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Paul Wamai: "Saving just one life, means a lot "

Paul urges others to follow his footsteps into humanitarian work, saying that MSF has exposed him to new cultures, great experiences and has been incredibly rewarding.

When Paul Wamai Maina was at a young age, living in an isolated area right in the heart of Aberdare, he had a dream of one day becoming a doctor to serve people like those living in his community who had limited resources.

"The roads were terrible, and I used to hear stories of people dying while being taken to hospital because it had rained and the journey took too long, or others who had died whilst giving birth because they could not reach the hospital in time. I wanted to be a doctor so that I could help," Paul says.

Unfortunately, Paul´s education was interrupted, and he could not attend medical school, but he had a chance to go to a nursing school where he pursued Community Health Nursing. He has been a health professional since 1986, and started doing humanitarian work 15 years ago. For the past decade he has been a field coordinator, a role that involves managing a humanitarian project.

My first mission with MSF was an eye opener, it set a strong base for my humanitarian work. It was at a very remote place in South Sudan during the war, before independence. The risk we took to reach isolated communities and the satisfaction it gave me, reminded me of my original dream, how I had always wanted to help people in such situations.

Paul has since been on missions to Turkey, Ethiopia and Nigeria, where he was stuck for nine months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of his most memorable missions was in South Sudan, where he oversaw a project helping to rehabilitate former child soldiers by providing psychological support.

"I saw these innocent children who had been taken away from their parents and had been exposed to some of the worst imaginable things. Some had even been forced to kill people. They had become afraid even of going back to their communities. Some of their former commanders still wanted access to them, even after they were in a rehabilitation programme," explains Paul.

For Paul it was a sad mission but it was encouraging to be able to help children who so clearly needed support.

Seeing the children slowly get their life back, making the transition from a child soldier to a normal person who could contribute positively to their community was so fulfilling. I would love to see that impact over and over. 

Paul urges others to follow his footsteps into humanitarian work, saying that MSF has exposed him to new cultures, great experiences and has been incredibly rewarding.

"Everything that you do, you see the impact. Imagine seeing a mother deliver safely in an environment that she would not otherwise have had access to. The greatest reward is the feeling of fulfilment from being there for people, rather than when your work is recognized or mentioned. The real reward is that people needed you and you were there for them, even saving just one life, means such a lot. "

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