Your move to Syria, tell us all about it!

Marjanne has been working for ZOA quite some time already. She started her career with ZOA in the Netherlands, then she went to Sudan and now she arrived in Syria. Currently she lives in Syria while her husband finalizes his assignment in Sudan for another few months. It seems like a big step – from Sudan to Syria. Is that her experience as well? We asked her several questions!

First Apeldoorn, then Sudan and now Syria. Why Syria?

During my time in the Netherlands in which I was part of the Disaster Response Team, we started a program in Iraq and in Jordan to respond to the Syrian refugees there. We saw the needs of families who fled the war, desperately looking for some safety. All these people left a country where still so many people live, in a situation that has become more and more complex. Realizing this over and over again convinced me of my decision to go to Syria. I aim to work together with our team and partners, to build the future of the families in the areas we work in.

What is your background in terms of education and work experience?

I studied Development Economics in Wageningen, which gave me a broad understanding of the dynamics in the contexts in which I work. Within ZOA, I started in Finance in 2011 and moved to Disaster Response after 2 years. While participating in several emergency response programs in the Phillipines, Iraq, Jordan and Nigeria, I travelled a lot over a period of 4 years. To have a more structural presence in a ZOA program I moved to Ethiopia in 2017 and to Sudan in 2018, in the role of Director of Operations. I have started my current position as Country Director in September 2020.

All these people were desperately looking for some kind of safety."

Jongetjes in Syrië

What impact does this step have on your personal life?

When my husband and I moved to Sudan, we had to give up the way we used to live in the Netherlands. That was a major step, both for us and for our family and friends. Now, we are adjusted to our nomad life further away from them. My family and friends also adapted to the situation. Moving to Syria is in line with the choices we made. There are sacrifices in everyone’s’ life. Mine is to not always be with my family and friends. For me, this sacrifice is easy to make, especially if you compare it to the ones of my colleagues and the people we reach out to.

What are you most looking forward to in your new job?

ZOA Syria has grown in size in the recent months. We have welcomed many new staff members and increased our activities. My ambition is echoed by all of them: to build a team that is known in Syria for their quality and long term impact on the lives of Syrians we serve. Being entrusted to lead such a team in achieving our ambition makes me grateful and excited!

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What do you miss the most?

I really love the alternating seasons in The Netherlands. Whereas in Sudan, the weather is hot year round, fortunately, seasons somehow exist in Syria. The country knows hot summers, above 40 degrees, and cold winters, somewhere around 5 degrees. What is quite unique about the Netherlands though, is that you easily go for a hike in the forest or a walk at the beach. That is where you see the change in seasons most. I miss that, where ever I travel. But I catch up when I visit during leave, and I enjoy it even more than when I lived there!

Is it safe to live and work in Syria?

I live in Damascus, which is a safe place. I can walk in the streets at any time of the day. At the same time, I can’t say that it is safe everywhere for everyone. The war has not ended yet in the whole of Syria, and for many people, the conditions to return to their home country are not present yet. Fortunately, in the last few years, several areas slowly became accessible again. That is where ZOA, from a humanitarian point of view, works on improvement of basic services and livelihoods, to contribute to an opportunity to build the lifes of Syrians in their home town

Marjanne is part of a ZOA-team of 1000 colleagues all over the world. We are here for people who have lost everything in a war or a disaster. Interested in working for ZOA? Check our current vacancies!