Fighting poverty and building resilient communities

Published: 2021-04-16

At the International Finance Department at DanChurchAid, no two days are alike. From the headquarters in Copenhagen, alumna Frida Zahlander supports her colleagues in the field offices in a variety of projects in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Frida presenting a project aiming to reduce our carbon footprint.

Frida, tell us about what you do today!
I'm a financial advisor at DanChurchAid in the International Finance Department. DanChurchAid is a Danish NGO implementing both humanitarian and development work in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We focus on building resilient communities, fighting poverty, and reducing extreme inequality.

My role is to be the headquarters' focal point for our colleague located at the field offices. This means that I support my colleagues working in the field with quality assurance of grant proposals and reports to our main international donors, such as the EU, UN and US government. I also provide guidance and expertise on donor rules and regulations. It's honestly quite difficult to be short and concise when it comes to describing what I do, as the kind of support requested by the field offices differs between all projects, but it could be anything from monitoring the operations of our implementing partners to discussing how we could mainstream our climate policy in the organization.

 During my master, we often discussed international politics and how history and development of institutions have shaped the inequalities today. This is a perspective that has been very valuable and unique in my field.

What is the main reason you work at DanChurchAid?
To me, it has always been thrilling to travel and discover new parts and cultures in the worlds, but it was not until a few years ago that I discovered my interest in international politics, development and sustainability. Hence, when I applied for jobs last year the most important aspect to me was the company values and culture, rather than the specific position.

Working with my interests on a daily basis is something which gives me energy, and I gain new knowledge within my interests every day – both in how humanitarian and development works in practice, but also in how you could combine both economic, social and environmental sustainability by designing projects in the right way.

How did LUSEM prepare you for a career within your field?
Except for the technical knowledge gained during my years at LUSEM, I also learned a lot about proficiency and efficiency. During my master in Innovation and Sustainable Development, we often discussed international politics and how history and development of institutions have shaped the inequalities today. This is a perspective that has been very valuable and unique in my field. I also believe that my background in Business Administration, even though I don't work within a private company, has given me valuable knowledge which the public sector and non-profit organizations can learn from.  

If you started your studies now, what advice would you give yourself?
To have the courage to think outside the box! Business and economics is a very broad education and it can be used in many different ways, but during your studies, you get exposed to many companies working in the same sector. Therefore, it's easy to get trapped into believing that there is only one career path. This is not a fair picture, because with a bachelor's in business you can go in so many different directions. In Lund, there are so many different student organizations to be involved in, and many of them are open to all educational backgrounds. Take the opportunity to give them a try and explore what drives you!

Tell us about your expectations for the future.
Firstly, I’m looking forward to starting to travel at work! Due to the current situation, I have not yet been able to travel and visit the projects I'm working with every day.

I also have high expectations on what personal development I can gain within DanChurchAid this year. One of the biggest benefits of working within an organization with good working values and culture is that I feel encouraged and optimistic about what the organization can give me.

And to state the obvious, I'm looking forward to this pandemic being over and to see Copenhagen as the open and vibrating city it is.

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Career and studies

Current position: Financial Advisor at DanChurchAid
Current location: Copenhagen
Highest degree from LUSEM: MSc in Innovation and Global Sustainable Development
Year of graduation: 2019

What do you do outside of work?

I love to hike and be out in nature! Currently, I also spend time improving my Danish and doing voluntary work for another NGO, called Kids of Uganda.