Central African Republic – Part 1
The idea started as a pipe dream, and within in a matter of a weeks, it accelerated into a full blown reality.
Once the decision was made to choose War Child as our target charity, we agreed that visiting one of their projects would provide an invaluable experience for the both of us. As such, we have gratefully accepted the opportunity to visit a project in Central African Republic, in the capital Bangui – ‘Supporting children living on the streets of Bangui’.
The trip is completely self funded, but there is no way it would be possible without the help of the amazing staff at War Child, and in particular, Elisabeth, Amanda and Sara. They have all been fantastic and we can’t thank you enough for the fantastic support you guys have given us so far. Thank you.
We were initially told that it would be doubtful that we could go for a number of reasons:
- No UK member of the War Child team has ever been to the project
- The country is in a serious state of unrest
- War Child fundraisers do not usually go and visit projects; in fact, I think we are only the second to have been given the opportunity
- The list goes on….
So, you can imagine our surprise when we got told that we could actually go, and should start booking tickets, getting injections and cutting through as much red tape as possible. It was hard for us to mask our fear as excitement, well, it was for me anyway, Tom was/is as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.
As the days have gone by, and we have further researched the country, the politics and the people, my initial fear turned into genuine excitement about the amazing opportunity we have been presented with. We are both fully aware of the fact that we will see some incomprehensible scenes, and although that isn’t something that fills us with joy, we can’t wait to see the difference that War Child makes to so many people, who are in genuine need.
CAR is a forgotten place. The statistics* are utterly shocking and make you feel sick when you hear them.
- Population – 4.4 million
- One medical doctor per 6,888 children
- Two thirds of the population live on less than $1.25 a day
- Out of 1,000 children born in the country, 112 will die before reaching their first birthday and 171 out of 1,000 before reaching the age of five.
- Life expectancy – 44
The list goes on and it stays just as shocking. Things like this should not be happening, not to anyone, let alone innocent children. What makes it even worse, is the fact that nobody has ever heard of CAR, never mind the horrific situation the people have to face there, day in, day out! It’s a pretty big place and it’s hard to comprehend people’s lack of awareness of it (myself included).
On the 2nd Feb 2012, we are going to CAR to experience first hand the work that your donations will support. We’ll be there until the 12th Feb, documenting our entire journey and presenting it to you in a digestible format. Hopefully, we can raise the profile of War Child in general and, more specifically, give the people in CAR a slightly louder voice.
The process of getting to CAR is anything but smooth. In fact, we were just at the French Embassy for a meeting which will determine if we are allowed to apply for our Visas. Prior to this we had to collate a huge amount of documents, such as proof of earnings, proof of accommodation, FLIGHT BOOKINGS (that’s right, we had to book our flights prior to getting our Visas), yellow fever certificate, and much much more!
Although the list of required documents is extensive, once you have them all together the process of applying for the visas should be a relatively simple one. However, in classic Tom and Phil style, it was never going to go smoothly.
We booked our meeting with the embassy for 8.30am on Friday. On Thursday we had an all day meeting with War Child, preceded by one or two ales afterwards (the training is going really well!). Therefore, it’s quite easy to understand why, on Friday morning, neither of our brains were operating at 100% efficiency. This, coupled with the fact that Tom is in the top 1% of people who can’t remember a thing, meant that something was bound to go wrong:
7.00am – Alarm goes off
7.40am – Tom get’s up and moans about the cold shower
7.45am Phil get’s in said shower and doesn’t tell Tom he worked out how to make it hot
7.51am “Tom, you know the essential passport photos we need for our visa applications, did you get yours printed?” Said Phil, with a ‘there’s no way he would have forgotten that’ look upon his face
7.52am Silence. Tom just stands there looking disappointed in himself
7.53am “Tom, don’t worry about the pictures. You did remember to do two photocopies of all of the documents, didn’t you!?” mutters Phil, knowing already what the answer will be!
8.00am Hurriedly walk out the door of a friend’s house without saying bye
8.05am Stop in newsagents to get photocopies (2No) of all the documents
8.27am Arrive outside embassy in plenty of time. Laughing about the trials and tribulations of visa applications
8.28am “Haha, at least I have got my passport, hey Phil” Tom said joyfully at first, tailing off into realisation and panic toward the end, frantically tapping himself down
8.43am A sweaty Tom arrives back at the embassy, having run to the newsagent and collected his passport from the aforementioned photocopier
9.00am Meeting starts and we are instantly relieved when we find out Tom can drop his photos off later in the day
9.15am Application complete, we can apply and will probably get granted visas for our stay. JOY
9.16am Joy soon turns to that sinking feeling. The visa turn around time can take up to 15 days; our flights (yes, the ones we’ve paid for) are in 9 working days
9.30am Sit down for a greasy fry up and an Iron Bru. We decide that what’s meant to be will be, and if we don’t get them, I’ll blame Tom
As you can see, it was an eventful morning, and not a particularly joyous one for either of us (particularly Tom), but hopefully it’ll all be worth it in the long run! We are now in limbo waiting to get our passports stamped, and, if all goes according to plan, there will be a Central African Republic – Part 2 coming out very soon.
Thanks for reading.
*statistics sourced from UNICEF