You travelled to Mozambique only a few days after Idai, a category four cyclone, ravaged the Beira region. What were your first impressions on the ground?
Romain Thémereau: It was really shocking! Houses had lost their roofs, the tops of trees had been ripped off... I had prepared myself but it was staggering. I had already travelled to Iraqi Kurdistan for the Veolia Foundation on a training assignment but natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies are unique.
What did you do on the ground?
RT: I teamed up with Marlène Cothenet, another Veoliaforce volunteer, and we set up two Aquaforce 2000 units - the mobile drinking water production units designed by the Veolia Foundation. We needed to identify the right locations in Beira and the surrounding area before we set up the equipment in order to ensure that the water produced was as useful as possible. We then trained local people so that they could continue operating the Aquaforces after we left.
You spent three weeks away. How did your colleagues cope with you being away from work?
RT: I am fortunate enough to have an independent team at the plant that I manage in Blois. At the same time, my line manager gave me the go-ahead and everyone pitched in so that things went as well as possible.
And how did you find coming back to France?
RT: I think you need 24 hours to get back on your feet. And then you become aware of our comfortable lifestyle and how lucky we are. Clearly, the Veolia Foundation's work fits with my personal values. This sort of voluntary work is a further reason to love the job I do in France. This sort of practical involvement is vital for me. It helps provide a balance between my daily life and my firmly held belief about helping others.