Christian, a psychotherapist, has spent the past year in Belarus, working with patients who are facing the twin challenges of tuberculosis and addiction. Now at the end of his posting, he reflects on his experiences...
A year in Minsk has left its mark on me, for which I am grateful.
I never thought how much I would fall in love with this city, its people, this country and my colleagues.
My contribution to the project has been made. We are far from being exactly where we want to be, but the project is headed in the right direction.
Building something together
The baton is handed over to my wonderful colleague Veena from Canada. With great energy, she has absorbed a week of input and will make her very own valuable contribution to our work in Minsk over the next 12 months.
My predecessor Katherine (also from Canada) created a stable foundation. An excellent networker, she established the necessary relationships and contacts and allowed me to build the house we have today.
Now it is up to Veena to equip this house and make it habitable in the long term.
Proud and satisfied
In my last monthly update, I was able to report that we are now providing psychosocial care to 77 tuberculosis patients. Our patients’ adherence to the therapy – how closely they’re able to stick to it – has grown steadily. And in 2019 so far, we have completed more than 1,800 patient consultations.
This makes me proud and satisfied, because this success is entirely due to my dedicated team, namely Svetlana, Alexandra, Vilena, Lana, Roman and Alexander, not to mention Ekaterina, my translator.
In the first weeks of the project, I would never have guessed that we would get this far. We’ve done it by working together with the doctors and logisticians of our broader MSF team, and in close cooperation with our competent colleagues from Minsk’s Tuberculosis Institute. (As you might have read in my previous blog posts.)
I’m going to use my last Belarus blog post to thank all those involved for helping us to improve the lives of our patients a little.
Thank you for persevering in the fight against the world’s deadliest infectious disease, and for promoting the positive influence of psychosocial approaches in medical treatment.
Everything that’s been achieved has been made possible by a competent team in Minsk, close cooperation and respectful interaction with each other, and with the support of Doctors Without Borders donors.
Everything Doctors Without Borders does around the world is thanks to our supporters.
For myself, I am wrapping up the most important and satisfying time of my 22 years working as a psychologist. I’m going back to Germany, enriched, to continue my day-to-day work as a therapist.
What has made this such an enriching experience?
Belarus is an exciting country going through a period of development and upheaval.
People here are easy to love, and are discovering and developing their potential.
Tuberculosis is one of the greatest medical challenges we can address.
When people share a goal, as our team did as we worked with our patients and each other, nationalities and cultural differences fall to the wayside.
Over the past 12 months, I have worked on this project with colleagues from Kenya, Hungary, Armenia, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and England – and I'm sure there are at least five more countries.
Now I’m taking these experiences home to everyday life, where I will try to convey the human values of Doctors Without Borders in the face of today’s worrying tendencies towards exclusion and xenophobia.
So, I’m going to finish my blog from Minsk with some lines from one of my favorite poems by Hermann Hesse: ‘A magic dwells in each beginning, protecting us, telling us how to live… maybe life’s call to us will never find an end, Courage my heart, take leave and fare thee well.’