The hours spent in the car, bouncing around on bumpy roads are one of the only chances that UNICEF colleagues in Central African Republic have to talk to each other – away from the daily stress of working in a Level 3 humanitarian emergency.
Last week, I went on an assessment trip to Sibut – a town about three hours from the capital city of Bangui. But instead of focusing on what happened when we got to Sibut, I want to tell you about some of the colleagues with whom I shared the trip.
Today is World Humanitarian Day – one of the only chances we have to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe and focus on those people who risk adversity and danger to serve others. Let me tell you about some of the UNICEF team members in Central African Republic.
Bob McCarthy, Chief of Emergencies
Bob McCarthy landed in Central African Republic four days after the coup d’état in March last year. He was one of four international UNICEF staff who stayed in the country, when non-essential staff were evacuated to Cameroon. An emergencies chief, who has worked for UNICEF for nearly a quarter of a century, he has been on the frontline of humanitarian response in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan. “You absolutely have to be an optimist in this work. There is no place for pessimists.”
Gilberte Amari, Education Specialist
As a child living in a village in West Africa, Gilberte Amari knew that education was “the only door open to get out of poverty. I studied hard and my parents suffered to send me to school”. Gilberte became a teacher and then later an education specialist with UNICEF.
She has had to sacrifice time away from her five children, aged 6 to 23 years old, to work in CAR– a non-family duty station. “I talk to my children every morning, every day at midday and every night,” she said. Her commitment to helping re-build the education system in Central African Republic is linked to her belief that education can transform lives. “It is not what you are today that defines you, but it’s what you want to be and your capacity to become more”.
Before moving to Central African Republic, Orohi Yoro was at the frontline of humanitarian response in his home country Cote D’Ivoire. Working after the crisis there in 2010-2011, he was held up at gunpoint, and witnessed awful acts of violence perpetrated in the deep jungle. He says that through it all he was sustained by his passion for upholding the rights of children, including the release of children from armed groups.
There are more than 150 UNICEF staff working right now in Central African Republic. They all have their own stories about what inspires them, and what they have had to sacrifice in order to work in the middle of a violent crisis, where they risk their own safety to help others.
The one thing they have in common is a commitment to promote the rights of every child, everywhere, in everything they do.
Madeleine is a Communication Specialist with UNICEF Central African Republic.