Andrea Bindel is one of those who have been with arche noVa from the beginning. The studied graduate engineer in water management always wanted to help people, to see the big wide world and to work in foreign countries at best. Since the preparations for the second aid transport in North Iraq in 1992 she is a part of arche noVa. “It was a politically really turbulent time after the German reunification”, Andrea Bindel says. At this time she currently studied water management at the Technische Universität Dresden. “Also in Dresden demonstrations took place against the war in Iraq titled ‘No Blood for Oil’. We absolutely wanted a change!”
Made her driving license for the first aid transport
To sit behind the wheel at the aid transport to North Iraq, she made her truck license as fast as possible. The day after she got it, the journey began alongside her allies. In their baggage they had the equipment for a hospital to improve the medical treatment in the war-torn north of Iraq. The travel was a challenge for both, man and machine and welded together the whole team. Various other aid transports followed, supplying the encircled cities Tuzla and Zenica during the war in Bosnia.
Commitment and engineer's knowledge combined
Some years later (1998) the military conflict in Kosovo broke out. “We went there and took care of the cleaning of contaminated wells”. Andrea Bindel led the mission and had the feeling that her knowledge as an engineer with the main focus on water was in the right place there. Emergency aid missions in Iraq, India and Sri Lanka followed. What she most liked about arche noVa were the short decision paths, the freedom of design and the possibility to shape projects according to one’s own knowledge and experiences. And the most important thing: that arche noVa’s workers are mainly giving help for self-help, that local knowledge and resources always are introduced into the planning of projects and that the personal contribution of the affected people is wanted to guarantee the sustainability of the projects.
Slept in a tent for one and a half year in the Pakistani project area
The earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 (one of the most severe that has ever affected the region) brought Andrea Bindel to Pakistan. She took on the lead of arche noVa’s emergency aid mission in the Pakistani part of Kashmir. Together with 55 local and two international co-workers they built or rehabilitated 72 drinking water supply systems in the hardly accessible mountain villages, constructed toilets and made hygiene trainings in 70 schools in the area. “For over one and a half years we slept in tents in a camp in the middle of our project area – in the hot summer and the freezing cold winter. To help the people in the heavily affected region, foreigners were able to access this part of Kashmir during the acute aid phase for the first time after fifty years of restrictions.”
Since then Andrea Bindel has a connection to Pakistan. Five years she stayed on-site as the project coordinator in Pakistan and meanwhile also manages the Pakistan projects of arche noVa in the topics of WASH, disaster prevention and food security from Berlin and Dresden.
The four projects visits each year in Pakistan are especially important to her. In the emergency aid mission in Kashmir she also got to know her husband. Now the family of four lives in Germany, but periodically travels to Pakistan to visit relatives or take a hike in the Karakoram. With the two kids they like to go paddling or cycling in Brandenburg or to get in their bus, roam the country and camp outside.
Most important: Encounters with the people
Andrea Bindel looks back at nearly 25 years together with arche noVa. Next to the normal project work she also represents arche noVa as the WASH- and Disaster Risk Reduction expert in various national and international committees like the WASH network or the Toilet Board Coalition. What she likes best about arche noVa? The possibility of needs-based help in the most difficult contexts, the respect and the encounters with people. She gladly tells the story of when people put a chicken before her as a present in Pakistan. “It was shortly after the earthquake in Kashmir. Most people didn’t even have enough to eat themselves, most of their animals had deceased. But one of those families prepared one of their precious chickens for me out of pure gratitude. I was a convinced vegetarian back then. But out of respect there was no other option for me than to eat the chicken with them.”