Peacekeeper Profile: Susana Yagualca
Susana Yagualca from Argentina joined the Marine Corps in her country’s navy in 1995; two years after enlisting, she became a nurse. This is Susana’s fourth tour of duty at UNFICYP where she wears the dual hats of Force Medical Assistant and Deputy Hygiene Officer. Here, she tells us about her work and what motivates her to serve as a United Nations peacekeeper.
Q: Tell us a bit about your work with UNFICYP.
My job at UNFICYP’s Medical Section requires me to primarily provide medical care to my colleagues when the requirement arises. I also manage an extensive inventory of medical supplies and equipment. There are aspects of my daily routine that require administrative expertise – I liaise with external care providers in Cyprus, UN HQ and other relevant organisations. Furthermore, I am responsible for handling all confidential medical documents of UN personnel. Given that we are peacekeepers serving in conditions very different from our own countries, my role as a care provider requires sensitivity and developed communication skills.
Q: What, do you feel, are some of your biggest achievements in your career with UN peacekeeping?
For me, my biggest achievement was to be selected by my country to serve in a UN peace operation. I still distinctly remember attending my first briefing from the Peacekeeping Department in Argentina in 2009 when I got to know the qualifications required to be chosen to serve with the UN. The prospect captured my imagination and I went through two years of an intensive English language course to improve my communication skills. I didn’t make the cut in my first application in 2011 because my language abilities were not up to par. However, I didn’t give up and in 2012, I passed with flying colours. I am very proud to be amid my fourth tour of duty at UNFICYP.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about the challenges faced and sacrifices made by peacekeepers across the globe?
I think my answer will resonate with most peacekeepers – the distance between a peacekeeper and their familiar world, especially in hardship missions, is one of the most difficult things we deal with daily. So many of us have given our lives as well for the cause of sustainable peace. For me personally, I have dealt with the loss of my father last year, I wasn’t present in Argentina to support my husband when he lost his mother…However, despite all the trials, what motivates me is the fact that by being a peacekeeper, I am actually contributing to a higher purpose. As peacekeepers we dedicate ourselves to making the world a better place.
Q: Would you encourage more people to join peace operations worldwide? If yes, why?
Absolutely. The multicultural, diverse environment in a peace operation is the biggest teacher one can find. We learn from our colleagues, we share best practices from different countries and continents, we learn about different belief systems…I have been gifted to make wonderful connections across the world in my four years with the UN. The fact that we benefit so much from the experience while contributing as individuals to help some of the world’s most vulnerable populations is an amazing thing!