Winter Is Here

With just three weeks left of her assignment in Minsk, Hilary prepares to hand over her plan for helping people struggling with both addiction and tuberculosis

The woods around Minsk

Since the staff training that occurred, life in MSF Minsk has settled down more or less. Since I am no longer trying to finish a solid 3 days of training and then have them translated, the focus has shifted to mentoring the individuals taking over the training, as well as wrapping things up.

I am coming to the last stretch of my assignment, with only 3 weeks to go. This part of a posting is equally stressful and liberating. It’s stressful because the momentum is just increasing for the addiction component of the project, and liberating because the things that I can see being challenging will be followed up by my replacement. Because the addiction components will come into effect in 2018 budget, January and February will be very busy months as we approach the go live dates of different components of the plan. This leaves Nov and Dec as months to lay the groundwork and try and get as much done as possible.

Over the month of October myself, the Project Coordinator, Medical Team Leader, and doctor made the rounds to the 3 outpatient dispensaries and addiction partners to inform them of our plans for 2018. Instead of carrying around a very technical powerpoint, the audiovisual aid started out as a simple chart on a piece of flipchart. This has since become a joke that when the addiction component is up and running, it can all be credited back to this once piece of paper on flipchart. I have considered having it framed and put on the wall.

Another exciting development is the hiring of a staff psychiatrist/addiction physician. It was a bit of a challenge to find somebody with experience in harm reduction and patient centered care, but it seems we have managed to find somebody with that skill set. They will be coming on board with our project in November and they are excited about the plans for 2018.

As always with handover, the challenge is maintaining the right balance between not diving into anything too ambitious, communicating the plan and next steps, and also ensuring that things don’t stagnate. As part of my end of mission, I created a timeline for all the addiction components for 2018. I described it as a monster of a spreadsheet, and I felt a bit overwhelmed when I had put it all on paper. My replacement will have her hands full but will also be jumping into a really dynamic project!

Speaking of my replacement, she has been identified as another Canadian social worker! She is the first Canadian social worker I have encountered in MSF and I have to think it’s a great sign from the universe. She’s from Halifax, so the other end of Canada from Vancouver, and it’s nice to see more social workers in the MSF world. If there are any social workers reading this and contemplating MSF, we want you!

Minsk has also gotten cold. We had the first snowfall last night and temperatures are dipping below zero at night. Last weekend I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine visit Minsk and we took a little road trip to Grodno in the West of Belarus. The Fall colours were in full force, especially around the areas of Mir Castle and Radziwell Palace.Next weekend is a long weekend so I will be heading to Poland for 4 days, and then it’s time to head for debriefing in Berlin!