19 January 2017
Category : Interview
FIIAPP expatriates Vanessa Undiedt
Vanessa Undiedt tells us about her personal experience in the field as a special envoy in Turkey.Vanessa Undiedt in her office
Vanessa Untiedt lives in Ankara, Turkey, since 16th June 2016. She is a lawyer with the Spanish Justice Administration and a FIIAPP special envoy to Turkey. There, she worked on a Twinning project funded by the European Union aimed at strengthening the free legal aid system in the country.
Before Turkey, she had other opportunities to work in the field, in Croatia, Ukraine, Romania and Albania, but this is her first experience of long-duration.
At FIIAPP, we want to hear about her experience in the field.
This is the first in a series of interviews of expatriates working on FIIAPP projects in which they tell us about their field experiences with a personal and more human focus.
How has your adaptation to the country been?
My adaptation has been great. I came with my husband and three small children. They are going to the German school. We have met many people from different countries: Italy, France, United Kingdom, Laos, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Nicaragua… the experience is proving to be very enriching.
What has been the most difficult thing for you? And the least?
The hardest thing for me has been the political situation of the country. The coup occurred when I had been in Ankara for less than a month, and under those circumstances convincing your family in Spain that the situation is safe and you’re not going to abandon the project… is no easy task.
The least difficult thing? The day-to-day routine, the city, its rhythms and its customs. And, Turkey is a marvellous place for travelling, with so many places to discover.
Tell us about your work and your day-to-day experience.
My day-to-day experience at work depends a great deal on whether I’m working on an activity involving experts or not.
When you’re not implementing an activity, you have to be organising upcoming ones, thinking about how best to achieve the project objective, setting new objectives, locating the specialists who will be coming here to work, and explaining to them in detail what their task consists of.
When you’re implementing the activity, the week is full of meetings, seminars, conferences, workshops, and the pace is frenetic.
In what project areas are you most specialised?
The project has to do with free legal aid and, as a Justice Administration lawyer, I’m specialised in the relationship between free legal aid and the court, and between the court and the person who requests free legal aid.
How is your relationship with the main office in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Ankara?
I have a stupendous relationship with the main office in Madrid. I have daily contact with Esther Utrilla, who always answers my questions and is on the other side to listen to me and help me. Carolina Morales, Eva Aranda and, now, María Gutiérrez… The truth is that it’s a fantastic team.
In Ankara, I work in the Ministry of Justice and have two beneficiaries: the ministry itself and the country’s bar association. The relationship with them is not bad, but as there is a need to negotiate a great many things with both institutions, it’s not always easy.
In my office, my team is excellent. The project assistant and the interpreter are very helpful and we get along quite well, which makes our day-to-day work easier. In addition, the beneficiary country also has a resident consultant, a very hard-working judge. Lastly, the bar association also has a contact person with whom I work closely and very fluidly.
How would you rate the experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate in Turkey?
Professionally, it’s the best experience I’ve ever had. Often it’s very stressful, other times it’s extremely frustrating because you ask yourself if the objectives are really going to be achieved. But then you realise that you are making progress, and that makes you feel completely satisfied. Every small achievement is a step forward that brings you closer to the objective.
Personally, my family and I are fully integrated into life in Ankara. We’ve become part of a fairly large group of people and we know people from different countries and cultures, which is enriching.
Is there anything else about your experience in the country that you would like to highlight?
Yes, I would like to say that being in Turkey and seeing the drama of the refugees up close, my husband and a group of volunteers are collaborating with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. They meet at someone’s house and prepare sandwiches for 100 people, 100 bottles of juice and 100 pieces of fruit, and they take all that to one of the Agency’s centres in Ankara, where the refugees have to wait for hours to get the compulsory interview to obtain legal refugee status. There’s a huge waiting room where entire families wait their turn. Seeing that there were so many children, and since the project I’m working involves contact with NGOs, a group of third-graders from the German school of Tenerife bought small toys which we’ve taken over to give to the children with the sandwiches.
It’s marvellous to unite: Spain – Turkey/Solidarity – children – refugees. Always with the project as the nexus, as we’ve gotten in contact through the NGOs we work with to study the possibility of handing out the toys.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of the person who write them.