UN World Food Programme

WFP Woman Explains How Relationship Survived Nomadic Lifestyle

Nicole Menage, a New Yorker who recently took over as WFP's country director in Nepal, reckons she was pretty lucky with her choice of life partner. Her Italian husband Carlo Pandolfi put his career second to follow Nicole around the world, so she could pursue her career dreams with WFP.

ROME -- Nicole Menage is emphatic on the issue of her life partner: “I never would have achieved my career dreams at WFP without Carlo’s flexibility and willingness to sacrifice. He has been a fantastic husband to me and a wonderful father to our children.”

Husband Carlo Pandolfi is a civil engineer and hydrologist who was drawn to the humanitarian life early on. He met Nicole in Malawi – he on his second African post with the UN, she on her first WFP posting. He remembers facing the first big decision in their relationship when Nicole transferred to Togo 23 years ago.

“Part of me wanted to stay on the project,” Carlo remembers. “But I wanted to see where our story would lead. I jumped to Togo and we got married. A year later, we had daughter Chiara.” 

Stay together

From Togo to Zimbabwe, from Zimbabwe (“where we got our son Luca”) to Rome, from Rome to Tanzania and back, Carlo’s professional challenge was to start afresh each time – sending out CVs, networking, finding consultancies (but not with WFP where Nicole was country director). Although he had offers that would have sent him off in a different direction, “we both believed our family should stay together,” he says, adding, “It was quite a role reversal.”

Carlo took the lead in setting up house, settling the kids in school, tending to their health, homework and play. Often frustrated by “the thankless task” of household chores and shopping, he knew time with the kids was precious. He nurtures many favorite “snapshots” from Africa, but his most magical memory dates to early days in Togo, at night, no air-conditioning, windows open to the drifting sounds of street life and distant tamtam drums, as he walked with baby Chiara, singing her to sleep. “That was enriching for me – something many men do not experience,” he says. “I have never stopped to consider what my life would be like if I had simply stayed in Italy. I have learned and experienced so much.”
Find out more about WFP's Focus on Women