Why this isn’t “just a job”: An amazing story from Ivory Coast

Red Cross MessageThere are moments in this line of work that you just can’t find anywhere else and that fill you with such a joy and a sense of accomplishment that you never want to do anything else. This is such a story:

My current work involves taking the details and photos of children who have fled to Liberia from the Ivory Coast and who have lost touch with their parents during the flight. Using the information we get from the children, my colleagues in Ivory Coast then try to find the parents. Sometimes the information we collect from the children is very detailed, but very often it is quite meager, particularly when the children are small, so finding  the parents can be very difficult.

Therefore, every time you manage to tell a child that we have found his or her parents and that they are alive and well, it is a special moment. But I cannot even imagine how my colleague in Ivory Coast felt, when she recently arrived in a small village with the file and the photo we had prepared for her:

As soon as she showed the photo of this boy to people in the village, they got extremely excited and immediately went to fetch the father and aunt. And when they saw the photo, they cried out – first in shock and then in joy. The father almost fainted and the aunt actually fell into some kind of trance and then stayed unconscious for a while – something that must have absolutely terrified my colleague (first aid training notwithstanding) since she still didn’t know what was going on and why people were reacting so strongly!

Once things had calmed down, she learned that everyone in the village had been certain that the boy had died; in fact they had been so convinced that the father had already organized the funeral – and here we come, showing him a photo of his son, alive and well, together with a short, handwritten letter. Can you imagine what that must be like? Can you imagine what it would be like if that was your child or your parents? I would probably have fainted, too.

In the coming week we will now be able to tell the boy the happy news and then hopefully bring him back to his parents very soon.

Never mind the frustrations, the hardship and the long hours: there is no other kind of work where you can have moments like these.

  • Hilary Chambers

    Just this one story makes it all seem worthwhile. Keep up the good work.