people who prioritize traveling from mission to mission. “I think that it’s much more difficult when people work really into the humanitarian sector. Because what they do is travel from crisis to crisis. You meet those people they’re like, last year I was in Sudan, and the year before, I was in ... and year before that I was in Afghanistan. I mean they go from tough place to tough place”. Eventually, Buglione and her husband found new assignments and relocated to Washington D.C. “Coming to Washington has been a good change and a good change in life...I wanted to get out of Congo. It has been hard. After four years, I think it was enough for me. “
Some could say that her work in D.C. has been merely a time for reflection and transition, as she embarks on a journey comprised of a new union and their collective interests. Her husband has taken another assignment located in Panama. Just in a few short days, they will reunite after being separated for a month. She is a proponent of family. Even though she misses her own back home in Italy, she realizes that her husband is part of that. They support one another. “We both have curiosity in each other’s interests...experiencing the world and traveling. So we are not afraid of that”. However, Carolina is unclear of what career choices will await her in this new territory. She’s optimistic and focused on family, which makes her choices distinctive but wise, when choosing a career path in global philanthropy.