Living and working with invisible disability: "By being true to my experiences I am more effective"
Roda is a UN Volunteer bringing a unique experience to UNICEF's work. As a person with a disability, she helps making our programmes for children in the Philippines more inclusive
"Only by being true to my experiences will I be more effective in informing our programs. My experience has value, inside or outside UNICEF, but I am grateful that I am inside UNICEF to make use of it."
Kristine Roda Alingod, Programme Officer (Children with Disabilities)
Kristine Roda Alingod
Programme Officer (Children with Disabilities), UNICEF Philippines
Roda, joined UNICEF through the UN Volunteer programme. As a Programme Officer, she helps the Child Protection team in the Philippines in developing programmes that are more inclusive and better respond to the needs of children with disabilities. As a person with a disability herself, Roda brings a unique perspective to UNICEF's work in addition to her skills and experience. In this story, she shares about her journey and how it shaped her to become the person and professional she is today.
Roda, how did you first hear about UNICEF?
I first saw the UNICEF logo on Time magazine. It was a story about a war in Africa. There were photos where people wore light blue jackets with the word UNICEF. I was about 10.
Later, I learned more when my mom brought home holiday greeting cards with the word UNICEF on them and a short text about how the cards helped children and the organization’s work.
What is your background? What experiences shaped your path to a humanitarian career and UNICEF?
I am a person with an invisible disability. As a child, teenager, then young adult, I had to take care of my mom, who had multiple sclerosis for 16 years. I masked my disability most of my life. When my mother passed, I had the space and time to recognize and begin to accept my disability, a long process that had at the end of it a need to advocate for others like me.
I have a B.A. in Political Science. I have worked in government, in the private sector as a copy and news writer, in NGOs handling partnerships and supporting projects. Volunteering provided the most education, fulfillment, and professional advancement.
My most meaningful volunteering experience was in Nashville, in a foot clinic for homeless. I gave foot baths to people who walked the streets in wrong-sized shoes and unwashed socks. Blisters and other foot problems are common among the homeless, but when they sat on the chair in front of me, they were visible, and happy for the conversations that for a while set aside the mask of invisibility they wore every day in society. For a long time, I was on the verge of homelessness due to my invisible disability, so I sought this moment to meet people I knew that, like me, had value but were invisible. This is my story.
What is the role of volunteerism in your life?
Volunteering provides pathways to a life that otherwise would be closed to some groups. In my case, it gave me a door to a world of high-level developmental work within a powerful and historic organization. Volunteering provided a pathway not in spite of my disability, but because I have a disability.
I am very hopeful. Today’s technology, such as immersive readers and text-to-speech available in everyday phones, enables people with disabilities to volunteer.
Delivering Results While Living our Core Values
If you could highlight just one, which of the six UNICEF Core Values (Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, Accountability, and Sustainability) would that be?
I would highlight integrity because I think it requires all the other values, individually or as a collection, to be present.
You can’t have integrity if you don’t care, if you don’t respect, if you don’t trust, if you don’t believe in accountability, which is in turn a pre-requisite to sustainability.