British aid worker Maggie Korde is no stranger to a dicey situation. She’s worked in the international development sector for 15 years, was working in Sierra Leone during the West African outbreak of Ebola and often travels alone through high risk zones.
“Stuff happens to aid workers increasingly, kidnaps and targeted attacks are increasing. So I’m very aware of that. It doesn’t stop me from doing it but I’m aware,” she told The Local.
Maggie, who is half Brazilian, had planned to work in South America but instead spent much of the first 10 years of her career in the former Soviet bloc. ‘Commuting’ between London and countries including Ukraine, Moldova and Russia, she supported trafficked children and children living in prisons or institutional care.
Photo: Maggie Korde
“I became really interested in children living without parental care and that’s a big part of the world that has a big dependence on orphanages,” she says.
Now employed full time by Save the Children, Maggie has since worked in Central Asia, spending long stints in Tajikistan on the Afghan border, as well as providing aid in places such as Sierra Leone, Somalia and Kenya. Despite being posted to plenty of hazardous locations, she’s always reassured that whichever organisation she is working for guarantees she has watertight travel insurance.
“I wouldn’t go without it,” she says. “It’s extremely irresponsible because you’re putting pressure on everyone else. If you have an accident, no-one is coming for you. No ambulance will arrive. You need to be airlifted to a hospital in a different country because there might not be one where you are.”
Although Maggie knows her every move is covered, it doesn’t completely calm her nerves before a posting. She still feels nervous before setting off as she often travels alone and doesn’t always blend in, particularly in central Asia.
“I’ve got red hair and freckles so I always look foreign. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, I had to go from the capital – which would be fine although it’s quite remote in itself – to a place in the mountains called Osh where I stayed in this tiny guest house by myself for a few weeks. I never sleep very well because I’m always very conscious that I’m by myself.”
Photo: Maggie Korde in Tajikistan
She always keeps her wits about her although admits it’s the situations she believes are safest that turn out to be the most perilous.
“I always find the situations you think were frightening you weren’t at risk. And the ones when you are relaxed you later find out that there was a big risk involved. I’m always very worried about a shoot out or a kidnapping which is much less likely, although more likely for me than the general population because of where I’m going and my job.”
Car travel, she says, is the biggest risk when travelling in remote or dangerous destinations. Where Maggie’s colleagues have died in the line of duty, it’s usually been the result of a car accident. She’s extremely conscious of this and so road safety is a primary concern on any posting.
“Mentally I just reassure myself that I have proper insurance, there are safety protocols and we ride around in very safe vehicles that are very roadworthy. I tell myself that it’s a calculated risk I’m taking.”
The risk may be calculated and every precaution may have been taken but Maggie still can’t stress the importance of comprehensive travel insurance. In most cases, the local people are helpful and hospitable but getting injured or falling ill is a burden she doesn’t want to put on anyone.
Photo: Maggie Korde (right)
“There’s humanity everywhere but if you were to get into a sticky situation, it’s very important to have insurance because you can’t abuse that kindness.”
ASN‘s multilingual international insurance experts are always on-hand to find comprehensive cover for you wherever you go and whatever you’re doing. You’re not just another case to ASN, they will fight your corner to make sure your every move is covered.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by ASN Advisory Services Network.