Michelle usually arrives at the office in good company: with her adorable dog Ndanu. Bringing a pet to work can reveal some hints about someone. Compassion and caring are qualities that it can convey. Also, a willingness to make work more enjoyable and relaxing. These are qualities her colleagues can definitely attribute to Michelle.
Dancing – her expression of emotion, culture, and identity
William W. Purkey's quote, “Dance like nobody is watching, Love like you have never been hurt, and live like it’s heaven on earth,” reflects her philosophy. This quote inspired her in many ways:
"I really like dancing, but I can be shy, so I try not to be. Moving to music is so amazing. Don't care what others think of you; enjoy it! I love dancing with my daughter in the living room, in the rain puddles, in the street when we hear music coming from a car passing by."
How she brings this philosophy alive in her work is by sometimes, just out of the blue, starting a little dance during a training session; to break the ice, or to energize the participants, and to connect to each other’s cultural backgrounds.
Background and career path at MDF - Building her own ideas and convictions
Michelle studied International Relations at the University of Groningen. Her most valuable lesson from her education was learning to think critically and explore different opinions and theories to develop her own ideas and convictions.
After completing her studies, she moved to Kenya, where she worked for the Dutch Embassy and for Kenyan Civil Society before joining MDF in 2015. This professional path enriched and helped shape her cultural identity—one that resonates with tolerance, nature, and engagement with the world's diverse cultures.
At MDF, Michelle works as a trainer and an evaluator. She finds joy in the wide range of experiences her roles bring her. Every day is a chance to expand horizons, meet inspiring people, and broaden perspectives.
“I like the diversity in assignments, clients, and project themes. One moment, I work on an end-of-phase evaluation of a humanitarian response, the next moment I facilitate a training on Impact Evaluation with development practitioners from UN agencies, government officials, and INGOs. All these people share their perspectives and give me insights that help me grow professionally and personally.”
Evaluator lessons and passion - a constructive approach
"Being evaluated is a sensitive process, and we should shape our role and position as evaluators in a positive and constructive way, by using appreciative inquiry and being a critical friend."
In her role as an Evaluator, she is providing evidence whether humanitarian and developmental projects have the desired impact on communities. Michelle's career trajectory is filled with valuable lessons, the most profound being the sensitive nature of evaluations. She believes in a constructive approach, ensuring her evaluations empower rather than discourage.
Her favourite memory from her MDF career was traveling to Ethiopia and South Sudan to talk to children about the support they received. Child development and safety is a cause she feels deeply about.
"Being a mother, I have become even more concerned about children's development and safety. All children should have the necessary protection and care to grow up to become strong and valued members of their communities. I wish they could dance like nobody is watching," she explains.