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'I am a strong woman and I do my job with passion'

UNHCR driver Vicky Munguriek

'I am a strong woman and I do my job with passion'

UNHCR has nearly 11,000 staff, of whom 87 per cent are based in the field. Meet Vicky Munguriek, a driver in northern Uganda.
6 October 2017
Vicky Munguriek is one of a handful of women drivers in UNHCR's operation in Uganda.

Name: Vicky Munguriek, 35, from Uganda

Job title: Driver in northern Uganda

Years at UNHCR: Joined in December 2016

Why did you become an aid worker?

I saw an advertisement in a newspaper for a driver with UNHCR. I decided to apply because I wanted to help people who are in need and suffering, and make them feel at home. I got the job and had to leave my family in Kampala to come back to my home town of Arua to work. But I feel good. I am a strong woman and I do my job with passion.

Most rewarding/challenging thing about your job?

I spent more than five years with as a driver for commercial trucking companies in Kampala before I joined UNHCR. I am the only female driver here and I have people who encourage me, and I have others who try to discourage me and tease me. But I tell them not to tease me, that we are here to help people and that we must all join together to do our job.

I drive UNHCR staff in different sectors, at different times depending my assignment. These include, for example, site planners when they go out to open up roads for new settlements. Or the protection team when it goes to help newly arrived refugees to settle in. I also drive visitors, such as donors and journalists, to the settlements.

Among the hazards I encounter are potholes, bad drivers, wildlife and livestock – mostly cows, goats and pigs. Driving 150 kilometres of potholed roads is challenging. The roads get muddy and very slippery during the rainy season. Bridges get washed away and roads are cut off, making it necessary to take longer routes.

When I come across animals while driving, I apply the ‘safety first’ rule by slowing down and allowing them to cross before I proceed, to keep my passengers, the animals and myself safe. Using the defensive driving rule enables me to anticipate the actions of bad drivers and give them way to avoid to accidents.

I feel satisfied when I have helped a refugee to get what they need. Even though that is not part of my job I feel very emotional about it.

What was the best day that you had at work?

A few weeks ago, I saw two girls crossing the border from South Sudan who were very young, they were teenagers, who were travelling in a group and had left their parents behind. They were dirty and hungry and waiting to be registered. There was a delay and they started to cry. So I went to a registration desk and begged them to register the girls and told them I couldn’t leave until they passed through.

They registered and managed to get food at the collection point and I was happy. A week ago I was at the Imvepi settlement in the north, and the two girls saw me and came over to say hello and give me a hug. They are now settled and have a plot of land. I was so impressed. They have gained weight. And they have shelter and are going to school. They have their basic needs and are in safe hands, even though their parents are not with them.

What was your worst day at work?

One day driving back from the Rhino settlement a vehicle overtook me on the road and knocked over and killed a four-year old girl. She was a member of the local community. It was the most terrifying day in my work experience.

What is also painful is that I don’t have a voice. There are two leaders in South Sudan – the rebel leader and the President – and I don’t understand how they are letting people suffer. Let the United Nations solve the issue so the suffering can stop – it’s the question I ask myself every day. I would like to see the issue settled at a round table.