Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Finishing up

I've been bad again. Sorry. I still have to put up some reflections on the three weeks I spent in Bombali district, which while it was easier for living, was just as challenging work wise as Kumala was. I'll get around to that at some point.

I'm leaving Sierra Leone tomorrow morning. I was supposed to be hanging out on a little island off Freetown this week, but a decision was made that I shouldn't go as I had malaria last week (it was really awful, but I'm fine now) and there were concerns I'd get sick again. I remain fit as a fiddle and annoyed that I'm not on an island, but ah well. I'm going to the UK to take my leave there (since I've not taken a day of leave in 3 months!) before heading home, so that will be nice too.

So I'm trying to reflect back on this response, which has been so unlike anything I've done before for any number of reasons. The work was challenging. As a first time programme manager, particularly as the roving programme manager, I was expected to quickly take over an office, understand what the teams were doing, sort out any problems, represent the programme externally, and all sorts of other things, without knowing all of the ins and outs the normal PM would know. So that was challenging to say the least - the learning curve was incredibly steep, but very interesting as well.

Living in Kumala was difficult. I look back on it fondly now, but at the time the heat, the food, the noise, the mice, the long hours 7 days a week, the stress, all added up to a very tough time for me. And perhaps the hardest part of this response is that you can't just get hug when you've had a tough day - the no touch policy remains in place.

On the up side, I've really learnt a lot: about management, about myself, about ebola. And also on the upside, I was reunited with so many old friends here, which was absolutely wonderful.

We're still not at 0 cases in Sierra Leone - I had really thought when I got here that I'd be here to see that milestone reached, but unfortunately there are still some sporadic cases popping up. Ebola has ravaged this country, and it will take a long time to recover from it. I've enjoyed so much working with my Sierra Leonean colleagues, all so determined to play their part in ending ebola, as well as speaking with people in communities affected by ebola, whose strength and resilience have been really inspiring.

I can't wait to come back to Salone a few years from now, and experience it for the vibrant, musical, wonderful country I'm sure it was, and will be again.