From Port Moresby to Tari with no time to settle and so many welcoming open arms to hug you as you arrive to the site.
Tari, Hela province and centre of Huli country, in Papua New Guinea. Patients walk for days to reach the hospital supported by MSF, which is surrounded by a white barbed-wire fence, to protect the staff and patients inside. In that remote hilltop hospital, leaving the compound can be difficult due to the ongoing tribal fighting, but patients continue to receive care, nestled in the lush green mountains of deepest Papua New Guinea.
We have a nice home with 5 bedrooms, hot running water and a place to sit outside at night as it is currently uncomfortably hot to sit inside much of the time. (Apologies to all the other MSF volunteers dodging mortars in sandy deserts).
Like all the houses in our neighbourhood we have a razor-wire fence and guards, with a dog a night. So I immediately make it my priority to meet the neighbours, to walk about and to talk to the people who sit on the street. I am pleased to see wide grins and warm people where ever I go. People are pleased to know their neighbours. A smile and a handshake is well received.
I decide to buy a thermos flask for both our sets of guards (home and clinic) and to make them coffee when the nightshift starts. I am horrified when I realise one morning that I have confused the salt and sugar jars - our guards have been too polite to tell me that I have been adding 4 spoons of salt to their coffee.
At the clinic our "neighbour" is the hospital who provide the land we use for our little clinic. The clinic consists of 5 demountable buildings linked under a canopy.
I frequently shiver with horror when I see patients arrive with congealed blood and obvious injuries, aside from child labor & delivery which is like a walk in the park.. Between rushing about I'll give the waiting people water, as they always seem too meek to help themselves to the free water. Many of the people I see are also men, who are also welcome as patients in the clinic. The men might also be concerned brothers, uncles or fathers. And they might also be the perpetrators of the injuries. We welcome all and (providing they behave decently and do not carry weapons) so I always try to imagine they are the concerned brother and not the violent husband. I frequently find myself having to splash water on my face to try and clear my mind or taking a walk around the back of the clinic where it is quiet to get myself together after seeing a wailing client stagger in though our doors.
At the heart of MSF is getting medics into the most inaccessible places and to the most hard-to-reach people around the world, to deliver healthcare where it is needed most.One human from one part of the globe, placing their hand on the shoulder of another human from the opposite side of the globe, and respectfully asking, “Are you in pain? Let me help you”.