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UNICEF Global Innovation Centre Team

Anamaria Cabrera Rodriguez, Claudia Lisette Ramirez Monterrosa, Emmanuelle Grandaud, Loïc Druenne, Lorena Belenky, Nouriatou Ntieche, Paula Alejandra Ballesteros Campos

20 Mar 2018
© UNICEF: Man in a UNICEF T-Shirt working on a laptop, with a weather map projected on a screen in the background


In September last year, three powerful hurricanes hit the Caribbean, causing numerous casualties and widespread devastation across the region. To prepare the affected populations, UNICEF launched its boldest social media messaging Disaster Risk Reduction exercise to date, and partnered with Facebook, Viber and teams of UN Online Volunteers to get life-saving messages out to the communities living in Hurricane Irma’s path.

Using its U-Report messaging platform – originally developed to send polls and alerts to young people– UNICEF uploaded pre-approved emergency preparedness advice, offering important information on how to prepare for the hurricane. But with over 25,000 people accessing that information, not all questions from a frightened and vulnerable population could be addressed. This is when UNICEF requested the services of UN Online Volunteers, who were selected and trained within 30 hours to respond to incoming questions.

“The great thing about onlinevolunteering.org was the speed with which we could engage the volunteers and the high quality of their work,” says James Powell, Global U-Report Lead from the UNICEF Global Innovation Centre, who coordinated the online volunteer teams. Over the course of 21 days, working in shifts to ensure 24-hour coverage, and frequently forced to juggle their own commitments, the online volunteers responded to over 8,000 messages, using up-to-minute information provided by UNICEF.

According to Paula Alejandra Ballesteros Campos, UN Online Volunteer from Colombia, “we had great communication within the group. We would contact each other over Skype to address concerns and distribute tasks, working in pairs using the online tool to respond to the questions.”

“This is an example of how the UN can work effectively across agencies and alongside the private sector. The volunteers deserve the award for sheer dedication. They worked hard, consciously, sensitively, collaboratively and performed under pressure to get much needed information to those in a frightening situation. We could not have done it without them, they completely over-delivered any expectations we had,” James Powell affirms.

The Team

  • UN Online Volunteer Anamaria Cabrera Rodriguez

    Anamaria Cabrera Rodriguez

    Colombia / Guatemala

    Anamaria is a sworn English/Spanish translator and a fresh graduate.
    “What I am most proud of for my contribution to this project is having enabled access to information to ensure people’s safety. Online volunteering is a great experience: it allows you to grow and learn while helping others.”

  • UN Online Volunteer Emmanuelle Grandaud

    Emmanuelle Grandaud


    With more than 20 years or work experience, Emmanuelle has a background in languages, business and computer science, and is studying towards a Master's degree in Psychology.
    “I particularly liked this assignment: there were very difficult moments, sad messages, untenable situations, extreme emergency, frustration of not being able to help more, but this experience was very enriching.”

  • UN Online Volunteer Nouriatou Ntieche

    Nouriatou Ntieche

    Cameroon / Norway

    Nouriatou is a law graduate and has just completed a Master’s degree in International Relations.
    “It was gratifying to see that giving some hours of my time helped UNICEF to provide important, sometimes lifesaving information. We can all be agents of change, each and every one of us. Our decisions can put us either on the right side of change, or on the wrong side. Working on this assignment made me feel I was on the right side of change.”

  • UN Online Volunteer Loïc Druenne

    Loïc Druenne

    Belgium / Canada

    Loïc has a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Anthropology and is doing a Master's degree in Religious Studies.
    “Being an online volunteer has influenced me deeply: communicating directly with victims of natural disasters was a remarkable experience for me, and some messages affected me strongly, especially those who spoke about deceased relatives or a total lack of available help.”

  • Placeholder for volunteer image

    Lorena Belenky


    Lorena currently an adult student in the field of Science.
    “We received messages and information requests as the hurricanes approached and passed through different areas, and communicated warnings and safety advice including on possible risks in the aftermath of the disaster. It has been an inspiring journey.”

  • UN Online Volunteer Paula Alejandra Ballesteros Campos

    Paula Alejandra Ballesteros Campos


    Paula holds a degree in Modern Languages and has recently graduated with a Master’s in Translation.

    "This was an extraordinary experience. I have to say that it was also a bit difficult to see the experiences of the children in those emergency situations. Nevertheless, with the UNICEF Global Innovation Center we could provide life-saving information to all the communities affected by the hurricanes."

  • UN Online Volunteer Claudia Ramirez

    Claudia Lisette Ramirez Monterrosa

    El Salvador

    Claudia studied foreign languages and graduated in Law. She has a Master’s degree in Political Sciences and works as an attorney and sworn translator.

    "Our communication within the team was wonderful. I have had the chance to meet great people and collaborating for the UN is a privilege. When we join forces, we can build a better world!"