“Every day feels like a week, and every day my heart grows wider.” — Mozambique Update
Social Worker & IsraAID Protection Specialist Sivan Ayash in Mozambique explains what she can’t stop thinking about. I always dreamed of a career that will help me grow — something that brings a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I suppose that’s everyone’s dream. Something that matters. In the last few years, I’ve woken up every morning with no need for an alarm clock and the hours go by fast, every day. For me, my work is more than a career or a typical job — it is a destiny, a way of life. I chose to be a social worker.
When I saw that IsraAID was looking for social workers to volunteer for a mission in Mozambique following the horrific cyclone that brought destruction to this southeast African country, I knew I wanted to be there. And now here I am in Beira, where Cyclone Idai made landfall, and I would like to share some of my experiences.
Traveling took us 24 hours and three flights. As soon as we arrived, we started mapping the needs of the community. The first step was to connect to the local ministries of education and health.
My first training was with 30 representatives of the health department: psychologists, psychiatrists, public servants, and community volunteers from Beira.
We talked about mental strength, trauma and its characteristics. We discussed the many needs that arise when you meet people who are left with nothing, and how to be accessible to them in best way.
They shared openly the difficulties they have found with meeting people who have lost so much face-to-face. These communities haven’t just lost physical possessions, but their sense of security. Many lost loved ones and no one prepared them for dealing with feelings of uncertainty and lack of control.
In the past few days I have met strong and passionate people who understand that a lot is required in order to help their community, and who want to develop the tools they need to do it. At the same time, these courageous individuals are dealing with their own tough experiences from the day the cyclone hit to now.
Hundreds of people from international organizations have come here as part of the response to Cyclone Idai. One of the things I can’t stop thinking about comes back to the nature of what we’re doing. The questions are huge: “Does our job add value or worsen the situation? What are we bringing to the people here and what will we leave behind?”
As guests here, no matter how “good” our intentions, we have to act with responsibility, humility and in cooperation with local communities.
That is what I feel every day, no matter how long and tiring.
One of the participants in the training I gave summed it up, saying: “I see how much money the international organizations bring here. That is not what we need. I believe that no money or material help would have given me the tools I developed in this training. I am looking forward to going back to help everywhere I can.”
The most precious things we are trying to leave in the hands of the people we’re working with are tools and knowledge. I couldn’t help but feel proud to hear what he had to say.
The days are extremely busy, but exciting. Every day feels like a week, and every day my heart grows wider.
Before I end this journey, I can say for myself that the fear and excitement that I had before I arrived has been replaced by determination — and hope.
— Sivan Ayash, IsraAID Emergency Response Team Protection Specialist in Mozambique