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DRC: HelpAge DRC under construction

09 Feb 2009

Bright and early Marbey and I went to Merlin's office so that I could introduce myself to other staff members we hadn't met before!

It's a bustling office with many people coming and going. Field teams are in and out attending training workshops and unfortunately some of the key people, including the Security Officer were not around to speak to but we will catch them at another time.

Warm welcome

That's how it goes. I understand that Merlin`s DRC programme is their largest with over 30 expat staff and 400 national staff operating across several locations including Goma, Rutshuru, Butembo, Birambizo, Lubutu, Punia, Pangi, Kindu and a representational presence in Kinshasa.

We eagerly await the new Deputy Country Director who will arrive this week so that we can finalise our letter of agreement about our formal collaboration to ensure older people's health needs are included into Merlin's health programme.

All the Merlin staff have been very kind and welcoming and we are very grateful for their support in helping us set up here. Merlin's Programme Assistant, gave us a welcome pack and a brief summary of the OCHA security meeting which took place at 8.00am this morning.

Apparently there has been some concern about two incidents which occurred yesterday - someone was shot dead in the area not far from Merlin's office and there were reports of some men who claim to be working for the tax office who followed some NGO staff and tried to lure them into a car. I have noted "to attend security briefings" down on my expanding "To Do" list!

Locating older people in need

After that we hopped into the car and drove to APIBA's office. APIBA is one of our local partners we worked with back in 2002. It is good to re-new links with them.

We met with 8 members of APIBA (see photo on the right) who gave us a brief overview of their organization and focus of activities and progress to date. They are a vibrant group of people and very enthusiastic.

They confirmed that they had identified 2,171 older people across 33 temporary spontaneous settlement sites in Goma town and have prepared beneficiary lists (disaggregated by gender and age). They are ready to distribute Non Food Items.

We have arranged to visit some of the temporary settlements with some of APIBA's animateurs/ animatrices tomorrow morning so that we can plan with how the distributions can be done as quickly and effectively as possible.

Having now been introduced to one of our partners, it was time to whizz round some UN and international agencies in the coming days. First of all we dropped by the OCHA office on a courtesy visit to introduce ourselves and gather basic information.

We made an appointment to meet the Head of Office and we picked up the cluster meeting schedule, the cluster lead contact and information sheet, the NGO directory (like a telephone book) and several OCHA maps of N Kivu on soft copy.

Office "under construction"

Later in the afternoon we called in to our new office which is being prepared. Marbey secured a lease on a suitable building at a reasonable price, the ground floor of which will be our office and the first floor will be accommodation (as it will be a small team and we want to save costs at this stage). HelpAge DRC is literally "under construction"!

We bumped into our landlord, Augustin who is supervising builders and electricians all making alterations and the work is progressing well. We can use one room as an office with an internet connection at the moment but the work will take a few more days before we can move in proper (and it is a tad noisy with all the drilling and hammering!).

Our office is situated round the corner from the Merlin office and Merlin base 4, and not far from SCF and we have some interesting neighbours across the street - the FARDC.

Returning back to the Caritas Hotel, Marbey and I sat by the lake, reviewed the day's activities, started writing reports and made plans for the following day while the sun sank into a rosy glow beyond the horizon. What a view! Congo, a beautiful paradox.

Read more about HelpAge's work in DR Congo.

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Sarah Packwood
Country: England
Job title: Emergency Programme Coordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.