28.02.2018

Ladina Spiess: "sharing is caring"

From 2011 to the end of 2017, the well-known SRF radio presenter and producer Ladina Spiess was the voice of Swiss Solidarity. For seven years, she gave a voice to people affected by disaster. Emphatic and close to the affected populations, yet maintaining the necessary critical distance – this is the mark of her reporting. On the ground, Ladina’s focus was directed at aid workers just as much as at disaster victims. During 14 trips to crisis areas on all continents, she witnessed the damage caused by the world’s most devastating disasters, from Haiti to Indonesia. Before she passes the microphone over to Dani Fohrler, Ladina talks to us here about her experiences.

What were the most remarkable impressions you formed on your travels?

I was amazed at how efficiently humanitarian aid is delivered. With just a few exceptions, the organisations coordinate their work and the victims very rapidly receive emergency aid. I witnessed this in Haiti in 2016, following Hurricane Matthew. The vast majority of the staff of the local and international aid agencies are not simply doing a job, they see their work as a moral duty, and are often personally affected by the fate of the people they help. Yet they always maintain their professionalism. I am still impressed by this, even after the 14 trips I have made.

What have you learnt?

Above all, I have come to understand why it can take some time to begin reconstruction after the emergency aid phase. The more players involved, the more difficult it is to coordinate the work, in particular in a country with weak government. Yet despite everything, aid gets through. And reconstruction aid is of high quality.

Was there anyone you met who made a particularly strong impression on you?

Yes, in Uganda I met a young man called Adjan who had fled the conflict with his 11 brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom was just two years old. Adjan was strong, and took on an adult role, although he was still a child himself. I still think a lot about him. He sold his own food ration so that four of his brothers and sisters could go to school. I was very moved when I saw how he put the whole of his family before his own needs, despite the difficulties he himself experienced. He was helped by a Swiss Red Cross project co-funded by donations from the 2014 Jeder Rappen zählt fundraiser, Familien auf der Flucht (Families on the run).

And your most memorable fundraising day?

That’s difficult to say; all the fundraisers were special. On the fundraising day for the Philippines (Taifun Haiyan in 2013), a lot of people from the Philippine community came to the headquarters in Bern and thanked us over and again for our help. And I won’t forget the woman who pledged half a million francs to help famine victims in Africa.

What is your impression of the Swiss NGOs operating on the ground?

I was amazed by the level of professionalism shown by the Swiss NGOs’ staff, and by the quality of their work. I noticed that everyone is concerned to demonstrate clearly to the public how the money they donate is being used.

What is the significance of Swiss Solidarity to SRG SSR?

Swiss Solidarity is the humanitarian arm of SRG SSR (Swiss public TV and radio), and is very important to the corporation. It is not a question of showing a bit of social responsibility; social responsibility is a core element of the corporation’s values, just like 2x Weihnachten and Denk an mich [further fundraising foundations supported by SRG SSR]. What is more, Swiss Solidarity was founded by SRG SSR, so the links are very strong. For example, SRG SSR staff help with taking calls on fundraising days. I believe that they has every reason to be proud of Swiss Solidarity.

What, in your opinion, makes Swiss Solidarity so special?

Swiss Solidarity brings people together in a way that no other organisation in Switzerland can. No matter how big or small the donation a person makes, they know that Swiss Solidarity puts its heart into its work. Internationally speaking, the organisation is a small player, but a strong and sound one, which does good work and makes a difference.

What, for you, does solidarity mean?

For me, solidarity is realising that we can only exist as individuals if we have others around us. It has to do with being generous to ourselves and to others. And I try to express this generosity in my own life.

Can you guarantee to Swiss Solidarity’s donors that 100% of the donations are put to good use?

No, I can’t. 100% success in all areas is rarely achieved. Wherever people work, mistakes are made, and the field of humanitarian aid is no exception. But thanks to the checks and visits made by Swiss Solidarity, mistakes can be identified and reported, and measures taken to correct things.

You are now leaving Swiss Solidarity and SRF. What are you going to do now?

There are a couple of things I am already involved in. I am a partner in a small advertising agency in Eastern Switzerland and am also offering my services as a presenter and personal/executive coach.

What message do you have for the new generation of donors?

Understand that it is not your world, but our world. Sharing is caring.