I’ve been thinking about the notion of having to start over in life. After some personal tragedy, or a dramatic fork in the road, you find yourself searching for a new path, new meaning, a new method of survival.
Today I met a woman named Esperanza. She is a nurse with International Medical Corps at a displacement camp called Bulengo, outside the town of Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Throughout the morning, Esperanza showed me around the IMC clinic that delivers primary health care and nutrition services to a population of about 27,000, advising me on how many patients she was treating and what sorts of maladies they were experiencing.
At one point I gathered a group outside the clinic to find out how they came to Bulengo. I asked how many of them had lost a loved one in the violence that has plagued this northern axe of DRC. Esperanza called out, “mon mari” – my husband. Only then did I learn that Esperanza doesn’t just work in Bulengo Camp; she also lives there. In fact, she began working for IMC after receiving care from IMC.
Four years ago, Esperanza was living north of here - in an area called Massisi that has been decimated by fighting between rebel and government forces - when her husband was killed. In late 2007, as the conflict intensified, she and her three very young children fled to Bulengo. Six months later, she was working again as a nurse.
Esperanza tells me she is grateful for the chance to use her skills, and proud to be serving her own neighbors.
Her journey – in terms of geography and profession - took me just a few paragraphs to describe, but to her it has no doubt been a painful, circuitous and lengthy one, filled with fear and doubt.
Esperanza found herself dumped upside down into the rushing water, yet succeeded in finding her way to the top again. She managed not just to survive but to keep her children safe and find a new way to care for them.
With one million people displaced in and around Goma due to the latest violence, she is one of so many who are starting over, trying to write new and better chapters to their lives.