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Catherine’s eye-opening trip to bring aid to Africa

14:11 24 July 2012

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Maternity staff

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A remote corner of a violent African country rated dangerous by the Foreign Office doesn’t sound like an ideal place to work.

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However, for Catherine Ainsworth of the International Medical Corps (IMC) in Goswell Road, Finsbury, her mission to the Central African Republic (CAR) was the trip of a lifetime.

The IMC is an organisation that specialises in aid for crisis-hit countries such as Chad, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Catherine, 26, a programme assistant at IMC, jetted out to CAR to see how aid workers were helping to bring basic health care to poverty-stricken locals in the north of the country.

She said: “It’s one of the ten poorest countries in Africa and the Foreign Office advise against travelling there, so I was quite nervous before I went – not as nervous as my mum though.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, but CAR is a country that really needs help from the international community and there are so many health problems in that area.

“Our staff are working alongside the local people in an area called Tiringolou, and I went over to see how they were getting on.”

First stop on the trip was Bangui, the chaotic capital of CAR.

“Even that was a bit of a shock, for example, women aren’t meant to walk around on their own after dark,” said Catherine.

“But once you leave Bangui things really change. There are a lot of active rebel groups around and the government say they can’t guarantee your safety in the countryside.

“Getting to Tiringolou by road is very hard in the wet season so we had to go by plane. It was the smallest plane I had ever seen, with propellers, so it was quite a scary ride. But looking down at the forest from that height was amazing.

“We landed on a dusty red road they use as a runway and then headed to the medical centre.”

IMC staff and the Tiringolou medics are working together to provide primary health care in a project part-funded by the European Commission. Catherine went over to make sure the cash was being spent well.

“The people made a such big impression on me,” said Catherine.

“They were so welcoming and passionate and positive about the work they do under very difficult conditions.”

“They are doing such a good job – it really struck me. And they were seemed really happy to see us.

“While I was there a little baby had been born and they named her Catherine after me as they saw our visit as a blessing.

‘‘I was so touched. It was an incredible experience.”

n The IMC is a registered charity and is keen for sponsorship from Islington businesses. To get involved, call 020 7017 3161.

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