First time in CAR: Embracing the life of a humanitarian worker
Apr 30, 2016
Our team in Kabo was a mix of nine different nationalities, with different cultures and personalities, and most of them were fluent in French and I wasn’t. But we’re all flexible enough to meet each other halfway. They are tough but at the same time their hearts are sensitive to people’s needs. You will definitely see that they were there for the cause and the work.
All these were also happening in a context of security issues and crises affecting not just our project but the others in the area as well. When one project shuts down, it has a domino effect on the others. But the thing is, no matter how tough your responsibilities are and how hard the situation you’re in, when you have a great team backing you up, at the end of the day, you will still feel good about yourself.
We all have different responsibilities in the project but we make it a point that we gather together and talk about stuff outside of work. We also make sure that we have all the psychological support we need, from each other and from MSF.
I was also touched with how the people in Kabo find happiness in life’s simple pleasures. They are one of the most appreciative people I have encountered.
People might think that when you are in the field, it will be all work and complex situations. But if you know how to live with it, accept the realities and enjoy the good moments, life would be easier.
Out of the many lessons from this mission, these are what I feel are quite important, if you wish to become a humanitarian worker.
Bring things you can let go. You’d never know when you needed to leave the work or the project abruptly, and deciding on which material things you need to keep can add more anxiety to whatever you’re already experiencing in the first place. The decision will be easier if you are ready to let go of everything you have at the moment. When you need to get going and there’s not much time left, you can focus on the important decisions and not the things. Let go of the things you feel would make it difficult for you to move on with life.
Be ready to adjust. There are certain things you cannot control, life is full of surprises, and all you need to do is to adjust to whatever life throws at you. But it doesn’t mean you’ll just go with the flow mindlessly. You still have to keep with you your important documents (in multiple copies!), and make sure your gadgets are charged so you can communicate with your team or simply have something to read or listen to while waiting it out. Keep ready-to-eat food and water handy. At MSF, safety of staff is a top priority and is taken seriously. Being prepared and focused can help you survive.
Be grateful. Try your best not to have any more stress than what you’re already experiencing as part of the work. I was thankful that I was surrounded by a positive team which helped me get through the rough times. Amidst all the unfortunate events, always be grateful of what you have and don’t have. Life is good.
Working for a humanitarian organization has not been an easy decision for me to make. Some people see it as a humble profession; others call it suicide. As for me, to be able to make a difference in another person’s life is something that I really wanted to do from the very beginning. I am blessed with the life I was raised in, surrounded by people who love and support me. I think it’s time I spread the love.