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Blending Tech, Humanitarian Aid, & Travel - Meet Christina Calabrese

Christina Calabrese is a little bit like all of us millennial women- ambitious, a wanderer at heart, and just trying to do good work in the world that allows her to live her best life, too. And, like all of us, she hasn't got it all quite figured out. But she's taking the right steps by following her passions and committing her energy to organizations that speak to the kind of world she'd like to see. Read her story below..

Girl in patterned dress against patterned wall in Spain

What are you currently working on?​

I work at UNICEF, for a global partnership, called Sanitation and Water for All (SWA). I help manage the budget, partnership drive, external relations, communications, travel of the team and guests to conferences and meetings, and coordination of conferences and meetings that SWA hosts. My personal side projects outside of UNICEF include contract work for various other organizations, assisting with event management and event marketing projects. I work frequently with Harmless Harvest coconut water - in securing sponsorship and partnership opportunities, and oversee all event management aspects for an organization called Overture - which combines innovative technology with humanitarian goals. My ambition is to find a position in which I can be challenged and continue growing and learning, where I can combine work focused on both content (such as educational development) and logistics (such as event management), that also gives me the opportunity to travel and/or have a flexible schedule and variety of tasks, while constantly interacting with people. I'm taking it one step at a time, hoping to work my way towards that "dream job".

"I didn’t know who I would become or what would lay ahead of me, but... I knew that stepping out of my comfort zone up until that point had always led to very rewarding experiences and journeys - so I had to go."

black and white photo of blonde woman in a coat and boots, smiling in a barren landscape

What has been your boldest career or life change?

My boldest career or life change was to commit to joining the Peace Corps in Ecuador. Up to that point, I had conditioned myself to become comfortable with leaving my home country for extended periods of time, saying goodbye to a job, a significant other, friends, family, familiarity, responsibilities, etc.; however, a commitment to the Peace Corps was a commitment to live in an impoverished lifestyle and setting for almost 2.5 years, living isolated from everything that I held dear, and serving the underdeveloped country in which I was stationed. I didn’t know who I would become or what would lay ahead of me, but it was a huge decision that came with many restless nights and lots of shed tears. I knew though that if I didn’t say “yes” to this dream of mine, then I would always wonder “what if” – and that stepping out of my comfort zone up until that point had always led to very rewarding experiences and journeys - so I had to go.

What has been the biggest obstacle during your journey?​

I think that the biggest obstacle during my journey has been myself. I tend to set myself up for success while somehow shooting myself in the foot at the same time. I can talk myself into anything and talk myself out of anything, and generally speaking, other people's advice doesn't stand much of a chance when compared to the back and forth that goes on in my own head. I can get over-confident, and I can be super insecure, all depending on different circumstances. Sometimes I'm too honest and transparent and at other times I've been too crafty (I'm sorry to say). I keep trying to figure out who I am and who I want to be and during each phase of life it seems to get tweaked a little bit, and my priorities shift and my goals get redefined. Basically, I'm my own obstacle - but in the best way possible.

We all know travel can bring us to unexpectedly * magical * moments . Tell us about one you’ve experienced.

One incredible moment that I'd like to share might not be considered very "magical"...but it was inspirational and one that I greatly cherish. A few years back, I arrived over the border into Israel, coming from Jordan by bus. After getting dropped off at the nearly empty bus station, I was informed by the employees there that since it was the Sabbath, there were no modes of transportation available for me to find my way over to Tel Aviv. I didn't have a phone available for me

A couple embracing with a mountain landscape behind them

to use, and therefore didn't have a way to contact the person who I had planned to stay with that night, and I didn't have any idea of what I could do. I was met with such kindness by the handful of employees at the bus station, who seemed much more concerned about my dire situation than I was. They told me to sit tight, and kept feeding me chocolate candy bars, insisting that they would be able to find some way for me to get to my destination, since I was absolutely not allowed to sleep in the bus terminal. After a few hours had passed (and by this time it was dark outside) one of the employees approached me with excitement on his face, saying that they had found me a ride to a small town near Tel Aviv, and that I could arrange to have the person whom I was staying with pick me up from there. He introduced me to the old man and his weathered wife who agreed to have me ride in their van full of luggage to their small town - neither of whom spoke any English - they communicated to me in smiles, Arabic (that I didn't understand), and gestures. Somehow, by the end of the journey, we had become friends and established a level of trust between us, to the point where they even invited me to stay with them in their small house and have dinner and tea with them instead of making my way to Tel Aviv. This experience, combined with a handful of other experiences during that particular journey in Israel, Jordan, and Egypt really painted a beautiful picture of the people and culture of those areas and to this day I have a very warm, fond feeling of kindness and generosity wash over me when I think of the people living in these areas.

A girl standing barefoot with an elephant

"If I can influence the people I love most, to become the best versions of themselves that they can be, then I have no doubt that they would in turn influence the people around them."

How are you using what you've been given in life to bring more good to the world? (Or how would you like to?)

I've spent a lot of time and energy invested in my family members. If I can influence the people I love most, to become the best versions of themselves that they can be, then I have no doubt that they would in turn influence the people around them. By just planting a little seed in a person, and letting it grow, it's amazing to see how they can directly and indirectly influence other people in their lives. My younger sister is a huge inspiration to me, she has one of the biggest hearts I've ever come across and an even bigger smile. She is fearless and bold and sensitive and gentle and eager to love anyone and everyone without hesitation. I know that by instilling certain values and sharing experiences, feelings, and passions with her, she has touched so many lives (especially as a teacher) and influenced people in such a good way.

Want to follow Christina on her journey? Check her out on instagram!