I will always remember September 23rd of 2016 as my first day working (or serving) at a US based organization. It´s important to distinguish that I am not working (or serving) at the American Red Cross as I used to say during orientation and GLL, but I´m working (or serving) at the Global Disaster Preparedness Center. What´s this?

The Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC) is one of the 12 resource centers that the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent has around the world. The GDPC fosters innovation in disaster preparedness and “supports learning and knowledge sharing amongst disaster preparedness practitioners worldwide”. A key aspect about the GDPC is that it promotes innovative approaches using technology for disaster preparedness. One of the flagship programs, which is the one I´m working on, is the Universal App Program. Making the story short, we offer the different National Societies (NS are the Red Crosses in each country) crosscutting technology to develop mobile applications for First Aid and Disaster Emergencies for Android and iOS devices. We give them access to a user friendly platform where they can edit the content and personalize it as much as they want in order to tailor it according to the reality of the different NS. For example, in Iceland the Zika content is not relevant but it is for the NS located in the Caribbean. Or maybe in England the normal procedure is to use a plastic bag on top of a burn while in Indonesia the use banana leaves.

The default content of the app was created by the British and the American Red Cross and the GDPC license to use the content in order to scale the product in order to offer a practical solution for everyday emergencies. Last but not least important is the fact that the development of the app has no cost for the NS or the users to download it. Pretty cool.

But why am I telling all this if the title says “My first travel abroad (for work)”? Well as I mentioned in the beginning, September 23rd of 2016 was my first day at my host organization but also the day on which my supervisor told me that there was a First Aid Regional Workshop in Panama at the end of October and he wanted me to go. “Cool, who else is coming?”, I asked.

“You are going alone”, he replied. And my neurons almost collapsed. This challenge helped because it pushed me to learn everything about the Universal App before I head to Panama. By the way it was also going to be my first time in Central America.

After an intense first month training on how to develop the mobile applications for First Aid and Emergencies, on Monday October 24th I flew to Panama City in representation of the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.

It was definitely the best opportunity to meet representatives of 18 National Societies that attended the Workshop: Argentina, Brasil, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Cuba, Canada, República Dominicana and Mexico.

The ambitious agenda proposed an intense 3-day workshop to exchange best practices, share lessons on First Aid as well as foster relationship between different National Societies.

As mentioned before, it was my first time traveling abroad for work, my first time in Central America and I forgot to mention that it was also my first time giving a presentation about my host organization and our flagship program.

Result: all the present National Societies that had not developed the app in their own countries showed big interest on doing it in 2017.

The moral: opportunities only present themselves when we are ready for them.