Christine Calo-oy, the woman leading supply through more than 25 Pacific emergencies

Christine’s journey at UNICEF Pacific

Zubnah Khan
Christine Calo-oy supports in loading emergency supplies onto the Nai’a boat, a tourist boat that offered to deliver the much needed supplies to the most affected areas in Fiji, after the category five Tropical Cyclone Yasa hit the country last year.
06 December 2021

In a rare moment of pause, Christine reflects on almost 30 years with UNICEF and working for children in the Pacific.

Christine Calo-oy is the Senior Supply and Procurement Associate based at UNICEF Pacific and has three decades of experience behind her.

“I still remember my first day just like it was yesterday. I joined as a Secretary and I was extremely nervous. I walked into the office to a regional team of 10, and today I walk into a regional team of over 200. Imagine the progress and growth! I am so proud to be part of this incredible organisation.”

Christine shifted from Secretarial work to the Supply team over 13 years ago and has played a vital role in ensuring that lifesaving and essential supplies reach the most vulnerable communities at speed.  She doubts any other work would ever give her the same happiness and satisfaction as this role.

Christine with UNICEF colleagues during one of the staff retreats.
Christine (standing - first from right) with UNICEF colleagues during one of the staff retreats.

“I have lived through more than 25 emergencies at UNICEF Pacific. I will always remember travelling to Gizo in Solomon Islands in 2007 soon after a devastating tsunami rocked the Western Province. We procured about three 20-foot containers of essential supplies from Fiji and transported them quickly to Gizo. The supplies were sent by vessel to Honiara and then to Gizo.”

More than 50 people had been reported dead during the emergency, many lost their homes and there was widespread damage to schools and infrastructure.

Christine had joined the team to monitor the distribution of supplies which were supporting the re-building of schools and ensuring access to water, sanitation and hygiene materials.

“I went to Gizo twice during the aftermath. The destruction was really bad, and everything was damaged. Children huddled in tents, but they couldn’t stay there for long as it was so hot. We had to quickly build a temporary shelter for the children to move into.”

“I still remember taking everything in. I could feel my eyes well up with tears. It was really painful to see what the families and especially the children were going through.”

Christine pauses, looks out the window in deep thought and sips her coffee. Suddenly, a tear slides down her cheek.

“I felt so good to be part of the response team and help people in Gizo re-build their lives. This is why I am still at UNICEF. Ask yourself, can any other organisation give you this feeling of satisfaction? Every day I go home knowing that my work positively affects the lives of many.”

Eight years after the Gizo tsunami, Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu. Christine remembers being in the warehouse in the early morning and packing urgently needed education and water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to support the most affected.

“When I see photos of children smiling with their back packs and returning to school after an emergency, I feel so happy and relieved.”

Recently in Fiji after category five Tropical Cyclone Yasa, Christine saw a young girl looking at the response team outside her school in Vanua Levu.

“I asked her, are you looking forward to going back to school and she said yes with a glitter of hope in her eyes. I will never forget that look in her eyes.”

Working in a multi-country office overseeing 14 countries that are remote, small and scarce in resources, has not been an easy task.

Travelling through the time machine again, Christine recalls moments from 2013 and 2014 when there were no direct flights to the Federated States of Micronesia. Christine then hand-carried BCG vaccines, syringes and safety boxes from Fiji.

“After arriving in Honolulu, I had to transport vaccines, syringes and safety boxes in trolleys.  I pushed one trolley in front and then came back to get the other one.”

“As the flight from Honolulu to the Federated States of Micronesia was the next day, I had to physically take the vaccines to an air-conditioned hotel room and keep the room at the right temperature to ensure that the vaccines were not damaged.”

The following day, Christine checked the vaccines in at the airport and begun to a series of island-hopping plane trips to reach Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia.

“The Ministry of Health awaited the vaccines in Pohnpei. When they confirmed that the vaccines were all in a good condition, we jumped with joy. We were so excited.”

Christine credits this trip with being one of the adventurous moments of her working career at UNICEF.

“These years have been precious. I thank UNICEF for the lifetime memories and also the opportunity to expand my skills in supply either through trainings or on the job experience.”

Christine Calo-oy along with the then Procurement Services Specialist at UNICEF Pacific, Ignacio Gimenez, during the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Fiji through the COVAX Facility this year.
Christine Calo-oy along with the then Procurement Services Specialist at UNICEF Pacific, Ignacio Gimenez, during the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in Fiji through the COVAX Facility this year.

Christine is confident that this is not the end of her story. She is ever ready to continue her passion of supporting the children of the Pacific.