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

Kristine wearing her glasses posing and smiling
Kristine Roda Alingod
31 March 2023

"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 wearing her glasses posing and smiling
Kristine standing on a rocky mountainous area

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.