In honour of the Champlain Saint-Lambert’s 50th anniversary, the college has followed up with 50 of its alumni to see where their paths have led after their time in Cegep. These 50 former students have gone on to accomplish amazing things and their paths show just how much is possible for a Champlain grad.
This grad went from working in conflict zones to coordinating humanitarian aid efforts in Switzerland.
Cornelia Genoni (International baccalaureate in Science, 1995) works as the program management officer for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan for the Swiss government.
“I was never very career-oriented,” she said. “I did the work because I loved doing it. It was kind of a dream come true to work for the Swiss government based in Bern, but I didn’t start off with that in mind.”
Genoni said that after Cegep, she didn’t have a clear direction so she continued with science and completed a Bachelor’s degree at McGill University in Biology and Anthropology.
After university, Genoni took a year off to do volunteer work in Ecuador and found her calling.
”That’s when I felt it was really my place. It gave me a path. I ended up staying for two years,” she said.
Genoni completed a Master’s of Public Health in International Health and Development at Tulane University in Louisiana, which she said helped launch her into a career in humanitarian work.
“Nowadays you do need a masters often to get into the humanitarian world. That made a difference for me and gave me the skills,” she said.
Genoni started working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Rescue Committee and the War Trauma Foundation which allowed her to do frontline work in conflict affected regions including Chechnya, Colombia and Iraq.
“I loved doing it but it’s also hard,” said Genoni of the work.
In Colombia, Genoni said she worked closely with families who had missing loved ones. She said ICRC aid workers would try and negotiate with groups to have the remains of people who’d been killed returned to their families so they could find closure.
She also spent time doing frontline work with political prisoners.
“With the ICRC, I was in the field of protection. So I would visit prisoners of war who were being held for political reasons to see what the conditions are, to make sure their basic rights are being met,” she said.
In 2013, Genoni moved to Switzerland to take on a role with the Swiss Red Cross.
“I wanted to apply my skills not so much in the field but in headquarters,” she said.
A year later, Genoni joined the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation at first working on humanitarian aid for Latin American and then later for Afghanistan.
Genoni’s advice for current students and recent grads: Choose a topic that you like and go for it even though there’s moments where you want to quit. Follow your heart. Each person has different passion. If you can work in your passion you can always find a way.”