The Pan American Health Organization has played a key role in the development of Belize’s health system. And while a few representatives are often in the spotlight, there are staff members working behind the scenes to keep the operations sailing smoothly. For that, employees of PAHO/WHO are recognized annually at a local and regional level for their years of service and exemplary work. Today Emir Castaneda, Olivia Contreras-Perera and Maria Rodriguez were all awarded for completing ten years of employment at the organization. Meanwhile, Nancy Naj was honored for fifteen years of service and John Flowers for twenty years. And while Sergio Guerra has only four years under his belt, he also received a special award for being a driven and hardworking employee. The PAHO/WHO Belize Representative, Doctor Gerardo de Cosio, spoke to News Five about the awardees.

Dr. Gerardo de Cosio, PAHO/WHO Representative

Gerardo de Cosio

“All the persons that were awarded today, they work in different positions and also they have tried to make the best. For example, Sergio [Guerra], who got the special award, he’s a driver but at the same time he acts in many other positions trying to help many people in many issues. He supports administration in many areas from the reception, sometimes even working on the computer doing research in terms of equipment that needs to be purchased and that kind of thing. That’s part of the role that we get from him. Emir Castaneda is a very bright person that has now given technical responsibilities in the office. Before he was mainly given what we call the library part but now he is playing a role in areas like gender based violence, he is also supporting us in issues relating to some chronic diseases, mainly on road safety. We have gotten some information from our regional office in Washington that they are looking for him to become like the regional advisor so to speak for the official health library of the Caribbean region which is also an important recognition of the work that he does. Maria [Rodriguez] is also a very key player because she has to deal with a lot of people from many backgrounds for travels and even bringing people from other countries to the office and she has to have very good planning skills and I think that’s what she does. In addition, when Paula Vasquez, my secretary is not around, she also fulfills that role and she does it excellently. Nancy Naj is especially important because I have to admire when they try—despite the difficult times—to go to the university, get their degree so I think that is something that needs to be valued.”

Channel 5