I’m not a doctor, not a nurse nor a midwife. But I can still contribute my effort. Whether one can bring changes to lives only depends on how deep and how far one takes the first steps.
Sierra Leone, located in western Africa, is one of the world’s poorest countries. The civil war ceased fire in 2002, but people are still traumatised. They only want to live peacefully with their family members.
My humanitarian mission starts at the southern city of Bo. The hospital here, built more than a decade ago, has obstetrical and paediatric departments. To address the substantial needs for obstetric and paediatric services there, we planned its renovation and expansion and kick-started the work early this year.
Hands-on work on the frontline
My duties here are more hands-on than those I had in Hong Kong. I want to be involved in formwork, steelwork, concreting, concrete curing and building brick walls. Not only do I hope to exchange ideas with the local staff, my involvement can also motivate them to work.
There are nine local staff members in my logistical team. All of them are great working partners, but they don’t really understand the reasons and importance of every single working procedure. Even if they have done the same task for 10 times, they could still make mistake in their 11th trial. So I try to explain to them the reason behind every command I make. I am really glad to see them doing better and better.
This month, we conducted three rounds of recruitment interviews. I was overwhelmed; I felt sorry but was also moved. I was overwhelmed to know how much a job can change people’s lives. I felt sorry for so many of them losing the opportunity to learn due to the civil war. Looking through their eyes, though, I was so moved to know that they have never given up amid all the hardship.
Only knowledge can change their lives. They are all treasures on the construction site. With limitations in machinery and materials, they can adapt far better than they are aware of, but they just didn’t realise that they have actually grown the fruit of knowledge in their work.
Recently, I started to give the team a construction lesson every Friday after the team lunch. In the first lesson conducted last week, I taught them the composition of concrete. They all know that adding iron bars into concrete can strengthen the structure, but they don’t understand why. I looked at them trying to exchange opinions, paying attention to the class, and enjoying the learning process. My happiness can be as simple as that, as simple as hearing, “Thank you, I’ve learned much from you.”
I’m not a doctor, not a nurse nor a midwife. I’m just a humble engineer, but I can contribute to MSF humanitarian work. The project scale here is not comparable to those I worked on in Hong Kong, but my work here can save more lives. The small steps I’ve taken can hopefully bring more changes in others’ lives.