Medair UK 30th Anniversary Celebration
Medair supporters gathered to celebrate a fantastic milestone for the charity on 27th of November, 2019. 30 years of bringing life-changing assistance and hope to some of the most remote and vulnerable communities on the planet.
At a 30th anniversary event at Ascension Church Balham in south London, guests were invited to walk through three decades of history with testimonies by former Medair field staff, a photo exhibition featuring images of the charity’s work, and a display of awards won by the charity.
Neil Casey, Director of Medair UK and host for the evening, reflected on the impact Medair’s emergency and humanitarian assistance had had on him.
“One of the things that has struck me is it’s not just about providing somebody who needs shelter with shelter, or somebody who needs clean water with clean water, or someone who’s desperately in need of medical assistance with medical assistance. It’s so much more,” he said.
“It’s spending time with people who are vulnerable, treating them with dignity, coming alongside them in hopeless situations and providing them with hope.
“That’s what marks Medair out from many other humanitarian organisations, and what it does is inspiring.”
The fascinating stories told by four former Medair field staff who between them had worked in 10 countries and throughout each of Medair’s three decades were a highlight of the evening.
Joshua Rey told of his time with Medair rebuilding homes in Afghanistan in 1996 – a time when refugees were returning home, photos were taken on 36mm slides and contact with the rest of the world came via a sat-phone once a day.
“There is nothing like going to have a cup of tea with a guy who’s rebuilt his home with a bit of help from Medair,” he said.
Fiona Daborn read extracts from diaries written while on post with Medair in Uganda and Angola in 2006 and 2009.
Saturday 10 June 2006 was a particularly eventful day, she recalled, when an emergency caesarean operation took place in the Medair office.
“Because our office was the only place with electricity, they donned white gloves, sterilised everything and went to work,” she said.
“Fortunately for me, my desk wasn’t within sight of the operating table, so I was spared the gory details.
“I did my bit by providing hot water and a mop.
“Both mother and baby survived.”
A second memorable day involved the rebuilding of a health post, which ground to a halt when a truck transporting bricks broke down.
An ox-cart was found, and the Medair team were told, “The cows are eating now but they could come this afternoon”. Finally, by ox power, the bricks made it to their destination.
“We journeyed home in the ox-cart, and the final sounds of the day were squeals of excitement from local children at seeing two foreign women in an ox-cart,” she said.
John Knight’s memorable times with Medair included posts in Uganda, Darfur and South Sudan.
As the Lord Resistance Army crisis in central Uganda grabbed charity and donor attention in 2006, he worked on water projects during a “forgotten crisis” in the remote north-eastern region of Karamoja – a chronically under-developed area known for its insecurity, cattle raiding and guns.
“I really liked this aspect of Medair – it is willing to go to the places that are off the radar and marginalised or forgotten about,” he said.
Other projects included supplying water to a refugee camp housing 40,000 people in South Sudan, including the laying of 18.5km of pipe by hand.
Most recently, Megan Howe recounted serving in the Middle East from 2014 to 2015.
“My job gave me the opportunity to see people at their best and their worst,” she said.
“I remember a guy sitting on the floor of his tent. He had a gangrenous foot, he’d just left Syria and was struggling to survive.
“I remember this beautiful family on the Jordanian/Syrian border who spread this amazing meal for us just to show their gratitude for what Medair had done.”
She also told of incredible staff she had worked with, including a man who had been part of Medair’s emergency response team in Iraq in 2014 and had fled his home town in Sinjar just weeks earlier.
“He had spent years saving for and building his family’s dream home, and in moments, an attack obliterated his house, his livelihood, his village, and many of the people he knew.
“He escaped with 22 members of his family all piled in a small, American-style pick-up truck watching the planes in the rear-view mirror.
“He told me his story one evening as we were sitting around the fire and said I was the first person he’d shared it with.
“I feel so thankful that I was able to play a small part in the Middle East refugee crisis.”
Joshua Rey probably spoke for all four field workers – and for all the dedicated supporters at the event – when he summed up why he valued his involvement with Medair.
“We went to people who were hardest to reach, most in need, trusting in God.
“I could go with Medair to where God needed people to help people.”