Aid worker stories

Meet the Member: Gian Melloni

RedR Member Gian Melloni talks to us about his experiences as the Deputy Director of the WASH Consortium in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how it continues to deliver aid to hundreds of local communities despite complex challenges. 

What inspired you to go into aid work?2017.03.Gian Melloni
Working in international aid was something I had vaguely in mind when I was young. It was about doing something that would bring about change to others, and also I was driven by curiosity about other parts of the world. For various years I didn't think about it at all though, but when I finished university I felt it was time to give it a try. That was more than ten years ago and I'm still doing it. 

What is your favourite thing about your job? What have been the most challenging features of this project and its process?
I've been for about a year the Deputy Director of the DRC WASH Consortium, funded by UK Aid, a consortium of five INGOs led by Concern Worldwide. The project assists with rural water, sanitation and hygiene for about 700 villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What I like of this job is that we work at scale and we have a tangible impact on the national WASH sector. The Consortium applies a simplified version of the life-cycle costs approach to water management, which I'm also quite of a fan of. On top of the field-based activities, there is a whole range of research, learning and dissemination we carry out.

The general challenge we face is to consistently deliver at the right quality and quantity - in other words, ensuring appropriate quality at the same time keeping the pace of the project milestones and targets. Doing so in a complicated country like DRC (a vast and fragile state with very poor infrastructure and recurring crises) is a challenge as such. In addition, coordinating a consortium means you tap the expertise of many great INGOs, but you also face challenges of alignment, standardisation and replication across the consortium members.

What are some memorable moments? 
The political situation was quite tense in all DRC in the last months of 2016, and is still far from stable. It was good to see that we were able to stay focused despite the widespread feeling of uncertainty. Something that keeps impressing me -now and from past experiences in this country- is the amazing resilience of so many people in DRC: their capacity to work out their ways through life, to enjoy it when things go well and bounce back when crisis strikes.

As for my own 'memorable' moments - I haven't been driving convoys through mud, sleeping in a tent or spoon-feeding sick children. For most part of the last months, I've been leading a quite articulated project for the setup of a digitalised M&E data management system for the whole Consortium. That implies working closely with an IT firm (understanding IT specialists is not the easiest thing, as anyone who ever had his/her computer fixed knows...); making sure that all is done as per requirements (nothing must slip through the cracks!); and making sure all the Consortium members are on board throughout the process. All this, at the same time causing the least possible disruptions to ongoing M&E routines. I suppose that's the kind of systemic work that enables more 'heroic' endeavours.  

How does being a member of RedR impact the way you approach your work?
I joined the RedR in 2012, as way to be part of a network of persons with similar professional backgrounds and interests. I took part in a RedR course on urban WASH in London in 2014, and one of my fellow participants is now a colleague. It’s been nice to meet and work with him again.

Photo – Gian Maria Melloni in the Mbulula Village, Tanganyika, DRC. 

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