I’ve been working in Mozambique with Hluvuku-Adsema for the past 3 months now and I’m not even close to adapted. I must have visited more than 100 clients so far, and sometimes it is still quite hard to face reality. As a professional in the field I’m supposed to leave my emotions aside, right? Why is it so hard? Am I a bad “field employee” because I feel or am I just hurting myself?
I remember when my brother started to operate while in Medical University. My aunt, a doctor herself, told him the hardest part of being a doctor was to put the feelings aside and not suffer for all the patients’ lives my brother would loose in his career. I remember the first time my brother lost a patient. He went to my parents’ house devastated, and wouldn’t even talk. Four or five years have passed since my brother became a surgeon. I’ve listened to him talking about a few patients he has lost, but never emotional. Does this mean he doesn’t feel anymore, that he adapted? Or that he is just pretending he doesn’t feel anything?
Last Thursday I’ve visited 16 clients (Kiva and non-Kiva clients) and when I arrived home at night I was completed exhausted; emotionally devastated. I had seen so much poverty, so many problems, so many kids in horrible situations, diseases, hunger, lack of a proper home to live. A strong storm hit the region the previous night, and many people that had plastic roofing had just lost their home with everything inside. Many clients lost their stand and their place to sell their products, but they weren’t as scared as I was. They were sad, but behaving as “we lost it all one more time”, which for me was even more hard to take it.
I come from a developing country. I have already volunteered in slums in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I’ve seen poverty and many children begging in the streets. Why am I still not used to it? Why do I still feel so much? I would like to work with economic development as a profession. Does that mean I will never be good enough for it? I will never adapt? Or am I just in my first “field year”, just like a first med school year?
Yesterday I walked through the capital city Maputo the whole day, just thinking and trying to understand the reality I am facing. With my sad spirit came my furiousness. If I already wanted to help the poorest reach the ladder of development, now I will.
Jeffrey Sachs said in one of his books that you can’t study, understand, and advise a country in it’s economic development path without going into the field, without clinically diagnosing what is the country’s “disease” so that you can find the best “remedy”. I agree. A field experience changes one’s looks and comprehension of the world. It does put life into perspective.