In October 2011, Barbara Bianchini, an Italian national, left Turin, Italy to travel to Kabul and work with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on a UN Volunteer assignment as Staff Counselor-Psychologist with the UNAMA staff counseling unit in Kabul. Armed with a Master of Science in Clinical and Community Psychology and more than six years of work experience mainly in Italy as a trauma specialist, youth advisor, addiction specialist, researcher and trainer, Barbara accepted the challenge of working and living in a non-family duty station.
After almost two and a half years in Afghanistan, Barbara feels that her time as a UN Volunteer has changed her life. She still remembers her arrival in Kabul clearly,
safe and sound, to receive a very warm welcome from my colleagues. She finds being a psychologist, supporting and trying to empower UN Staff under their often precarious working conditions, not only challenging, but "a-ma-zing!"
Within a week of her arrival she was sent to Mazar-e Sharif and, together with a new colleague, delivered a training session on Stress Management in addition to starting individual counseling with UNAMA personnel and staff members from other UN agencies who were attending the training. Afterwards, the Head of Office told Barbara that he had never heard so many people laughing and that this was a memorable experience for him.
For her part, Barbara recalls, This is without any doubt the situation in which I would most like to be - the right place, the right moment. I was lucky enough to join a team of very professional and human-oriented psychiatrists, (including three nationals and two foreign nationals) and this is the tops for me.
Living in a non-family duty station, where the security situation requires all personnel to be vigilant and observe safety regulations, does mean having to accept and accommodate a different and sometimes restricted life-style. Even so, Barbara says, People here are very kind and warm, in spite of the unstable security level, and the compound where I live is safe and well-equipped.
Ever since her arrival, Barbara has been keen to learn about Afghanistan and to deeply understand its history and culture. She always tries to empathize with others. If, like Barbara, you are open to new environments and cultures, and are willing to use your professional skills and experience to contribute to peace and development, an incredible journey of personal learning and capacity building for others could be open to you.
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