Time really does fly…certainly when you are having fun but also when you are working 12 hour days, 6-7 days a week! I landed in the Congo on December 8 and after an incredible 6 months, my second mission with MSF is drawing to a close. I first fly to Amsterdam for debriefings and then on to Canada where a very excited fiancée will be waiting for me at the airport.
I named my Blog “DRC…not just the Kivus” because there is so much more to the Congo than what you hear on the evening news. I have definitely learnt this first hand and hopefully my entries have also brought a greater awareness to your world as well.
In this true “post-conflict” setting, more and more organizations pull out as they lose funding or simply shift operations to the more news-worthy Kivu provinces. With a government unable or unwilling to take over, this leaves thousands in a vulnerable position as they struggle to find enough to eat, walk for days to seek medical care or drop out of school to work in the fields or to look after a sick parent. A vicious cycle and while I did not find any easy solutions over the past months, I was definitely exposed to the problem.
The DRC is rich in minerals, has huge hydro-electric potential, one of the largest rainforests in the world and a colonial past that shows what is actually possible in this vast country. However, the DRC remains one of the most undeveloped countries in the world and is one of the few that are literally moving backwards. This is a country where grandparents knew a more technological advanced era than their grandchildren. A country where national highways have been reduced to footpaths and are impassible during the rainy season. Where war and corruption have literally destroyed entire systems – transportation, post, telephone, electricity – systems that existed under the pre-independence Belgian colony and that have simply deteriorated until there is nothing left…
As I said, there are no easy solutions. I have spent the last 6 months being humbled, in total disbelief and yet full of awe. Thankful for what I get to go home to and shocked by the completeness of the poverty and the lack of potential I see in the coming years.
Some days, after repeating the rules for overtime to my drivers or counting bars of soap, I really felt like this job was just another job. Other days, I realize that this job is a wonderful combination of service and learning and that it is great to be part of an organization that is directly addressing real needs all over the world regardless of where the spotlight is currently shinning.
In the end, it is because of the work I did, the work that MSF does, that we are running a 55-bed hospital in the middle of the bush and are providing free health care to thousands or people who, without MSF, would have none at all. That is not just another job!