The hard work of the JRS in Darfur

Below is the testimony of Leslie Cumming, Darfur JRS Project Director, who tells us the daily difficulties they have to face.

"Many people have said that great achievements only come from hard work.  Here in Darfur, I would amend that saying to 'all achievements, whether great or small, come from very hard work', hard work done in 40-degree heat, with minimal water, little understanding of the language and very few comforts.  However when all that toil is put aside, it is amazing to see JRS work in action.

Towards the end of May, for a week and a half, I was blessed to be one of JRS staff reviewing the project here in North Darfur.  We met with the local community leaders, beneficiaries (young and old), teachers, and many other people involved in our work.  This period of review was my most rewarding time yet since starting with JRS this past February. To see, in spite of all the difficulties and problems JRS Darfur has had to face, that the women and children are genuinely happy to be part of our programmes is honestly encouraging and it is this encouragement that keeps me going against the odds.

So what are the odds in Darfur?  Well, they are not exactly what you hear on the International News.  When people think about the difficulties of working in Darfur, they might be thinking of all out warfare and evil bandits on horseback.  This is hardly the reality.  Although insecurity is always high up on the list of issues, it is the smaller, daily concerns that wear the worker down.  It is the 40-degree plus weather.  It is the 9.30 pm curfew.  It is the inability to walk a short distance to the market.  All of these things added to the lack of nearly all normal stress management techniques (i.e. exercise, social gatherings, T.V) mean that the average aid worker is continually pushing himself or herself to the limit. 

Regardless, we march on.  We do this because we see the small achievements; the women who are now learning to read and write, the children who are no longer wandering in the camps, and the teachers who are taking pride in their work.  Most of all, we do it because we are now part of the community we helped start to build.  Like the women in our class who talk of the camaraderie they have gained, we too now feel like part of the JRS Mellit family.  The work here is certainly a challenge, yet each of our international and national staff has accepted that teat.  They work hard and deserve a world of thanks.

As hard as it is to live and work in Darfur, it is worth the effort.  I have learnt a lot both professionally and personally in a few short months.  Working here in Darfur is a blessing, albeit a little difficult to always remember this fact".