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I studied a degree in French and International Development Studies at the University of Chester. I spent my year abroad in the French speaking island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and, from there, visited Madagascar.
Rachel Tinahy - Modern Language Graduate

I studied a degree in French and International Development Studies at the University of Chester.  I spent my year abroad in the French speaking island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and, from there, visited Madagascar.

After graduation I started working for West Sussex County Council and during this time decided to volunteer with an NGO in Madagascar.  I raised money through selling Lemur Christmas Cards, and gained support from a couple of local organisations. I managed to raise the £2500+ for the trip and left early to visit my friends in Reunion Island for New Year.

In Madagascar  we were a small team of volunteers and our first project was in the bush in a village called Mandromondromotra. We built a latrine for the local community hospital and upgraded and fixed the village well.

The second project was in town, again building a toilet for a primary school, we also did some tree nursery work.  We planted more than 4500 trees here as part of a reforestation project. During this time I received an email from NGO Tearfund in England asking me to lead the team, I agreed.

After another few months back in England working for the Council again in order to raise money I set off to lead the team in the North of Madagascar with a community health team who work out of Hopitaly Vaovao Mahafaly (Good News Hospital) in the remote region of Mandritsara. I did a lot of translating as I was the only French speaker.  

We taught English, helped make anti-mosquito oil, and high-nutrition baby flour to be given to malnourished children in the villages where we did vaccination programmes. I gave many babies their polio drops. The local team also did health and hygiene education in Malagasy.

After my time in Madagascar, I spent 15 months working in logistics with a Relief & Rehabilitation NGO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there I experienced and learnt many things in a challenging setting. From negotiating 6 months’ supply of fuel to run our project vehicles and site generator, to doing inventories and storing project resources,  as well as arranging transportation of bridge building materials among other project related tasks. I used my French daily and enjoyed working with my Congolese colleagues; it was a tough but rewarding job.

Upon returning to the UK it took a while to find a permanent role. Since finding one, I have been working for an international assistance company. The company attracted me as they valued my French language skills, although I do not use them to the same degree as I did in DRC. I started as a Case Manager and managed a portfolio of emergency medical assistance cases liaising with patients who had suffered from from ski accidents, heart attacks and even premature births and anything in between whilst on holiday or business trips. Every day was a different day and my cases were located all over the world.

For about the last 6 months I have been working permanently with the Risk Management team as a Risk Research Analyst preparing reports and responding to queries from our clients who travel to or work in more remote and hostile locations. I still get to use my French when researching in Francophone locations and also pick up some phrases in other languages too, last week I learnt a few words in Indonesian for example. I love the variety and research involved in my role and it is great to continue learning about the world.