Volunteer Recognition Day: Reflecting from Afar
Sarah Rubino is a nurse midwife and CMMB volunteer. Sarah served in Nzara, South Sudan twice, alongside her husband, Martin. Today, on Volunteer Recognition Day, we share a reflection from Sarah on COVID-19, the women she served in South Sudan, and her desire to return once again to deliver babies in this remote, impoverished community.
It is a bittersweet time for my husband and I as we await the arrival of our second child. COVID-19 affected our growing family in ways we least expected. Had it not been for the global pandemic, my husband Martin, son Max, and I would be returning from our third volunteer trip to Nzara, South Sudan.
It has now been over a year since we saw our friends in Nzara, a village we consider our second home. I have been blessed to watch many of the children in Nzara grow up, starting from being present at their first breath. I consider the women and midwives there like sisters to me, as we shared our experience as mothers together. But all of that came to a screeching halt as COVID-19 hit our world.
As this little baby grows inside of me, I am constantly reminded of all the mothers that I feel I have left behind in Nzara. Although my husband and I had to change our plans slightly for the birth of our second child, COVID-19 largely had left us unaffected, whereas mothers in Nzara are left in more dangerous situations for them to give birth.
As we are able to talk briefly online with our friends in Nzara, we are struck with the realization that COVID-19 has impacted the community in largely the same way as other deadly diseases. Children are still dying from starvation, complications of malaria, etc. and COVID-19 has placed another burden on the village, not just because of the disease itself, but because of how it has affected nearly every corner of our world. Supplies are much harder to get across closed borders and checkpoints. Staff have become increasingly overworked due to the lack of back-up from other countries because of restricted travel. Now more than ever mothers in South Sudan need our support, yet I feel utterly helpless at times because I am unable to go and support my fellow midwives through volunteering.
No matter how strong a desire may be, sometimes things are completely out of our control. That is what I keep saying to myself if I get caught up in the wave of feeling hopeless. And in many ways, this experience has given me a deeper understanding of how families live day to day in Nzara.
For them, most aspects of their lives are completely out of their control. Whether it be from war, unstable government, lack of resources, or disease, the people of Nzara face extreme hardships and are confronted with the fragility of life everyday.
“Whether it be from war, unstable government, lack of resources, or disease, the people of Nzara face extreme hardships and are confronted with the fragility of life everyday.” – Sarah Rubino, volunteer nurse midwife
Although the changes in the Western world we have experienced due to COVID are far from ideal, it impresses me how we all have adapted in creative ways to combat these challenges of extreme poverty in South Sudan and other parts of the world. CMMB has been able to set up remote volunteer education programs to support staff and build capacity in areas where we are still unable to travel. Virtually speaking to college students, we have been able to continue connecting with future medical and humanitarian persons willing to further advance CMMB’s mission.
This last year has been far from what we all expected or envisioned it to be. As we offer up our sufferings and let go of the anxiety of holding onto things that are out of our control, let us all continue to work hard with what we have and be willing to do all that we are able.