Good Bye Pakistan!

Eben looks back on an eventful posting with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders in Pakistan

As I sit here while typing this, in the garden of the MSF house in Islamabad for my last long weekend break away, I am at peace. If all goes according to plan, today in exactly one month I will arrive back home in my beloved South Africa to be reunited with my loved ones. I must confess that being away from home for so long has been very tough at times but thanks to modern communication systems I could keep in touch. I cannot believe how time has flown by. I have now been on my posting for five months.

Eben holds an enormous stack of papers

Eben catches up on some paperwork. Photo: MSF

Thinking back I realize that our team has been involved in a tremendous amount of work. The long busy days and sometimes nights and weekends simply disappeared in the blink of an eye. I am filled with a sense of pride for what we have accomplished during the past months.

I am filled with a sense of pride for what we have accomplished during the past months.

Most of the international staff team that arrived with me, including myself, will end their postings in the next couple of weeks and we will no doubt be replaced by new team members arriving filled with energy to take this project forward and continue the good work.

I believe that, notwithstanding our best intentions, we cannot fix all the problems in the world. So my philosophy is: try to leave behind a place a little better than how you found it. If I can achieve that I will be happy. And if the next person leaves it a little better and the next and the next…you see where this is going. Of course at the centre of the team remains the committed and hardworking local staff.

Eben and others from the MSF Pakistan team sharing an outdoor meal

Sharing a meal in the sunshine. Photo: MSF

My main function is the recruitment of personnel for our project to enhance the local staff team and I always make a point to have a conversation with the various applicants (who are from the community we serve) about their motivation for wanting to join the MSF team. I have heard so many accounts of how the community values the impact of MSF and I consider myself very fortunate to have been given this opportunity to be a part of something very special, something that has a tangible impact on people’s lives every single day.

My experience here in Pakistan was completely different than what we hear or read from outside

I’m a passionate believer that access to quality medical care should be a basic human right and I am happy that I am part of an organization which is not profit driven. This is the main reason why I wanted to be part of MSF. This has been my first assignment and I have not been disappointed. If they will have me, I will continue to serve with MSF for as long as I can add value.

I have so many fond memories that I will take with me on my life’s journey going forward but I will leave you with this one that  accurately illustrates my overall experience of Pakistan and its people: early on Christmas morning we received a surprise visit at the international staff house from a couple of our Pakistani colleagues. They arrived with two (very alive) turkeys for us to enjoy for Christmas lunch.

Eben and the MSF Pakistan team enjoy Christmas lunch

Christmas lunch! Photo: MSF

I promptly named the two turkeys Timmy and Sally to the horror of the vegetarians on the team. During our conversation, I expressed to one of the Pakistani colleagues what a kind gesture this was. He continued to say that they understand that we have left behind our families to come here to help and that they are now our family. Now, I am a lawyer by profession which means I talk a lot, or if you ask my partner she will say a lot - a lot! But at this moment I was speechless and had no words to respond.

My experience here in Pakistan was completely different than what we hear or read from outside.

Good Bye Pakistan. It has been a privilege serving with you.