Seriously, how can you not love doing development work when you see your team braving the midday sun to reach people in their homes. Not going for lunch until all are seen and given the time to share their stories.
Since I moved into the new house, one I can call my own until the end of my engagement here in Uganda, I started to enjoy my evenings.
For over a week now, I stopped going home late. One because I am done with my acting roles as head of the base and logistics support and two I lost the privilege of having a night driver at my disposal, so I have to take the daily driver to go home. I take offense in the beginning, but that was petty. I can live with it, I mean without a driver I could ask to buy me eggs and bring me to the supermarket after work. I have to be creative, so I don’t offend people and still enjoy the bliss of being chauffeured to get my groceries once in a while.
As a result, I get to enjoy my house even more. I sit in the balcony with a glass of wine or a cup of espresso and enjoy the blue sky until the sun sets in. Or prepare dinner that cost nothing and eat in front of the tv. And sleep whenever and however I like.
It’s my no stress strategy. Looking at the positive in a negative situation because I know that my issues are nothing compared to the many that I meet every day in the settlement.
I am finally alone in the guest house.
No more housemate for me until the new recruits start coming. So I’ll take advantage of my “me time” while trying to catch up with all my backlogs.
You see the being alone thing comes with a big responsibility that I didn’t ask for. But it sort of like dropped on my lap like a hot potato. The difference is I cannot throw the potato on another person lap because there’s no one else here.
You must be wondering what I am blabbering about. Well, for contexts I will tell you about my week.
For a long time, the mission is struggling to find solutions to make work easy for the program. First, the support team is supposed to do that but something must be blocking them from doing a smooth job despite all the necessary supports provided.
So, before the holidays, the boss finally accepted that the problem is not the lack of capacity, but the lack of integrity of the people themselves, those that were asked to provide support to all the projects in the base. I will not go into so much into detail because I may land my ass in jail for libel or worst I’ll be sent home for this blog.
Fast forward to last week, the person handling the case ended his mission. He had no one else to hand over some of his responsibility to but me – the last one standing in the base out of three. Well, actually I knew they will leave before me, I signed a 12-month contract and theirs was just a quarter of that.
The first one left two weeks prior and it was just as good as being alone but that’s for another letter.
With my colleague leaving I grew another head to put a hat on and started to do some base management. Which I never did before because as many know I am a field person — I like to be out in the sun and shuffling from location to location visiting people.
The field person is the first head, the original head until I arrived here because I was told immediately to do project management at the same time. So the second head grew almost overnight until I hand it over the person we selected last week. I hope she checks out well so I’ll be on my merry technical way.
So back to the original thread of the story.
With the third head, I was suddenly tasked to handle sensitive documents which were for the naive of me didn’t think much of it. But when the document was not well received and signed by the person I used to work with I was confused with the reaction of the higher being that be.
First, it was not my job to handle such a sensitive document when dealing with staffs. Two there was no anticipation on the part of the person responsible and of course if she hasn’t thought of it how will I know it, I am not in Human Resources for a reason. And the lady has the balls to confirm what I already know that I was tricked – because a crook, is a crook, is a crook, that’s all the explanation I needed to make me feel good.
The worst is not that. The person I though supports my debacle further drilled in my incompetence, and a third person did the same. Made me think … are they kidding me? Because it felt like I am the only one who doesn’t know what to do in a situation like that.
I cried a little. Self-pity crept in. And I am ready to throw in the towel because it was clear I cannot do someone else’s job.
Then I am angry. The woman which I thought has balls actually has none. The boss whose always siding with her may also have less of it and the third one is as clueless as me.
I decided to keep the third head realizing that after talking to a very dear friend – there is no one who can do this here and I am ready to take it on until the new person arrives or feel guilty if you know something worst happen. It will be a lot of work for me, but I am not new to hard work and dealing with complicated people so bring it on!
After a good night sleep, I am better.
Today is another day. For the whole morning now I am still trying to find my motivation to open my work computer and get something done, cutting down my backlogs and start fresh on Monday.
Until the next letter. Looking forward to your reply.
I am not anymore injured, nor I am disabled. I am back to my old self except I have marks to prove something had happened to me before. The scars (Happy Scar) that reminded me that as a person with no superhuman power I am vulnerable physically, mentally and emotionally (My Road to Recovery Is Bumpy, Now that I Am Thinking of It).
What I experienced in the last 5 months of recovery gave me the opportunity to really dig into the issues people with disabilities have in their lives (not that I don’t do it every day for the last two decades). But most of my experience is not comparable to those I’ve seen in the field where I work. The struggles that I complained and whine about are nothing to the struggles people experience living in camps or even within their own community.
I become spiritual when the accident happened, and I thank God more and more for the experience. I learn to appreciate more my life and the people I encounter in it.
When I had the accident The Day I Broke My Leg, I was overwhelmed by the attention I got from my landlord and colleagues – that they are willing to look after me until I am comfortable enough to be on my own.
How many people will do that for you?
The same when I was at the hospital. That one week in January that I was there was both fun and funny (on hindsight). Although I did not cry, I was like a cry baby always pressing the help button and asking the nurses to do things for me even in the wee hours of the morning. I know I disturbed them because I can see sleep in their eyes when I needed to go to the toilet at 3 in the morning or I needed adjustments in my bed very early because I cannot stay still and all my beddings hanging off it. But I don’t see them angry or annoyed. I like to think, I am fun to be around because while I speak English, they answer me in Arabic or French and when no translation is possible, hand gestures and head movements enough for us to understand each other.
It was enough time to have a routine, I eventually became friends with most of them at that time. But I am sure by now I am just a memory or maybe forgotten, but I will not forget them. I tried to get their names but in the chaos of checking out I lost my list, and photos are all that I have of them. God knows how thankful I am for them looking after me. Extended to the two ambulance guys that brought me to the airport and back to the hospital and airport again until the airlines finally allowed me to fly home.
If I have a way to get this story to them, I would like for them to know that there is no amount of “thank you” enough to show my gratitude. I can only continue to pray for them and ask God to continue to bless them and to let them continue to give kindness to all the people they care in that hospital.
From the hospital reception to the ER nurses to my doctors and the floor nurses and aides that kept me company all through my one-week stay at Clinique Amen La Marsa, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To my family in Tunisia, the couple that adopted me and never left my side, waited for me and being there when I was out of surgery, thank you. I believe that God brought me to your home for a reason. When I needed help, you did not hesitate and even offered me a place in your heart to make me feel comfortable being alone in a new country.
To the friends I met, truly Filipinos are people of the world. Who would have thought that the first meeting we had would be a start of a lifelong friendship? At my lowest time, when I was not allowed to fly the first time, you were there. You took me back and brought me to the hospital safely and there again the next day as if God has planted you on my side until I am up in the air and landed in the Philippines.
With the 6-month grace period of recovery I give myself coming to an end, it is time to express my gratitude to all the people that helped me through this disability journey from Tunisia to France and here in the Philippines.
It has enriched my life and had opened my eyes to a new perspective on the kind of work I do and made me want to do more. Nobody can tell me now that I cannot advocate for disability because I am not disabled, because, with the little time I was in that shoes, I can say I understood the struggle. Living with it even for a short time reaffirmed that this is what God wants me to continue doing. So continue I will.
I do not wish for this kind of accident to happen to anyone, but this is a good opportunity for me to pay the kindness and generosity allocated for me forward in anyway possible.
Je vous remercie!
I did something of my time last Friday. I went out and met (again) the community I wanted to give some of the wheelchairs I sourced from an organization in Australia and I went to visit Gab and had someone with me to check him and his wheelchair two years after we gave it to him.
Gab is 8 years old last Thursday. I met him in 2014 together with his mom when I joined the local disabled people’s organization in my city. I offered my skills to help but my work does not allow me to fully commit to it. His mom and I continue to communicate. She contacts me when she has questions about Gabs condition and for some other pieces of advice.
He was born with cerebral palsy. He has spasticity on all of his extremities and he has difficulty to communicate. All his 8 years have been supported by therapy whenever money and professionals are available but he still cannot walk but he loves to be around people. So a wheelchair would be very good to have for him to be mobile and social and wheelchair he got two years ago!
When he was 6-years old, I managed to get ten wheelchairs I was hoping to give to children like Gab. At that age, his parents are already complaining that it’s becoming difficult to move him around and the DIY chairs they built him doesn’t offer much support.
He is lucky because his family makes time for him, you can feel a happy family around him when you visit, they seek help and save up for some therapy, while other children have no opportunity to access health and rehabilitation services, no caregivers and often no knowledge of their human rights. I saw many with deformities that cannot be improved anymore, let alone sit in the chair. Some, there’s hope if parents can be given the training on how to manage their child’s conditions if they cannot afford therapy and transport.
What has changed?
When I met Gab, he was smaller. My colleague who made most of the technical adjustment had to adjust his seat depth and more to accommodate his long legs. I also noticed how talkative he has become, although he was talkative then, this time I can understand them more and being able to carry more conversation with the small vocabulary he has. But he also has a shorter temper, which I think was because of the weather (summer temperature reached 35C that day) and being cooped in the house instead of going to the park.
Gab even has his own facebook page!
He follows instructions better. When we asked him to sit straight and put his neck straight, he can do it. He has better trunk control, I guess the time he can have the straight posture would determine his progress together with other activities. With the table attached to the chair, he interacts more with the people around the house, increasing his ability to use his hands. Feeding too has improved, and I noticed no drooling compared to the first times I met him. He will need continuous therapy, but I am happy with what I saw.
I even saw photos of him playing badminton with his siblings and had gone swimming with the family this summer.
What’s next for Gab and for the remaining chairs?
Experts say he needs to be re-evaluated together with his wheelchair. A 3-wheel type chairs that have hip, trunk and head control (depending on the design). The Wheelchair For Kids, Inc. produces these type of wheelchair. The organization is made up of a group of retired volunteer members of the Perth metropolitan community in Western Australia, and they donate these type of chair all over the world.
I don’t exactly remember how I got to know WFK, but I remember it was during the time I was in East Timor. Later, when I returned home, I contacted WFK, Inc. and inquired whether they have links with a local organization here in the Philippines where I could get access to their wheelchairs and distribute to the children in San Pedro City.
No, they don’t have specific local partners in the Philippines, but they have better links – the RSL Angeles City, a sub-branch of Returned and Services League of Australia. They send wheelchairs to them and distribute them to children in Angeles City and neighboring province (which is in the north part of the Philippines). They suggested I contact them and request the 10 chairs I was asking them.
I made contact with RSL, after some negotiations, they agreed, and I picked up the chairs. Unfortunately, I only managed to give out 1 out of 10 chairs. For many reasons but one of them was me being called off to join an emergency mission in Nepal. Partly I am to blame for the delay, but I have a pretty good excuse why the delay but don’t worry, I already arranged with someone with technical knowledge on the wheelchair and good network in the disability sector, we hope to give out those chairs in the next three months.
This time, being ambulatory, I tried to revive the project and give the remaining 9 chairs to the rightful owners. I made contact again with experts in the field, and with their help, I would be able to reach out to those kids that could use this type of chair for their everyday lives.
So I ended the day tired, with a swollen ankle but went home happy. The feeling of not being able to do anything worthwhile had faded over the weekend knowing that I will have something to look forward to in the coming days. For now, I will focus on Gab and see how much more we can still improve his chair and until when we can keep him using them until we need to find him a new one.