Maria Rosaria Bruno sitting in a garden. A building and the flags of the United Nations and the Republic of Yemen are showing in the background.
Maria Rosaria Bruno, Deputy Representative of OCHA Yemen at OCHA office in Sana'a.

From Darfur to Yemen: the journey of a humanitarian

At the heart of humanitarian work, stories of courage, dedication and perseverance often shine through. One such tale is that of Maria Rosaria Bruno, a former UN Volunteer whose journey traversed the challenges of Sudan's Darfur region to Yemen's current humanitarian crisis. Rosaria shared her experiences, from her time as a UN Volunteer to her current role as the Deputy Representative at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen.

My journey as a UN Volunteer, Return, Reintegration and Reconciliation officer began in 2006 when I joined the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). With a background in international affairs and a passion for humanitarian work, my journey was fuelled by a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of those affected by conflict. 

My assignment in Sudan focused on handling the complex issues of returns, reintegration and reconciliation. I vividly recall the challenges I faced in navigating a complex landscape, while engaging with communities affected by displacement.

What truly defined my experience was my dedication to community engagement. I emphasized the importance of speaking a language that resonates with affected people, regardless of their literacy levels. 

My interactions under the mango trees with the local population showcased my ability to communicate complex issues through simple visuals and conversations. My work not only ensured the safe return of displaced people, but also planted seeds of hope in a region scarred by conflict.

Fast forward to the present day, my dedication to humanitarian work continues to thrive in Yemen. As Deputy Representative of OCHA, I oversee a team of UN Volunteers who play a crucial role in the humanitarian response. We have about 30 in our office, both national (the great majority) and international, and our team works relentlessly to address the pressing needs of the population in the midst of Yemen's ongoing crisis.

I have a firm belief in the power of UN Volunteers. I respect their professionalism, maturity and ability to transform realities, despite the challenges they encounter along the way. They take on diverse functions, from humanitarian affairs and peacebuilding to administrative support. And their camaraderie and solidarity forges strong bonds that often last a lifetime.

I also appreciate the concept of online volunteering. It has the potential to expand the reach of humanitarian work. With the ever-evolving nature of technology, online volunteers can contribute their skills and expertise to regions they may not physically be present in. This flexible modality offers a new dimension to volunteering and further diversifies the workforce in the humanitarian sector.

As I reflect on my journey, I acknowledge the immense challenges I faced, from navigating complex situations in Darfur to working amidst the ongoing crisis in Yemen. For me, these experiences have bolstered my resilience. 

In a world often beset by conflict and crisis, UN Volunteers are a beacon of light. Their dedication to humanitarian work, ability to connect with communities and dedication inspire us all to strive for a better world.