Wednesday, August 26, 2015

World Water Week 2015 - Being the face of SIWI

Since i arrived in Sweden last Wednesday everything has been like a snowball, moving forward and gaining momentum like a fist ready to punch through concrete. I did not imagine in my wildest dreams on May 21st this year what would happen during the World Water Week 2015 where i was selected from the cream of the crop of applicants to be an ambassador for Sweden and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) from the 23rd of August until the 28th.

Norra Latin, one of the two main buildings of the conference.
As i arrived last Saturday for the meeting of the volunteers and the staff of SIWI i knew something special was brewing. We were briefed for 3 hours about our duties and given a quick look of the premises which consisted of two main buildings, Norra Latin and Folkets Hus. It is a change of venue from the previous years and a welcome change for the 25th anniversary of the World Water Week conference that has been held since 1991.

We would host important people like ministers from all over the world and Africa, the prime minister of the Marshall Islands and Jordan, the prime minister of Sweden and mayor of Stockholm and the Water Laurette Winner from India. Who is a fantastic person i might add.

The exhibition area with a lovely view near the fountain.
Sunday came and we got off on a flying start. I held my posts proudly and with an aura of positivity that accompanied my never ending beaming smile. I was strutting around assisting people, saying hi and chatting with them in every opportunity. 3500 people registered for the event and i have talked to most of them and it still staggers me that i can remember so many faces and names.

The volunteers are awesome people from all over the world. Africa, Mexico, USA, Spain, Germany, Sweden, the UK and other amazing countries. I have met and talked with most of them and everyone is so warm and receptive, though i probably look a little bit odd to them. But i am Mediterranean, that is what i am supposed to do right?!

Long story short until today i have been snowballing relentlessly with every day being better than the previous one. My confidence is building so much and i have made valuable friends everywhere. From my partner in crime in shitty jokes Amanda to Clair from the Australian Murray-Darling Basin and everyone in the Finnish Ministry booth. Today we had some wonderful chat with Nynke and special credit goes to Esther for the fancy outfit she wore today and the awesome pictures we took with important people.

Left to right - Yvonne, Amanda, AwesomeMe, Anna, Constantin and Nynke.

My most valuable memories are so many it would take me hours to write them all down. It has been an engrossing and immersing experience that i recommend to everyone. Not only you network and improve your visibility to the job market but you also assist in a great cause, whether it is for water, for land, for poverty or for sustainability.

I met a managing director in Sweco that sent me an SMS with her details, i got an invite to the Finnish Environment Institute and have won the affection of everyone and that makes me so unbelievably happy that i cannot express myself right now. A whirlwind of emotions has taken over me and even though i am tired from commuting every day from 5 am from Uppsala to Stockholm i am able to find the strength to power through and give my best self as the image of SIWI.

And i haven't even talked about the SIWI staff yet. The other day Gabriella, the woman in charge of the logistics came to me in the SIWI sofa booth and told me that everyone loves me, from staff to people. I felt such joy and pride that i completely forgot how sore my feet were. Irina, the project organizer is always so busy yet she approached me today and remembered i speak Russian and we had a wonderful exchange of words. Ingrid is a Duracell-Powered robot that never runs out of battery and she walks from end to end managing and fixing things. Erik, Adrian, Sofia are more busy people that we don't talk to them so often but they are always approachable and receptive. Lastly there is Yvonne, the event and volunteer coordinator who even though i know her for like 4 days i would stick my neck out for her blindfolded. She is awesome and deserves credit. WWW is her baby too.

Did someone say the city hall is made of PURE gold?!
I can go on and on and on. I can talk about the people i met from HSBC and their work with WWF, WaterAid and Earthwatch or about the wonderful Finnish lady Oona Rautiainen, a junior expert in the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy of Finland treating me with unprecedented respect and friendliness.

And the best thing of them all is i never asked them for anything. I just was myself, doing my job and always smiling. I seized my chance by the hair. You can do it too! Volunteer for anything you can! Volunteer for WWW 2016! In the meantime my flatmates have arrived, Dimitra with a lot of Tsipouro and Ruta with a lot of Harry Potter lizard jokes. Oh lets not forget Marta. Her memory is getting worse. Sort of like the Greek economy to quantify it.

I will go die now as i am in dire need of rest and as usual i work tomorrow. I will keep you updated!

Until next time, Goodnight Sverige, Goodnight World!

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