Travelling can be a very confronting activity. Although we are seldom carrying a lot of luxury, the encounter with people all ages that are struggling to make ends meet, inevitably creates an uneasy contrast. Had we not been taught to share during the upbringing by our parents, we would certainly have learned it during our travelling. People with little to spare have offered us food, a bed for the night and a warm welcome into their life. Some of them have told us about their dreams and projects, sometimes even about their problems.
We couldn't stay untouched by this. Over the years, we helped individual people on our way, only to find that life can be complicated and good intentions sometimes don't yield the expected benefit. Wondering whether a professional organisation could make a difference, we contacted some NGO's before our trip to Kenya and Uganda in 2006. Artsen zonder Grenzen/Médecins sans Frontières (MSF-Belgium) accepted our offer to leave our bicycles in their regional headquarters in Nairobi (Kenya) after the trip. We were pleasantly surprised by the detailed information they provided us with regarding our bicycles' future in Southern Sudan, and by the very reasonable premises and car park they kept in Nairobi.
In 2007, we visited a friends' mother who was helping local craftsmen in Burkina Faso to bring their products to the market. As an aid worker for Volens, she was involved in developing a network of small-scale projects, including the construction of a school. If we remember one thing from this visit, it must be the illustration of the necessary but difficult link between international aid organisations and the complex reality of everyday life in the "brousse"...
During her traineeship in Kigali (Rwanda) in 2008, Isabel learned a lot about the collaboration of the Belgian Red Cross with their Rwandan sister society. The repatriation of thousands of Rwandans from neighbouring countries during the last decade has left the country in need of housing, health care and food security programs.
This became only too obvious during her visit to one of the "expulsee-camps", temporary home to people returning from Tanzania, after they fled from ethnic violence. Her visit together with three other med school students seemed to mean a lot to the camp residents, since access to medically trained staff is limited. After a short tour around the site, it was decided that a meeting should be organised and a consultation area set up, to allow for questions and debate about health related issues or a more personal contact.
In Rwanda, we also heard about the existence of the International Committee of the Red Cross, that is providing basic protection for the victims of armed conflict. On our way back from the wonderful Nyungwe Forest, we caught a ride with a truck driver of the ICRC, coming back from Bukavu, South Kivu (DRC) and heading for Nairobi. If everyone else has left, there is still the ICRC...
This can also be said of MSF. Despite the terrible attack on the MSF-Belgium compound in Bor (Sudan) in 2007 and the abduction of foreign staff from their office in North-Darfour, they are still present with numerous projects all over the country.
During our 2010-2011 trip through Africa, we want to support MSF-Belgium.