Holger Harnauf is a qualified car mechanic. In 2016 he spent six months on his first posting with MSF/Doctors Without Borders in the Central African Republic. One year later he’s back in Bangui and is blogging about his experiences.
Our workshop. Photo: Holger Hornauf / MSF
The second week starts with job interviews: we are searching for a second mechanic. My task is to choose the right candidate. Two of them are really good. So, after the interviews we immediately start to prepare the contracts for both of them.
Life in the workshop...
Then we start to clear up the mechanical workshop. We reposition some of the cars, clean the space, and cut the grass (some parts of the workshop are outdoors).
In total we have to move 14 generators – every one of them weighs roughly one tonne! Because of the lack of equipment that isn’t an easy thing to do. We are responsible for all the generators and vehicles for the whole country, which is why we have so many of them.
The generators are needed every once in a while, when the electricity gets cut in our district. The local authorities don’t have the capacity to provide all town districts with electricity at once, which means that it gets cut sometimes. The generators are very loud though, consume a lot of gas and need to be maintained regularly.
Moving these generators without all the usual tools wasn't so easy! Photo: Holger Hornauf / MSF
Our main tasks in the workshop are regular inspections for all the MSF vehicles. Due to the exposure to bad roads and other conditions our cars go through, an inspection is necessary after every 3,000 kilometers they drive.
In general, we want our vehicles to function perfectly in order to guarantee that the staff can do their jobs. MSF teams often have long, stressful work days and travel between cities and villages. At the end of those stressful days they shouldn’t have to face their cars breaking down and the possibility they would have to continue by foot. That shouldn’t happen.
As if I'd never left...
In my free time I had a long conversation with a pharmacist from Canada. He just came back from a three-month assignment in a really small village and has a lot to talk about. In general there are lots of good conversations with all the staff.
On Wednesday I met with some of the local colleagues I met last year. The majority of the staff here are people that grew up nearby. It was a great reunion! We talked a lot about old and new times and I ended up feeling as if I’d never left.