Name: Neda Pencheva
Occupation: Humanitarian Administrator at Oxfam GB
Current Location: Oxford
GLOW year: 2007 (Can’t believe it’s been 7 years!)
Tell us about yourself – what are you doing, where are you?
Currently I work as Humanitarian Administrator for an international aid and relief organization. With my team-mates, we provide crucial administration and travel logistics in emergency settings. I am based in Oxford, UK.
What do you love about your job (studies)?
I love that I work with driven people and that we can see the results of our work. It’s a very enabling environment where experienced specialists willingly share their knowledge every day. We are never lacking in inspiration, team spirit and … cake.
Walk us through your (work) day.
It’s been only two months since I started my current position so every day brings something new. But it always starts with a bicycle ride to work and a consultation with the team. There is a wide variety of actors I work with and for, so I always need to be strategic about my work load – how urgent it is, does it involve people in a different time zones, are there any security concerns or travel restrictions to areas we are supporting. Every day, there are things I learn in the course of my work and things that I learn through my colleagues. At lunch time, there is always someone giving a presentation on his or her work. I try to go as often as I can. A regular working day finishes at 5, but every third week, it is my turn to be on standby and take emergency calls at any time of the day.
What is the greatest thing about education?
Having all this time to study. For the most part of our lives we’ll have to study while doing a million other things at the same time. It is a sheltered space to accumulate knowledge and to meet like-minded people.
Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My mother. I love that she is the free spirit that she is, always speaks her mind and is not afraid of anything or anyone. I am not sure I took much of her genes on the latter front, but it is something I aspire to. Fear is a bad driver.
On a more general note, people that excel at their work, but also guard time to be with their family and friends always make a very big impression on me. This summer I saw a woman with a hand-bag that read “Stressed, Depressed, but Well-dressed.” This is a modern mantra I am crusading against.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about:
– Action – I am not a big talker.
– Cooking – Nothing brings people together like making and sharing a nice meal.
– Languages – I love languages, but time is always a factor when you are no longer in formal education. This app, as well as the full website that can be accessed from any browser, is a fun way to learn on the go, completely free and while having fun competing with your friends. The only downside is that it can be addictive… https://www.duolingo.com/
When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?
If I can do something, I just act on it. If it’s out of my hands, I find that this sometimes helps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glii-kazad8
The things for which we should always find time are…? Why are they important?
If there is something we should always find time for it is to be critical about what we are spending our time on. Time is a precious resource and while I may not always need a plan (a degree of surprise is desirable), I always need a vision.
Every 6 months, I build a little pyramid with reminders of things I am working on. The top is the overarching goal and the building blocks beneath are things I am passionate about but am likely to sacrifice if I focus too much on the main goal.
What kind of books (or which) do you consider must read?
We are attracted to the books we need at any given moment in time, so I am reluctant to give a must-read list. Books that I enjoyed recently are: Middlesex by Jeoffrey Eugenides; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (long-time fan <3 ); The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (NOT the movie, but the book. And yes, I know it’s in the section for teenagers, but to me it’s a book for all ages).
What has GLOW given you?
GLOW wasn’t prescriptive in any way and it was what I needed at the time. It gave young girls a safe space to listen to their peers and to speak their minds. And it was so much fun!
What is your advice for young people?
Branch out! Meet new people, even when it’s cold outside and you feel for watching series at home. Ask questions, even if you think they may sound silly. Try a subject that you never considered or an internship in a different field. Don’t let your comfort zone become a cushioned hideaway from the outside world – it has so much to give you, and you have loads to give back to it!
Please share with us your favourite articles, videos, pieces of art
For those of you who would like to volunteer, be it on the way to a development career or as a free-standing life experience, here is a humble list of useful resources.
For anyone interested in European Voluntary Service in any area, have a peek at CVS Bulgaria. They were very professional and supportive throughout my 12-month service and I cannot recommend them enough: http://cvs-bg.org/
My EVS host organization was Compagnons Batissuers. They do wonderful social work in urban settings and if you are looking for the most hands-on experience out there, you may want to consider them: http://www.compagnonsbatisseurs.org/
For those of you who would like to volunteer abroad, but prefer part-time assignments and cannot travel for one reason or another, the UN offers online volunteering: https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/index.html
The European Commission is going to launch an official, revamped EU Aid volunteers portal in the coming few months. For anyone, interested in development work as a career choice this is wonderful news: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/en/who/jobs-and-opportunities/eu-aid-volunteers