"I really feel connected with my colleagues, we share the same passions"

Her first six months as a Country Director in Iraq were not easy. ”Sometimes, violence erupted”, says Esther Grisnich. And yet, “But I really like the fact that I’m not standing on the sidelines.”

She is young, female, and never took on a leadership role like this before. When Esther Grisnich switched her diplomatic job in Jerusalem last year for a job as a Country Director for ZOA in Iraq, she couldn’t have thought she would have had to deal with several in-country crises a few months later.

A tough move, your new job?

“Yes, it’s a big change. Especially leading people is new to me. And I have a very different role and responsibility. In my previous job, I worked as an analyst for the EU in the Middle East. The knowledge I gained back then helps me a lot in my role as a country director. I know how the embassy world works and how governments are assembled. I use the diplomatic skills I learned in within the EU every day.”

What’s it like working for ZOA?

“I really have a click with my colleagues; we share the same passions. I’m proud of ZOA. In my previous job, I saw that the world was mainly looked at from a political reality, from a helicopter view. By now, I can say that here on the ground we see much better how the world works. We understand the most urgent needs, we speak to people and can really have an impact on individual human lives. I also find it really surprising how professional we are. We don’t just hand out a blanket, there’s a whole strategy behind our activities. We look at the bigger picture of needs, not only think about the short term. ZOA thinks strategically and has competent specialists. It’s nice to work with them.”

You have already had to deal with various crises?

“As a country director, you have a lot of different problems to manage at the same time. You hear the personal stories of the people you work with and you take into account the local and geopolitical context. In crises, the most urgent cases get priority. It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting. Anyway, I’m still young now and otherwise I would find my job boring. Now I still have the energy to do this.

I really like the fact that I'm not standing by the sidelines. I value being able to make a difference for people. That's why I'm here.”

It’s “pray and work.” I really believe that. I don’t want our children and grandchildren to be able to blame us later for not doing anything. We offer very practical assistance and stick our necks out to make the world a more beautiful place. I don’t want to suggest that other people don’t have useful jobs, but this is my passion. I have a lot of compassion with people. I was so lucky to be born in the Netherlands! I like and value being able to do something and make a difference for people. That’s why I’m here.”

How do you experience ZOA as an employer?

“I found it very special that HR told me that they had prayed a lot for this position. ZOA has a lot of patience with me and is, therefore, a very good employer for me. We have a young team and get a lot of support from the Netherlands. When I first came here, we had four young women in leadership positions. Where does it happen that there are so many women in key positions? I think that’s really cool.

I’m glad ZOA seems to fit me so well. The professionalism in Christian identity appeals to me very much. Especially in a country like Iraq, where religion plays a significant role, we understand how important faith in your daily life can be. It’s added value that we can be here.”

What makes you proud to work for ZOA in Iraq?

“We have a diverse team with a lot of different backgrounds. I find it very special that people work together who were each other’s natural enemy in the war. We have a Kurdish Peshmerga working with a Sunni man recruited by ISIS. Although this man did not work for ISIS, both men now have to go through a door with each other.

Sometimes the collaboration between all these different people is difficult, but often it also goes amazingly well. And all of that although the wounds are still so fresh. Making a difference with these people, without any regard for race and nationality, I find that very special. We can help people who need our help the most. That makes me proud.”

ZOA supports people affected by conflict and natural disasters from relief to recovery. Esther Grisnich is part of a team of 900 ZOA-colleagues worldwide. Want to join our team of committed colleagues? Check the vacancies.