To blog or Not to blog, with apologies to Shakespeare.
MSF offers assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict, irrespective of race, religion, creed or political affiliation
I have now been ‘in the field’, in the brand new and struggling country of South Sudan, for three months.
My original mandate was to work in an extremely remote area, accessible only by plane (or by helicopter in the rainy season if the landing strip was under water), treating an outbreak of Kala Azar. This is a fatal disease that is particularly vicious, often contracted by young boys while they are out guarding the cattle, from a sand fly that lives in the dark soil of South Sudan. Children are particularly affected and all will die without treatment. My original contract was to work primarily treating Kala Azar, but as I am learning with MSF, flexibility is a crucial requirement.
During the past three months there was often no internet, sometimes limited or no electricity, no water coming out of the tap, and some very unusual circumstances had me hungry at times. That is another part of my story entirely. MSF did warn me that ‘ability to adapt to sudden changes’ would be an attribute I would want to cultivate.
Blogging involves putting yourself out there, in public, where what you say and how you feel becomes something not just for you, but for the world. Well, at least, for those that might be interested in learning more about humanitarian work, and the intricacies and foibles of it. The motivation behind it. The struggle of it. The indecision that is part of the package. The loneliness and the familyness of it.
Working with MSF is all of these things and sometimes, it seems, just too difficult to put it into words. But…. I know there is a large community out there, who would like to know how it is. Who might be interested in considering a volunteer position somewhere, sometime; challenging themselves to do something out of the ordinary, for a purpose larger than yourself. I think there is interest from those who would like to know how it really is, before they take the leap. What does it really feel like? Away from home, away from family, away from lovers, away from all that is known and understood and easily comprehensible. To take that leap into the unknown, the unfamiliar, the totally absurd, the dangerous and the terrifying and the incredible camaraderie and the fun of the dance parties. It does feel incomprehensible at times, for sure. I also think, that if you donate your money to an NGO (Non Governmental Organization) like MSF (even if you know it will never be possible for you to go "to the field") that you would like to know what your donation accomplishes, and have an inside look at the organization. How do we utilize your financial contribution to our work? Are we responsible, and do we try to do the best we can with what you give us?
I am now on leave, having completed a very tumultuous three months, transferred about to many different places, with nowhere to call home, with no space to call my own, where I didn’t have my own room, (except for 3 weeks in a tent), and then, I got sick. Really very sick. I was urgently medevac’d (medical evacuation) (MSF loves short forms and abbreviations: PC, MedCo, PPD, Logtech, Finco, slowly you sort them out). Wearing only my pyjamas and with nothing but my passport and MSF ID, I was flown out of South Sudan in my very own plane, to Nairobi Hospital. I was flown to amazing medical care that has allowed me to be well again and to look forward to the future. MSF certainly comes through in the crunch, when you really need them to look after you. I am now able to take my well earned vacation to the beach (where I now have the energy and the time and the inclination to type this); to a place where I can consider, perhaps, I have a story worth sharing. It’s hard to know. So many questions and so much is unknown. I have learned that what I think, is not. What I expected, I shouldn’t. What was obvious is confusing, and what I thought I knew, I certainly don’t. Despite having much experience in Africa previously, it is still a very steep learning curve.
Perhaps you can come with me on this journey. But first, we will have to go back. Way back to how a woman with grown children and a perfectly lovely boyfriend found herself making the decision to leave it all behind. That, certainly, was the hardest part.