This blog post is a bit different from the others because it is not related to fashion or the fashion industry in anyway but it is every bit as inspiring. It is about my best friend Kumud Chandra who is a Humanitarian aid worker in The Central African Republic. Every day is a constant battle for those who don’t have the means to fight for themselves but she does it with a big smile on her face. I hate having her so far away but it makes me proud to see the work she is doing and that she is able to follow her true calling in life. Here is an article that talks about some aspects of her life there, I hope you find it inspiring as well.
After a Master in International Relations from Sc Po Paris, I came to Central African Republic as an intern with a French NGO for two months and a year and a half later, I’m still here working with a Danish organization (the Danish Refugee Council) as the Communication, monitoring and Evaluation manager for their CAR programme.
CAR is an ex French colony, one of the poorest countries in the world, ravished by conflict and wars for most of its independent history. It’s little known but with one of the longest running humanitarian, structural and development crises in the world. The security here is always fragile and things can often go drastically wrong in a matter of hours (for example, we’re required to ALWAYS have an evacuation bag ready so we can be evacuated at a minute’s notice).
This field of work is often perceived as a bunch of hippies talking about peace and love in Africa but it’s nothing like that! My job for instance involves a lot of advocacy for human rights violations in the country, creating awareness about the country and its crises and persuading donors to recognize the urgent needs that exist here.
The contrasts here are tremendous and never fail to hit me! I could spend the morning with a women’s saving group telling me how they deal with errant husbands using their newfound financial power, zip back in the afternoon on a dodgy thirteen seater United Nations plane (that almost caught fire the last time I was on it!), attend a security meeting in the evening and finish my day eating steak with Roquefort accompanied by an almost decent bottle of red wine!
Strange things become mundane and mundane things become rare in this line of work. Gunfire, rebel groups, evacuation, malaria attacks become quotidian and topics of drawing room conversation while things like pedicures, shopping malls, movie theatres and concerts become the chimera that we often dream of but hardly ever get to experience.
Life here is hectic, addictive, challenging, exciting, insane, dangerous. Each day is long and intense but no two days are ever the same. I love that and the daily adrenalin rush is quite addictive! I’m passionate about what I do and what my organization is trying to achieve and very often on difficult days, that’s all that keeps me going; the bigger picture and the reassurance that we’re trying to make a difference.
There are a lot of things that I’m deprived of; family, friends, regular means of entertainment like films, freedom of movement, good food but being here and being a part of what we’re trying to do is a privilege that makes it all worth it!