DRC: The beginning
HelpAge works in emergency situations all over the world to ensure older people's needs and contributions are met by humanitarian response.
As HelpAge's Emergencies Programme Coordinator, I travelled out to Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the development of our response and rehabilitation programme following the recent conflict in North Kivu province.
This is a completely honest blog with my observations, thoughts and feelings so that readers can get an idea of what it is like to land here and try to become established here as a new NGO, what the challenges and opportunities are etc.
When does a field blog actually start? At the airport? on the plane? in the immigration queue at the final destination? or when an aidworker ventures out into the unknown in said final destination hurtling towards culture shock of epic proportions in the midst of a humanitarian crisis?
And what style should a field diary be written in? A Greek Tragedy? No, I think not.
Perhaps Bridget Jones then....
Name: Sarah Packwood
Profession: Humanitarian aid worker
Weight: No I'm not revealing that
Glasses of wine: None (not a sausage, not even on the plane)
Cigarettes: None (I don't smoke....well, only passively)
New Year's resolutions: Not to make any
Packed and ready once again to clock up more air miles, I thought to myself "I might as well move into Heathrow" having ventured out of every terminal on more than one occasion since taking up my job with HelpAge just over two years ago.
It is startling to think that the standard airport departure lounge is more familiar than my own lounge at home. I sat, fidgeting, with one eye on the clock, another on the departure board whilst thinking about my forthcoming trip to DRC with some trepidation.
Congo. The Democratic Republic of...Words and images flashed into my mind, not least Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". Exotic. Vibrant. Troubled. Fearful and fearless. Dangerous. With those random and rather unhelpful thoughts, I embarked and a few hours later touched down in Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi on my way to Goma in the DRC.
Read more about HelpAge's work in DR Congo.