Helen Bekele, Ethiopia/Russia
"As a result of my UWC experience I follow the school of ‘think globally, act locally'"
Helen currently works as a World Food Programme (WFP) Liaison Officer to the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa, based in Addis Ababa.
In her current position she contributes to the formulation of African policies and programmes in close collaboration with African regional institutions such as the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) Secretariat and the Regional Economic Communities. Her work focuses on areas of food security, nutrition, humanitarian assistance, emergency response and other areas relevant to WFP. She has also been involved as a volunteer in various social and humanitarian services, targeting mainly disadvantaged children, youth and women.
Helen’s UWC experience had a big impact on her chosen career path in development. “I believe that the social service and my visits to a home for elderly people during my two years at UWC made me more sensitive towards people and our different needs” Helen explains. “It was always rewarding to read the joy on people’s faces when we came to spend an afternoon with them. UWC helped me to become more people-centred and more sensitive to social issues. This awareness guided me in choosing my field of studies and embarking on the path of development. Nothing gives more satisfaction to see that in whatever way I have contributed to improve a person’s life.”
After graduating from UWC Adriatic, Helen completed a BA degree in Political Science and International Relations and an MA in Regional and Local Development Studies at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Her MA research focused on development and its impact on women's lives and gender relations. She has also taken an international programme in peace and conflict resolution.
She had already developed a passion for travel and curiosity for other cultures, coming from a dual nationality background and having had the opportunity to travel on trips to Russia to visit family but feels that “the multi-cultural dimension of UWC made the world a smaller place. As a result of my UWC experience I follow the school of ‘think globally, act locally’.”
Helen particularly values the friendships she made while at UWC. “The common understanding, exceptional visions of UWC students and open mindedness lay a firm ground to build strong friendships. I always feel that these friendships have enriched me as a person and contributed not only to my personal development but also to my professional competencies.”
Helen has stayed involved with UWC since leaving UWC Adriatic. Since 1993, she has been active in the UWC national committee of Ethiopia in various different tasks of the committee – the yearly selection process of students to UWCs, fundraising activities and as the alumni focal point.