Our partnership with UNHCR announced in November 2010 is having a positive effect on the relationships and well-being of many UNHCR employees. Here’s one story.
“As far as I am concerned, Skype is the main mode of communication to keep in touch with my family. Everyday I call them using Skype” says Haridass Sriram.
Sriram joined UNHCR in 2003, working as a national staff member for almost 6 years in his home country, Sri Lanka. He then spent a further two years in Afghanistan before starting his current post as field protection officer in Aweil, South Sudan, last April. “Thanks to Skype, I can see my two twins who are now 4 and a half months old and talk to my wife everyday.” Sriram’s wife, Dhuwarakha, who used to work for UNHCR in Afghanistan, is now back home in Sri Lanka with their daughters.
Sriram’s twin girls in Sri Lanka get to check-in with their daddy in Sudan over Skype video everyday.
Aweil, Sriram’s new duty station, is a so-called hardship location, which means that staff members who volunteer to work there have to take the difficult decision to live apart from their families. “When I arrived in Aweil we had no accommodation,” recalls Sriram. Now we use containers both as an office and a place to live. Medical facilities are very limited, as well as the supplies available from the market.”
Sriram at work with refugees in Sudan.
However, the biggest challenge in living in Aweil is the limited access to means of communication. “There is very limited mobile coverage and phone calls are very expensive,” acknowledges Sriram. Since the installation of Skype, however, this difficulty has been largely removed. “Skype is free of charge and the line is much clearer. It allows me to communicate with my wife. She brings the babies in front of the camera more or less every single day. It also allows them to see how I am doing.”
Sriram sums up the situation in a laugh: “If not for Skype, my wife would have left me by now!” She herself confirms that “now that my husband has moved to Sudan, means of communication are less available and calls are so expensive, Skype is the best way of communicating for us. We chat together and I show him the babies through the webcam, so he does not miss out on them growing up. It is really important for our relationship.”