With over 30 years’ experience bringing volunteers and development projects to some of the world’s poorest communities, World Youth International are excited to continue educating, empowering and inspiring positive change in Kenya, Nepal and beyond. Georgie Evangelou, the first female Chairperson on the World Youth International Board, is passionate about further developing our impact within these communities, with a focus on addressing inequality, to empower more women and girls by improving access to quality healthcare and education.
Recently we interviewed Georgie to learn more about her background, how she built her career within the international development sector, and what her aspirations are moving forwards.
First things first! Can you tell us about your background, and how you came to be involved with World Youth International?
I am a senior HR professional specialising in the international development sector. I am presently the HR Special Projects & Safeguarding Lead for Abt Associates. This is a global consulting agency which manages major international development programs funded by government donors such as DFAT, DFID and USAID. I’ve been in the HR field for over 25 years, 15 of which have been in the international development sector.
Why international development, and why HR?
I really like the variety of work; it’s all about understanding and connecting with people, and the creativity in solving complex problems in new ways. It can vary so much, from high level strategic workforce planning for programs, to analysing local laws in new countries, to being the emotional caregiver for someone at work dealing with personal or professional concerns, to responding to the weird and wonderful every day. For example, an unexpected absence from work from someone who has gone to buy a pig for his bride! It’s never boring and often challenging. HR is a profession that allows you to be at the centre of an organisation and you can work in any industry, but international development is where my heart belongs.
What are some of the most challenging and fulfilling parts of your work?
It is such a privilege for me to have worked closely with so many diverse, interesting people and fascinating cultures. I have made connections and lasting friendships with others from all walks of life. The challenge in my work is that each situation, person or scenario is never the same, so it’s taking what I know and applying it as best as I can. That’s where the creativity and problem-solving kicks in!
How did you come to be involved in World Youth International?
I first met Ralph and Ann Hoey (Founding Members of World Youth International) in 1997 at Henley Beach in Adelaide. I shared my experiences in Belize with Raleigh International. Ralph invited me to work together and we created the very first Overseas Action Program in Nepal in 1998. Ralph and I stayed in touch over the years and he invited me to join World Youth International in 2014.
What are you hoping to achieve by being on the World Youth International Board?
Half the world lacks access to basic essential health services, and over 100 million people are still pushed into extreme poverty due to health expenses. World Youth International’s Nurses in Action programs contribute towards helping this issue, through our health camps and access to free healthcare for some of the world’s poorest. Our aspirations are to expand the Nurses in Action programs to more communities and new country locations, to provide healthcare to as many that we can reach. We plan to build health campaigns with a stronger focus on maternal health and to also share knowledge and skills to build the capacity of local health workers. We will also find more ways to increase opportunities for education and economic empowerment, particularly for women and girls as they do bear the greater burden of poverty. We will continue Robert Hoey’s legacy to empower and inspire future generations to live life passionately, to broaden their world view, to increase awareness of and contribute to social causes.
Which World Youth International project are you most proud of?
I am proud of all our projects but most recently, I worked briefly at the World Youth International School based in Gokarna, Nepal. It was just so wonderful to see how many children, particularly girls (over 60% at the School) had access to quality education that they may not otherwise have had. To hear the students convey in their own words their love and appreciation for the school was pretty special. When girls are educated, the standards of living rise for everyone. Educated women tend to be healthier, get better jobs and earn higher incomes, and they seek better health care and education for their children, which lifts the next generation. With the generosity of our corporate sponsor Computershare, the school is now growing, we are building new classrooms to include Year 11 and 12, as well as a boarding house for students who live too far away to commute daily. We will be able to help more children access a quality education. A number of these students are provided with education scholarships supported by sponsors.
What does International Year of the Nurse and Midwife mean to you, as Chair of an organisation that has aligned with this global campaign?
It’s often said that Nursing is a noble profession and it most certainly is. Nurses are often on the ‘frontline’, the ones really at the patient’s bedside, often at the worst of times. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. This is a global celebration of the benefits that nursing and midwifery bring to the health of the global population. WHO stated that “Without nurses and midwives, we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or universal health coverage.” These two health professions are invaluable to the health of people everywhere. The campaign aims to raise the status, profile and contribution of nurses to healthcare, in recognition of their tremendous work and to address the shortage of these vital professions. It aligns with our Nurses in Action program to not only increase access to healthcare for the world’s poorest, but to also share knowledge and skills to build the capacity of local nurses where possible.
Thank you Georgie for sharing your insights and experiences!
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