Sharing skills and expanding horizons, thoughts of a MSF Volunteer in the field

© Ryan Jose E RUIZ

© Ryan Jose E RUIZ

I just had been to Ethiopia for just almost 3 months and was still getting used to the change in my lifestyle. My first few months started well enough, the sun was shining, cool breeze billowing, the exotic birds singing, egrets and storks paddling beautifully in the flooded fields, the lovely Jacaranda trees and nuk flowers were all in bloom, throng of sheep and donkeys in the road, children rushing and giggling to see a "farenji" and the majestic and very fabled Lake Tana, the source of the Nile River. When I do have the opportunity of traveling and seeing the countryside during my free times, my first impression of this country, is that, it is beautiful and its people are friendly and peaceful. My second is that, they are stricken by so much poverty and social disparities as well as debilitating diseases. Yet, the Ethiopians still can afford to smile and gesture goodwill to a visitor like me. Indeed, it epitomizes the country's title of a "the fabled country." I have a busy life and a fulfilling job back here giving and serving health services to the people in great need. The idea of sharing skills and changing lives makes a lot of sense also as a MSF volunteer than just stuffing yourself with the usual perks and fringe benefits of having a white collar job. Besides, MSF volunteering would really widen my opportunities and expand my horizons not only professionally but socially and culturally. When I left my country three years ago to embark on volunteering with NGO's in Africa, I don't know yet what will be my life here. I do have high expectations but are also anxious if I can perform well. I think this is the usual apprehensions a MSF volunteer has in mind. I experienced a lot of compromises here, as well as contrasting realities but the moment I have been working with my staff as well as the people in the community we are serving I felt very privileged of given an opportunity to share a simple experience and knowledge I have to them, and it is worth it.  Working with them and seeing the future in their faces makes me motivated. I put a lot of energy in training and do also practical hospital lab supervision as well as taking part in exploratory missions, epidemic intervention management and have since been able to communicate freely to the people. Being a friend and a supervisor to the national staff is also one thing new to them because they were used to have a stereotype relationship between a supervisor and a staff.
© Ryan Jose E RUIZ

© Ryan Jose E RUIZ

It also inspires me to see my staff working with confidence and integrity to their job. I believed that there skills should be harnessed and must be coupled with a good supervision.  I do believe that my staff has a long way to go and be very successful in the near future. There's no doubt, that my staff if just given an equal opportunity with the other professionals in the whole world could go far more better than the others because they are very interested, hardworking and open to new learning. This usually motivates me to push myself harder, gain new experiences and establish formidable grounds of a sustainable health service. There are still so many challenges I am facing. One of each are the differences in educational and cultural orientation. One big contrast is the way things done in my country is quite different because here you can have all the liberty of spending your time. But I came to realize, that there are so many reasons why this is happening. At this time when  Ethiopia is facing an imminent disaster due to rains and flooding and morbidity and mortality because of combination of factors like HIV and AIDS, malaria, cholera, Kala-azar and tuberculosis to name a lot, then I just came to realize that making a difference is what is expected of me than going with the flow. My job now as a MSF volunteer is not all about me. My purpose here is far more greater than personal fulfillment, peace of mind or even traveling opportunities. It is far greater than my personal ambitions. I know, I came here for a noble purpose. My life would never be the same after my work here in Ethiopia. At this short period that I am here, I have appreciated the little blessings that I have for now and continue to strive more and help other people. It took me in the context of living and experiencing another culture that I came to realize, I love my own! I considered volunteering with MSF a noble job. It makes me more humane and generous. In a sense that I have to give a part of myself, time, period in my career to a worthwhile and humanitarian cause. It expands my horizons to a wider perspective that it would enable me to see that the world of abundance is not enough to enjoy life and be happy. I learn a lot from this culture, I have realizes how much value it has on cross cultural friendships. I came to realize that MSF volunteering is about helping somebody by empathizing to their plight and showing to them how to deal with it. It is about making a difference when everything seems to be redundant. It is about dreaming of a better world ahead by working with your colleagues and staff despite a very vague and bleak future. It is about believing to yourself that you can share skills and do change lives. Lastly, it is about surviving by doing your best to integrate and learn new opportunities. Dream. Believe. Survive. Enjoy MSF volunteer Life. Ryan Jose E Ruiz
Location
2007
Issue
2007
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