Geneva in the 1990s

In 1994, Michelle was West Africa director of Save the Children when she got a phone call from her former boss. "How would you like to come work in Geneva, and take over the European office of Christian Children's Fund?" That began a period of five years in the international capital of Europe, developing civil society programs for children in the former territories of the Soviet Union. At the same time, Michelle became friends with one of the international leaders of civil society in Geneva, the UN representative of the International Association of Social Workers: Ellen Mouriaveff-Apostol. Ellen persuaded Michelle to join her as a member of the NGO committee for Unicef. Ellen was the president, and later Michelle would succeed her.


Ellen and Michelle at a CCF-Europe working dinner. Michelle is laughing and Ellen is focused on her food.

Geneva is filled with international organizations, United Nations as well as Non-Governmental Organizations. Michelle and her colleague Ghassan Rubeiz had offices inside the building of the World Council of Churches. Nearby, as you walk down the hill towards the Palais des Nations, you pass the building and museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.


Entrance to the Red Cross Museum.

As you walk into the Red Cross Museum, you pass a group of hooded prisoners, a grim reminder of the work that Michelle and her other humanitarian colleagues perform. Her work in Europe for children in need included fighting child prostitution in the Baltics and child trafficking in the Balkans, and a huge amount of work recuperating from the disaster of the Chernobyl nuclear accident that affected large areas of Ukraine and Belorussia. For this, Michelle and CCF received a gold medal from the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow. Michelle's work involved collaboration with many other international civil society organizations, including the African Commission for Health and Human Rights (CAPSDH), an anti-torture NGO which was her neighbor in the World Council of Churches.


Djely Karifa Samoura, Guinean secretary general of CAPSDH, with Zeki Ergas, Swiss-Turkish representative of the Geneva chapter of International PEN.

Geneva was wonderful for Michelle's family life. Catherine Leila finished her schooling there and went off to Cardiff University while Edward completed his law degree at Norwich University. The rest of the family came to visit.


Michelle's sister Suzanne on the Schildhorn


Michelle on the Eiger (no, she wasn't skiing)

The climate in Switzerland is very different from the climate of West Africa, where woolens and scarves and jackets were neither known nor necessary. In Geneva, the white West African Poultons had to get used to a whole new way of dressing simply in order to keep alive.


Michelle and her family at the Chateau de Chillon, on the edge of Lake Geneva


Catherine Leila's Australian cousins, Bridgette and Christopher Poulton, from Perth had never seen snow before. They were very excited!

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