Sheila Chepkoech, Kenya:
I come from Africa, a continent that is very rich in many ways. We are very wealthy in non- material things such as happiness, laughter, joy, contentment, generosity and love among other things. We are also wealthy in natural resources, breathtaking scenery and fertile land. However, we are famously known in the western world for poverty, disease, corruption and war. The truth is, we are more than that and there is our side of the story that is often not told. Although poverty, suffering, pain and poverty exist among us, just like they do in many other societies around the world, what is often left out is the resilience, passion and the sacrifice by which majority of the African people rise amid the difficult circumstances around them. The genuine joy and laughter that emanate from our hearts regardless of challenges surrounding us. And most importantly the hope that is always burning in our hearts and the courage to dare the impossible.
Golda Poni, South Sudan:
Apart from the fact that the Christian faith has in fact become a huge and important part of people’s life in South Sudan, especially owing to the war experience, several Christian organisations are very much involved in community development with the aim of restoring hope and contributing to the personal and wider development of the people. In Kajo-keji, we have East African Ministries, which drills boreholes and provides training on health and adult literacy; Samaritan’s Purse that has built over 50 churches, CRESS that offers sponsorship for education, improved health services through the establishment of a comprehensive clinic, and promotes women empowerment; and many more that are doing incredible development work. (…)
There are however some challenges that come with such great work. In my opinion and experience, the greatest challenge is building hope in the people and bringing them to a place where they can accept that there is hope for change to happen. As a result of the war, people have been broken to a point where they have become comfortable with poverty, hopelessness, disease, hate, violence and insecurity. They don’t think that anything can change and don’t believe in their abilities and potential to bring the change they want to see. Our greatest task is to restore hope in our people through widespread awareness programs, mentorship group programs, and involvement of successful persons to inspire people and giving them the opportunity and means to change their situations.
The second biggest challenge is dependency. Owing to the effects of the civil war and life in refugee camps with the support of NGOs such as the UNHCR through the provision of food and other basic needs, the value of hard work has been largely forgotten among many people in South Sudan. This is a culture that must be broken because it has hampered their development. I strongly believe that the greatest and most effective way to empower a person is to help them discover their ability and potential to change their lives and that of their families and communities.
George Joseph, India:
Challenges like climate change and gender inequality won’t be easy to tackle but from my own experience, if one person can take the initiative and take it forward and not think about whether it’s going to work or not, he or she can make a difference. It is important to be realistic in nature but at the same time, sometimes you need to be thinking not about the end results but just to push the project forward. If you have a start, people will see what you are working toward. You need to be optimistic about things rather than pessimistic, which is difficult for a realist but I still think that this is the way forward. (…)
The current Indian government is really excited about technology but I think that rather than such things as smart cities or the like, access to education for all should be the priority. What do people prefer in underdeveloped countries? Access to water or access to Internet? Obviously access to water. Technologies are very nice and they play an important role in the development process and in achieving targets like the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, a balance should be found. (…)
The last project I worked on (…) was on farmers’ suicide in India. Notably in India, farmers are committing suicide just because they are unable to get access to water and there are no rains. There are also a lot of floods or droughts. Climate issues are plenty. This is directly related to climate change issues, which are another quite important lens of development. Looking at the present COP21, and all the Global South versus the Global North debates, it is easy to see how climate change is a major consideration for the North because it is going to affect them. However, I think more than the developed, climate change is going to affect the underdeveloped. It has not just started now, it has been going on for a while already.
Anonymous writer, Bolivia:
When you work on 24-hour shifts, you see patients with all sorts of pathologies. Patients with tropical diseases and viruses. Patients with acute abdomen problems, like appendicitis, cholecystitis. Patients with light or severe burns. Patients with urinary infections, with hernias. Patients with different types of tumours. Patients with cancer. Patients suffering from polytraumatic injuries. From fractures to wounds, from pregnancies and births to self-performed incomplete abortions, you see it all. As a medic, you have to treat all of these patients. The hospital does not have enough, or sometimes any, specialist doctors. (…)
One patient that came to see me told me his stomach hurt. I examined him, and he told me it hurt further down and that he would show me where. He lowered his trousers and showed me his erect penis. He covered his face and asked me what I thought. I examined him seriously, but something seemed strange to me, and when I looked closely, he was all over me. Another patient lowered his trousers and told me he wanted me to give him an injection, instead of the nurse, and hit himself on his buttocks. Another patient suffering from schizophrenia came to A and E only during my shifts, highly armed with knives, grenades, handcuffs and guns, so that I specifically would attend to him. To tell the truth, I had shifts full of terror. When I handed the director of the hospital a complaint, he only laughed. This is a problem for female medics, not for male doctors. Women do not do these things to them. I had all these bad experiences in my shifts. It makes me so scared of these situations. (…)
Tse Kar Yee (Carol), Hong Kong:
After the earthquake, all schools and houses were massively destroyed. All the people were staying in a farm area in temporary shelters. There were only limited temporary toilets and latrines. Because of the overcrowded living conditions and insufficient hygiene facilities, we were closely monitoring for any disease outbreaks in our camp and nearby areas and provided basic hygiene activities and promotion such as establishing a toilet cleansing routine and hand-washing point.
Our group of little local volunteers were children who were affected by the earthquake and living in the same camp. They had nothing to do and were wandering in our clinic. So we recruited them as our local volunteers to help in the clinic with crowd control, translation and daily hygiene activities within the living campus.
Our little local volunteers also shared their sad stories with us, such as missing their best friends or relatives during the disaster. I felt very sad and very sorry to hear their earthquake experiences. On the other hand, I was so glad to gain their trust and I wanted to comfort them with my active listening and being present with them. Besides, keeping them busy was another way I could help them pass the sad time. For me, the best reward from this short mission was to have these little local volunteers continuing our humanitarian spirit to serve their people. Our clinic opened at 8am and closed at 5pm with a one-hour lunch break at noon. The little local volunteers came to our clinic before 8am and started to prepare and stand by at their own post for tasks such as crowd control, registration, and translation. The happiest moment for our little volunteers was after 5 pm. We usually gathered for a short walk for relaxation. Sometimes we did home visits as follow up after 5 pm. By this time, our little volunteers had built up a good relationship with our patients and continued to visit them after we finished our mission.