Maternity and mortality

This post was written by an anonymous Missing in the Mission blogger on July 30, 2016. The views expressed are those of the author and not of any aid organizations.
Kunduz intensive care unit

“August 2013: Files lie on a desk at the ICU of Kunduz Trauma Center. Photo: Mikhail Galustov” Source: What Was Lost in the Kunduz Hospital Attack by MSF-USA on Medium.com.

A maternity hospital we are supporting in Northwest Syria was bombed last Friday. I found out in a series of emails from colleagues Saturday morning, with links to gut wrenching news coverage. My Syrian colleagues confirmed the events with cell phone photos and videos sent through WhatsApp and Skype.

Health facilities being targeted in war zones with air strikes isn’t front-page news anymore. While I was supporting the Syrian team in Turkey last month, we had a team meeting on the 28th of June. The security update announced that in the month of June there had been 27 attacks on health centers in Syria so far—one a day. Attacks on health facilities are also not unique to the hell that is the war in Syria right now. Conservative reporting by the WHO found 57 attacks on health care in 17 countries during the 3 months between January 1 and March 31, 2016. Nor are the perpetrators of these health care Continue reading

The Liebster Award

LiebsterAward.pngPeer support is what we’re all about, so how lovely to receive a message from PoojaG — a prolific young blogger who writes Lifesfinewhine — saying that she nominated Missing in the Mission for something called a Liebster Award. Which is a bit like a chain letter circa 2004 but then you give it a chance and realize… it’s kinda fun.

The Liebster is given by one blogger to another. It’s not officially judged or based on any criteria other than wanting to show support, encourage newer blogs, and spice things up with some personal questions. The rules vary but in general getting a Liebster means 3 things: answering questions posed by the person who nominated you, nominating other (preferably less-established) blogs, and writing questions for them to answer.

This week’s post will be a bit different but we hope you enjoy it all the same.

PoojaG asked:

1. Who inspired you to start blogging?

The very first blog I remember reading is Sleepless in Sudan, during my first overseas mission as an aid worker in Darfur. It was truly a radical thing to have a blog, even an anonymous one, in that environment. To bear witness to the things one would see and hear, in a country where this could easily get you expelled (ask Jan Pronk). It was also Continue reading

The mo(u)rning after

This post is written by an anonymous contributor.

abstract bruise

“Cosmic Bruise” by artist Ivy Michelle Berg, available at: ArtbyIvy

Like many who work in humanitarian aid, when I am asked about why I do it, I dissemble and misdirect, I make a joke or change the subject without actually answering. Sometimes I tell the truth as a joke, and hide it in plain sight. “World Peace” is such a reliable cliché to raise a smirk and avoid the question. To say out loud why I really do it, to put those words into the air, is too hard. I am afraid of the look I will see in the other person’s eyes, and afraid of their judgement. I am afraid that if I am honest, I will have to say it through the medium of a jaunty pop song, possibly from the 80’s. Because the truth is, I do it because I believe in love and I believe love can make the world a better place. Saying it out loud sounds so adolescently idealistic, so sentimentally naïve at best, self-righteous, arrogant and sanctimonious at worst.

I left my job at the end of last year in a maelstrom of mess; stretched out to the point of coming unravelled, shattered by too many emergencies, and a level of hostility within the organisation that I was entirely ill-equipped to withstand, profoundly disillusioned. I felt like the worst kind of fool for believing in any of it, and no longer had any faith in my own judgement. In the months since then, I have been trying to work out what happened, to parse out what it was all about, and to find my way back to myself.

I know about fear, as so many of us do. I know about those moments of absolute clarity when we think we may actually die, today, now. I know about the exquisitely heightened alertness of being in a moment that could go either way; a checkpoint guard toying with Continue reading

Brené Brown & the Power of Vulnerability

In aidspeak, ‘vulnerability’ is almost always a negative word. It denotes weakness, fragility,  a heightened possiblity of something or someone being in danger or at risk, unsafe or unprotected. It is something to be guarded against, mitigated, planned for; we often talk or (moreso) write about how our programs will ‘target vulnerable populations’ or ‘reduce vulnerability.’ We show donors and security officers how we recognize existing vulnerabilities and have made plans to keep ourselves and our staff safe.

This is not the fault of the aid world. Merriam-Webster defines vulnerability as meaning “easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally” or “open to attack, harm, or damage.”  A quick scan of other online dictionaries did not turn up any indication of Continue reading

Singing in the storm

bird-by-bird“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

― Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Random acts of kindness

This post is written by an anonymous contributor.

BBC Radio 4 has a magazine programme on Saturday mornings, hosted by ex-Communard and now the Reverend Richard Coles; it’s essential listening for me when I’m at home, and doubles as my backdrop to experimental cooking.

About 5 years ago, the programmed featured a slot precipitated by a listener who wanted to thank a stranger who had helped them in a moment of crisis. Since they had not even taken the person’s name, they thought they might reach them by telling the story, and saying thank you, on national radio.

Listening as I fiddled about with lavender ice-cream, I thought about such critical moments in my life; times when complete strangers offered help and kindness for no reason other than as a gift of humanity. I decided then that I would make an effort to ‘do’ a random act of kindness every day, that I would pay attention and act when I thought it would help. And so for the last 5 years, I have done this – sometimes with very small gestures and other times by doing something more significant.

For example, I was once at Paddington Station at 8.30am. It was rush hour into London, the station was packed with people, the entrance to the Tube had been closed because Continue reading

On leaving work and wondering what to take away

This week’s blog is by Leora Ward, creator of Healing in Service. Leora has worked for many years in the social justice, women’s empowerment, and humanitarian fields.

As I leave my current job, after six years, it feels as if a phase of my life is closing. A circle is about to be completed, and I am left wondering what I should take away. What am I supposed to harvest from this season of my work in the humanitarian field?

This question has been cycling through my mind over the last few weeks. As I have written about it in my journal, talked about it with friends, and even listened to similar stories from other women in the social justice field, I have come up with three things that seem to continue to show up (for me and others) in our community.

DSC06757 (2)

FEELINGS OF OVERWHELM AND ISOLATION

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the scope and scale of need in the world, and the long-term vision required to fully achieve social justice. These feelings (and the associated grief) leave us discouraged, overworked, and isolated. The emotions can be so intense that we consistently feel like we are falling over and maybe flat onto our face. We also typically don’t have the networks or support we need to keep us healthy, grounded, and balanced in Continue reading

Being part of a humanitarian power couple: Lessons from the inside

 

This post is written by @josh_chaffin. The author did NOT choose the title of this post OR the photo, but indulged our aid worker sense of humor. 

One partner gets the job in a new country, the other stays flexible, comes along for the ride and makes it work. Repeat as necessary.

Be willing to have your partner disappear for a week or three weeks, a month or three months, all the time. Especially if one of you is consulting, which will usually be the case.  One year, before we had a kid, we were apart like 30% of the year.

But when you have a kid, suddenly the hardship posts and tons of travel for consulting are no longer possible. So you scramble to find two HQ or family duty posts and hold onto them for dear life. It’s not a family-friendly industry, or even a relationship-friendly industry. It’s littered with failed relationships and single people. You need to find a Continue reading

Hamster on a wheel

hamster

Familiar feeling?

I told my colleague today about starting this blog. She asked about how much time I’d taken off, what I’d done, when I’d started working again. We’ll get into that later. She also commented on how hard it is to change pace when one is used to working in high-adrenaline contexts: Before I left my country program, there were so many things to do each day I could never fit them all in–but if I didn’t get them done, there would be serious consequences. Now I look at my planner and it’s not even full.  I nodded. It reminded me of the hamster wheel.

When I first decided to leave work, someone who knew what they were talking about told me, Adrenaline is like a drug. You’ll need to wean your body off of it, because it’s addicted to adrenaline now. Your body will resist. But you’ll get through it.

She was right.

Six months later I was away from work, sitting on my couch, in the middle of winter, and I could FEEL my brain RUNNING. It felt like someone had opened my head, inserted a shiny metal wheel and then introduced a very fit and energetic hamster onto it. I wanted to fuel the hamster, I wanted to fill it up on news from Syria (my last deployment) and reports about ISIS taking Ar-Raqqah (near one of our health clinics) and ‘marching’ towards Iraq (the newest unfolding crisis in a long list of crises there) and long commentaries on the origins of ‘extremist groups’ and Facebook feeds from friends still working and living in the region and… you get the idea.

The hamster was burning up the wheel, running so fast that flames were practically Continue reading