“It is important that people work their way up as there are many lessons to be learned through each position,” says Evelyn Zakhary, Country Representative Syria.
Evelyn has been working in the development field for upwards of 25 years. She has a long history of development work in the Middle East, primarily Jordan. On her position as a female Country Representative in Syria she says, “thus far, I have not confronted any gender related challenges.”
Of dual American/Jordanian citizenship, Evelyn worked as a counselor, therapist, and psycho-social assessor for nearly fifteen years. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience with the United Nations and another fifteen years experience working in social development in Jordan. She worked first as Projects Coordinator and then as Deputy Director of the Planning Department before becoming Director of External Relations at the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (previously the Queen Alia Fund for Social Development). Before coming to Mercy Corps she spent seven years as Chief of the Social Services Division for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, based out of Amman.
“Work[ing] my way up from field social worker into senior management positions, including my last post as the regional Chief for UNRWA’s Social Development Programs, has given me the needed experience for this current post,” says Evelyn, who feels that “it is important that people work their way up as there are many lessons to be learned through each position.”
While both her sons have long since come of age and independence, Evelyn says that in the past she was able to manage her demanding development work and her family by carefully managing her time and thinking ahead, and by “having a supportive husband who actively shared in domestic and family responsibilities.” She considers “a good balance in terms of professional and family life… a key factor in excelling in both domains.”
Mercy Corps Syria, led by Evelyn since August 2009 and active since February of 2008, provides assistance to the growing number of refugees fleeing violence in Iraq. Programs targeted towards Iraqi and Palestinian refugees as well as Syrian youth help these populations lead more secure, productive, and just lives and in turn strengthen their communities. MC Syria provides educational opportunities for Iraqi refugees and vulnerable Syrians, as well as economic opportunities.
Evelyn says the most rewarding aspects of her position have been “the successful implementation of the IT training program that serves Iraqi refugees and vulnerable Syrian youth, the team setting and the excellent relations with our partner the Syrian Computer Society and with our donor BPRM (The US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refuges, and Migration) and the US Embassy here in Syria,” as well as the willingness of the staff “to grow and develop through their positions.”