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From “Gorillas In The Mist” – To The VSA

8 June 2004

From “Gorillas In The Mist” – To The Wider World Of Aid With VSA

Volunteer Service Abroad has a new boss who comes to the organisation with a background of working in one of the toughest areas of the globe.

VSA’s new CEO, British born Debbie Snelson, was the first woman regional representative for WWF International – the World Wide Fund for Nature – in eastern Africa. Based in Kenya, she ran a staff of 125 across 10 mostly war-torn countries.

Ms Snelson negotiated border crossings for her staff to help save the mountain gorillas during the genocide in Rwanda, faced the kidnapping of one of her staff, and dealt with a bomb blast that blew in the windows of her headquarters in Nairobi.

After 15 years of working with governments, NGOs, and local communities in their bid to save the endangered wildlife of Africa, the zoologist-trained 48-year-old says she feels she identifies with VSA’s philosophy of partnering organisations and transferring skills.

Ms Snelson is passionate about effective aid as much as she is passionate about natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, and mentoring. Debbie Snelson says just as pure scientific research isn’t going to save wildlife in Africa, nor is money going to eliminate poverty and suffering in the world. But she says understanding what communities need to grow, and partnering them in their growth, will make the difference VSA is aiming for.


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