I’m here to serve. I put every last child first despite hard times.

Monday 19 August 2019

Abyei, South Sudan - There is an excitement around “firsts” that to me, borders on hysteria. Parents in particular wait, watch and use all kinds of technology to capture their child’s “firsts” – their baby’s first word, first smile, first steps, first day in school….

Most firsts relate to something positive, but are they all? Sometimes, it can be our first fall that helps us to learn - which bring me to a recent experience as part of my work with Save the Children in South Sudan.

Rozita D’souza, at a stretch of murky water/Save the Children

It was a Wednesday morning in the village of Agok. After a long spell of rain, five days of sunshine gave us a glimpse of hope that we might be able to finally make the water-logged journey between Agok and the town of Abyei. A lot was dependent on the journey; the delivery of supplies, the holding of meetings, a critical supervisory visit.  For me, the Field Manager, the trip was way overdue.

We packed our group of eight into the car with a load of supplies and set out, strong tyres in place. A few bobbing hours on the road, the quality of which is hard to describe, and we come to a halt at a stretch of murky water.

We were not the only ones hesitant of braving the water - there were vehicles with bigger and better tyres ahead who had also stalled, uncertain how to proceed. I got out of the car, with my hands akimbo, looked around, and resolved to do this. I pride myself on always being prepared, so got my ‘four-times-my-foot-size’ gumboots out of the car. I then found two colleagues also prepared to waddle through the waters with me,. I am proud to say they were my women colleagues, ever fearless and ready to go the extra mile.

We slipped into our boots and stepped into the water – literally, on the frontline. My female colleague headed out first, one step forward, then the second, then a wobble…. and another wobble… and then, some shrieks. I decided to take charge and got to the front, then put one foot in, two, three, four, again…wobble, wobble. This all seems possible, I thought.

Halfway through, my colleague saw some apparently firmer ground that could make for easier walking.  Since a team is not a team without member contributions, I accepted her suggestion and promptly acted on her ‘good’ advice. One foot on, second foot, wobble wobble…and the rest was a sticky story! The old man at the end of the road had a good laugh at my wet, muddy figure, saying ‘how come an old man like me did not fall….!’

Eventually we made it to the end of the road, and with some pushing and pulling, got the car and our supplies through to the team in Abyei. That day, we were once again able to meet our commitment of reaching every last child, and once again I was proud to be part of a team who – literally – is prepared to get their hands dirty to help children in need.

Back to the firsts; there is a frenzy for firsts, and a high around them, but sometimes our firsts are not always what we expect.  Some of our firsts will be falls – like my first time wading through mud in a tiny village in South Sudan. The important part is how we get back up and keep going, which to me is the essence of being a humanitarian.


By Rozita D’souza. Additional text by Tito Justin/Save the Children