Obituary for Isabelle Poncette

Isabelle Poncette: An obituary for our colleague and friend

Our dear colleague and friend Isabelle Poncette lost her life on Monday, 25th of June 2016 in a tragic road accident in Jordan. Isabelle travelled to Jordan on behalf of morethanshelters, to implement the first phases of future projects in refugee camps and to analyse their further implementation – together with partners. She was enthusiastic about the local culture and its chaotic negotiation and communication style.

Words cannot express how we feel. We are losing a unique personality, who committed herself for a better and fairer world. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with her family and friends.


Isabelle, 2014, Zataari, Jordan


Isabelle Poncette was born in 1988 in Essen, Germany. After her highschool graduation, she completed her Bachelor studies in cultural – and social anthropology at Vienna University. With her eagerness to learn and her open mind, she gained abroad experience in South America and Africa as a volunteer and intern. She learned about foreign cultures and got closer into topics in the field of international relations and development cooperations. In Copenhagen, Isabelle successfully completed her masters studies in “applied cultural analysis”. Matching her future work for morethanshelters, the topic of her master thesis was as follows: „Unsettled: A Cultural Analysis of Zaatari Refugee Camp“. The focus of her work was on the organization of social relations and the development of successful participatory processes.

Her work for morethanshelters began early 2014. She started in the course of her master thesis and became a full-time and integral part of the MTS team. Her key tasks included the development, design and implementation of morethanshelters’ humanitarian projects – national and international. In 2014 she visited Jordan and the refugee camp Zaatari, where she stayed for several weeks. Here she focused on different topics, such as innovation, participation and the improvement of living conditions for the the people living in the camps. After the disastrous earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, Isabelle travelled to Nepal to set up DOMOs as orphanages and school-hostels in cooperation with local NGOs and partners. In November 2015 she spent several weeks on Lesvos, to support and organize the setup of 10 DOMOs for the Camp Pikpa. During her stay she gained direct and shocking insights into the situation of the “european refugee crisis”; a global crisis about escape, displacement, poverty and injustice. After thousands of refugees reached Europe in the summer 2015, Isabelle’s focus shifted towards finding innovative solutions to improve the situation for the arriving people in Europe and Germany. She especially targeted the formation of social spaces, where vulnerable groups can find a safe haven.

Isabelle hold numerours lectures in front of international audiences. Furthermore she took part in several publications, such as:

  • Kerber, D. & Poncette, I. (2014): The refugee camp Za’atari – A complex living environment. In Sustenabilidade e Habitação de Interesse Social CHIS 2014. Seiten 155-161.
  • Kerber, D. & Poncette, I. (2015): Weder Camp noch Stadt – Das Flüchtlingslager als Hybrid. In INDES Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft. 2. Seiten 60-70.  

Additionally, Isabelle focused on concept development and innovation consultancy, while always considering local circumstances. She dealt with the implementation of participatory processes and cooperation management. For these tasks, it was crucial to keep a comprehensive and interdisciplinary insight and to openly approach affected people as well as to include them. Not always this work is focused on a specific goal. The goals will be iterative adapted in the developing processes.

Isabelle had the right instinct and ability to approach such processes organized and results-oriented. People and their needs were her central focus point. This lead to wonderful initiatives, projects and cooperations, which are still existing and are being carried out by people on the scene. Through her work, she managed to positively change the fates of individuals. Her aim was to create processes in a long-term, sustainable and fair manner. Isabelle convinced her surrounding environment with experience, ambition, competence, a clear opinion and heart.


We are saying goodbye to an open, value-based and happy character, who enriched our team in every single way. Someone we could always count on. Isabelle was more than just a colleague, she was a friend, who will always be in our hearts.

With all the pain it is also comforting to know, that Isabelle is leaving us with many good memories. She taught us to make this world a better place, not through idealistic thinking, but in a more pragmatic and hands-on manner. Her happy, kind, natural and loving character will stay in our memory. Especially her way of approaching other people and her view of the world that we are living in.

We are left with precious memories about a wonderful human being.

We will never forget Isabelle.

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