Aid worker stories

World Humanitarian Day 2015: Sanna-Leena Rautanen in Nepal

Sanna-Leena Rautanen works for the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Western Nepal (RWSSPWN), a bilateral development cooperation project funded by the governments of Nepal and Finland. Here, she looks back on what has brought her to where she is today.

People fetch water in Katike, Sindhupalchok District. Photo © Solidarités International
People fetch water in Katike, Sindhupalchok District, Nepal, after the first earthquake. Photo © Solidarités International

What inspired you to go into aid work?
My university in Finland had a Master’s programme for students from developing countries, and I witnessed the impact of that first-hand. As a first year Finnish civil engineering student, I became inspired by both the water sector and the context of development. I realised that there was still a lot of work to do in the developing world, whereas in Finland it was more about increasing the quality of water service, which was already very high. That was in the late 1980s when this kind of exposure and information was still limited; I did not know anyone working in development aid at that time.
 
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Seeing the change that we're able to effect in rural villages. The direct feedback from communities is always highly rewarding and the reason I wish to continue working in 'field' positions (rather than being based in an office). There is also always something new; field visits are constantly rewarding, even after 20 years!
 
What motivated you to become a RedR Member?
I was hoping to network with other likeminded individuals, to learn more about different disaster response contexts, and at the same time perhaps get opportunities for professional assignments. I am also in the roster of the Finnish Red Cross for the same reason.
 
What do you think are the main challenges facing aid workers today? Have things changed in this respect since you started out?
The tightening budgets. It's as though we had to prove every day that what we do is worth the investment: that we can show results, that we are efficient, that water and sanitation issues are important, and that this work is needed.
 
- Meet more Members
- To find out more about the project please visit the RWSSPWN website, http://www.rwsspwn.org.np/. You can read about Sanna-Leena’s personal experience here, in her blog post.

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