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Relief work is full of surprises. The mix of cultural backgrounds, living environments, and types of work means unexpected challenges and joys are just part of the job.

We asked our international team in DR Congo what has surprised them the most about life as relief workers, and here’s what they had to say:

Pete, our Communications Officer in DR Congo, on a field visit to a remote area in Eastern DR Congo.

IT'S SO HARD TO DESCRIBE WHAT I DO

“I was surprised to find how difficult it sometimes is to explain exactly what I am doing as a relief worker. Much of my work resembles that of my peers in the business world back in my home country. However, some parts of our work remain wildly different.

For example, the stakes are high because our success is measured in the number of lives saved and improved. Personal safety becomes a daily concern and all team members must be accounted for by the end of the day. Creativity is a must to navigate the constant constraints, such as how I will deliver my reports on time despite my team’s remoteness and inconsistent electricity and internet supply.

This all makes it tough to explain my job because it spans both the relatable and the unimaginable.”

Jemimah C., 31

I NEVER THOUGHT I'D BE SO GRATEFUL FOR VOLLEYBALL

“Relief work can be a stressful job. So it’s important to find something you can do to unwind and de-stress. Thankfully, our team recognises this and organises activities such as running, board games, and team volleyball!

Not only have these opportunities been great ways to recharge after a stressful day of work, but I’ve seen these activities be able to break down social barriers, creating trust and strong bonds among colleagues from different cultures and backgrounds.”

Conner W., 26

I WORK AT A DESK MORE THAN YOU'D THINK

“I was surprised at first to spend so much time at my desk, working on my computer doing project planning and reporting. Also, as nearly every action requires justification by another member of the team and a signature of their approval, I am amazed at the amount of paperwork created and processed by the team each week. I guess that’s the cost of accountability and transparency!”

Ali, a Medair driver based in Beni, prepares logistics documents before heading to the field.

PERSEVERANCE IS PART OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION

“I was surprised to find how resilient, patient, and uncomplaining people are when faced with challenges, whether in work or life. They don’t give up easily. They manage to retain a sense of humour and ability to celebrate good times, even when circumstances are mostly difficult. This has caused me to reflect on my own reactions when things aren’t going so well.”

Jemimah C., 31

IT'S NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE ON TV

“So often the only news reports we see coming out of places like DR Congo are about conflict, displacement, and suffering. While sadly that is true of DR Congo in several regions and the reason why Medair is present, I have also been struck by the country’s natural beauty. The landscape of Nord Kivu, in particular, is marked by lush, green mountains, forests, vast skies, and several lakes! It’s in stark contrast to the footage we tend to see on TV.”

Marielle G., 52


Are you looking to get involved in relief worker or know someone who is? Check out our Work With Us section to learn more about the skills, experience, and values we look for in new and experienced relief workers.