A COMMITTED HUMANITARIAN
Sandrine Chapeleau is a committed humanitarian. An experienced and dynamic globe-trotter, Sandrine began working in the humanitarian sector when she was 30. And she’s never stopped since. This year, she celebrates 10 years of working with Première Urgence Internationale. We hear about her career path and her aspirations.
SANDRINE, A COMMITTED HUMANITARIAN
Africa, Asia, the Middle-East – Sandrine isn’t fussy. For her, the aim is always the same: helping to improve the daily lives of people in need. So when Première Urgence Internationale’s human resources department contacted her to ask her to get involved in a mission, Sandrine didn’t hesitate. “I really enjoy travelling and I absolutely love my work. And so, in a manner of speaking, I kind of fell into it by chance,” she says. With visits to 25 countries – including the DRC, North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq, Haiti and Syria – under her belt, Sandrine, a committed humanitarian, likes to alternate between missions, regions, and responsibilities. “After 10 years working as a nurse in France, I started my humanitarian work during the Kosovo crisis. I haven’t stopped since.”
Her first mission for Première Urgence Internationale was North Korea – a rare experience. For this committed humanitarian, there was a major project in store: helping to renovate four operating theatres. She was also responsible for developing and monitoring IV fluid manufacturing laboratories. “I was head of mission. It was a very interesting position – varied and full of challenges.”
When Sandrine was sent as head of mission to Cameroon, she was tasked with closing down the mission. “When I arrived, there was only a small team, a caretaker and a driver left.” In just one year, Sandrine turned the mission around. She built a new team specialising in water and sanitation and agronomics. It’s a real source of satisfaction for this humanitarian who never lets herself be beaten.
A MEMORY FROM THE FIELD
In 10 years, Sandrine has spent more time in the field than in France, and she shows no signs of tiring of it. “It’s a job that’s full of discoveries and experiences,” she says. One of her most memorable moments occurred one night when her telephone suddenly rang: “I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and I received a panicked phone call. A 15-year-old girl was going into labour. The baby was in the wrong position. I rushed off with members of the team and we managed to save the mother and the child.” A truly memorable moment for this committed humanitarian.
Sandrine has worked back-to-back in different missions, countries and humanitarian contexts, with very different working conditions. “In the DRC, I lived in a house without water or electricity. When there was a storm, everything fell to the ground.” In Syria, however, Sandrine lived in much more comfortable conditions, “but the mission was very difficult, very intense,” she recalls.
Since February 2017, Sandrine Chapeleau has been Health Coordinator for the Middle-East region as well as for Ukraine. This new role sees her travelling between various Première Urgence Internationale missions. There, field teams work on the front lines in countries such as Iraq and Ukraine. “The security challenges may be significant, but so are the needs of the people we help.”
Sandrine’s work is never routine, and she admits that she has to be “very, very adaptable”. Above all, this committed humanitarian enjoys the freedom that Première Urgence Internationale has given her over the last 10 years. “They give me responsibility, and above all, they have confidence in me. That’s something very precious.”