So long, my friend!


Today is the last day of my sabbatical. Today, if all had gone according to plan, I would have accepted another mission and would get ready for the field again. Would have sent the passports of the family to the HQ in Geneva and started feeling this so familiar mix of anticipation and excitement. I have always loved my job as a Communication Officer, and it always surprised me (I can say it now) that people would pay me to do it!

But 6 months ago, Marcel got a great job opportunity in the Philippines, so this time I would be the one following with the kids. Jobs are never secure in the humanitarian field, so a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, especially when you are looking for family postings. So here we are all in Cebu, for another 2 years!

Last week, I had a talk with the Human resources manager and he came with two offers: one position was in Yaoundé (Cameroun), in a regional delegation with offices in the 7 neighboring countries, 50% in the field, with the chance to work in French, English, Spanish, and even learn Portuguese. The other one was in Khartoum. Both family postings, both very challenging assignments.

I did not feel bad whatsoever when I declined the offers. A bit of frustration, but easily evaporated when I remembered my years in Sudan. The next move was obvious: if I were not available for the next 12 months, then I would have to resign. Fair enough.

So I did, yesterday. A few lines to end up the most fulfilling working relationship I have ever had. I mentioned it to Marcel like another fact of the day, between Leandre’s new bump and Maelle’s last tantrum. It is only this morning when I received the confirmation of my end of contract that my mood dramatically changed.

I browsed the pictures of my ICRC missions, from Sri Lanka to South Sudan, Liberia, India and Thailand, and I felt completely overwhelmed by the memories of the precious people I had had the privilege to cross path with. You would think that aid workers are the most generous people, but you have no idea of all we can learn in the field. Resilience, hope, tenacity were invented by all the people we are simply lending a hand to. My decade in the field has been my school of life, and taught me so much about gratitude, faith and love. My biggest lumps in the throat and my loudest spontaneous laughs.

I will always remember my very first mission in the remote village of Wau, South Sudan. We had to deliver a Red Cross Message to a mother separated from her son some 15 years ago. He was a teenager when he came back to a devastated and empty home, and started his journey in refugee camps.

He was now a medical doctor, happily married in Canada. He would go to church every Sunday, and meet up with people from his home country and even his hometown, sometimes. One particular day, he talked with a new comer who not only happened to come from the same village. But also who could give him news from his mother and brother.

When our little team left the office to look for the mother, I had no hope at all. 15 years, seriously!

It took us 3 days of muddy bumpy roads, rivers crossing and countless mosquito bites before we eventually reached the “village”: A few tukuls in the midst of nowhere. tukulWe talked with the head of the community, the religious leaders, anyone who could help us find our way. The more people we met, the more hopeful I became. The image of the mother came into focus. She was not only a name anymore, I could almost see her.

Eventually, we found the little earth house. And old woman in rags came to us, holding tight to the arm of a teenager. Her toothless smile was like a sunshine ray. Before I had time to introduce the team, the boy said “you are coming to tell us about my brother, right? My mother has always said that one day, people from the Red Cross will tell us where he is now”.

I read the message, showed the pictures attached, and could not get my eyes out of the old lady. She was not excited or emotional, as I would have expected. She was simply content, happy, reassured.

A couple of months later, I had the chance to meet with the famous Canadian doctor. He had taken a six-month sabbatical to set up a clinic in his little hometown.

So long ol’ Henry !

I feel very sad to officially leave the Red Cross family, but so thankful for the chance I had to contribute, at my little level, to help the good work forward.

new beginningAnd I ‘ll keep on doing it in my own sphere and within my limitations, without the Badge.

Tomorrow is another day, just need to sleep on this one. Close this one chapter, take all the good lessons and nice memories, and use them to write the next. Every end is a new beginning.


27 thoughts on “So long, my friend!

  1. You’ve done some amazing work in the field, mon amie. And yes, it’s only the end of a chapter, not the closing of a book. You’ve got plenty more work ahead of you, with Maelle and Leandre! And after two more years in Cebu? Who knows!

    1. Merci beaucoup Wendy pour ton email si chaleureux 🙂 I actually realized that when I joined the ICRC, I was single, eager to see the world, no string attached so I could totally devote to the job. Priorities have changed, my little Attila are definitely coming before anything else and I would certainly not accept to be assigned to most remote office of South Sudan with the same enthusiasm now… So glad I lived it, time for the other chapters 🙂 Have a very sweet week end, and thanks again for your positive and inspiring words!

  2. Ma belle Steph! Je comprends tellement ton sentiment et l’impression de devoir faire ce deuil de revivre ces magnifiques moments!
    Peut-être faut-il seulement être reconnaissantes de les avoir vécus, afin de pouvoir en retrouver, sous de nouvelles formes, peut-être plus subtiles certes, mais toujours présents, si nous gardons l’oeil alerte!
    Je partage avec toi ce conte qui m’a fait pensé que nous pouvons retrouver l’esprit de ces missions, où que nous sommes…

    A méditer! Peut-être que la séparation sera alors moins douloureuse! 🙂
    Gros becs mon amie!

    1. Merci ma Caro! quelle belle histoire, je la garde precieusement! j’ai mes tresors bien dans le coeur et à portée de hug, c’est parti pour de nouvelles aventures. Tu reviens quand en Europe? je desespererai presque de ces verres avec la miss Elo 😉 Tout tout plein de bises, t’es un amour!

  3. What a story – there are times in our lives where requirements change and our contributions to the world come in different forms. And it does help to sleep on it when that happens…I hope you sleep peacefully and wake up refreshed! Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Thanks so much Joy! I am actually feeling refreshed this morning. Thankful for the great times, and ready to start the new chapters. Guess I will have to find another way to express myself out of the tags “Mum” and “Wife”… THis is actually the real challenge, but it is exciting too! Have a lovely week end my dear 🙂

  4. Aww…Beautiful entry. Such great life experiences you’ve been given, but so many more to come. New chapter, ma belle xoxoJ

    1. Thanks so much Jess for stopping by 🙂 Yep, new chapters ahead, with all the great memories of the last and the strong values they taught me…Big hugs X

  5. Bonjour, une ex CICR ici. Ai zyeutés votre / ta lettre sur ma page FB que Laura et Nicolas ont aime. Pas bien mais je ne le regrette pas 🙂 Toujours ambigue cette proximité ( le tu pour le vous). Juste pour te dire que ta lettre m’a beaucoup touché ( larmes bouh bouh…). Je te rassure, il y a tout un monde tout aussi passionnant que le CICR. Je ne pouvais pas le croire, avant. Il faut du temps. Et le CICR est toujours là.Très belle aventure à toi, a vous. Et merci pour cette très belle lettre.


    1. 1000 mercis Florence d’avoir zieuté sur les pages des autres et de m’avoir envoyé un si chaleureux message 🙂 On peux tjs critiquer la boîte, le management, les missions, mais quand on decide de la quitter, on fait moins le malin.C’est que ça marque finalement le terrain, difficile d’imaginer plus fascinant ..Merci encore pour tes encouragements, je retiens bien qu’il “y a un monde tout aussi passionnant que le CICR” et m’en vais le chercher de ce pas !
      Tout de (super) bon 🙂

  6. Very well put.
    I syspect that most of us who have had to leave the icrc family for various reasons but did not want to have felt all of those emotions you describe. They fade with time but never go away and small thing bring the memories rushing back.
    Thanks for writing them so eloquently


  7. Querida yes it is another chapter in your amazing journey! but qué pena ! I hope it is an “hasta luego”…

    BTW, what you have given to this old lady is called dignity and this is one of the most important aspects of our mandate.

    1. Muchissimas gracias! 🙂
      Claro solo un Hasta Luego, te veo en CH, Asia or.. Facebook! Besitos y suerte Luzita !

  8. The work you’ve done is amazing! You can be very proud of this and maybe you will put it all in writing so one day your kids will be able to read all your stories. How wonderful would that be?!

    1. Thanks a lot 🙂 could be a (very good!) idea actually, hadn’t thought of it but would be fun indeed. I still have quite lots of pictures, sleeping in hard disk and DVD, that would deserve a better audience than the shadow of my cupboards…

  9. Dear Steph,

    Life is ful of Chapters! sometimes we have to take a bitter decision to end a chapter for the start of another beautiful chapter coming and soon on our book continues.

    Please never give up our communication, remember your first presentation delivery in Aweil , after which you became more interested in the COM work! I consider it a short break and very much hope to see you on the track again … go … go Steph.

    1. Thanks so much Helen! I ll remember this first presentation forever, I was so insecure, and do you remember the blank I had, when I could not remember the next stage of my presentation? So blessed to have you with me, to learn from the pro you ve always been 🙂
      Thanks for the great memories and your perfect commitment, you ve been leading by example. Keep it up my dear, big hug to you and your lovely little men

  10. Ma ptite Steph, tu a rendu ton badge mais tu n’as pas rendu ton coeur, te connaissant, il continuera de vibrer le plus longtemps possible 😉 Peu de gens ont déjà donné aux autres comme tu l’as fait et tu mérites ta “retraite” de “missionnaire de l’espoir”. De toute manière, tu vas continuer de donner aux autres mais autrement 🙂 et puis, déjà aux tiens! L’aventure commence au coin de la rue… J’ai un chouilla regretté de ne pas avoir été une voyageuse reporter (un peu comme toi, nous avions les mêmes envies, enfants) et puis j’ai vite découvert ce “coin de la rue” française, une société aux acteurs divers (un vieux qui ressemblait à Bourvil, hanté par son adolescence à Auschwitz, une princesse roumaine qui punaisait des affiches sur ses murs décrépis en guise de tableaux de famille, des médaillés des jeux paralympiques avec une joie de vivre contagieuse, des artistes génialissimes qui réinventaient le monde avec comme palette, des bouts de nature). Au coin de la rue, j’ai découvert la misère animale pour laquelle j’ai consacré aussi 10 ans de mon temps libre… Avant que 3 enfants me prennent, (pour l’instant!) quasi tout mon temps LOL. Mais voilà, d’autres coins de rue, d’autres pays, d’autres missions, d’autres modes de vie s’ouvrent à nous, à nous de les voir, d’y agir, de les comprendre, de relater et transmettre, et de vivre autrement, tant que le coeur vibre!!!! Pour exemple, mon “recyclage” dans la “déco de recyclage” après le journalisme représente aussi une part de mission très écologiste (+ historique + artistique). La vie te mènera vers une autre mission à une autre échelle humaine, compatible avec ta vie de femme et de maman à présent 😉

    1. Merci de tout coeur pour ton message 🙂 Chaque fin est un nouveau depart, et avec le temps on va naturellement et simplement vers ce qui nous touche vraiment. C’est l’avantage de la maturité. Et du manque de temps pour glander 😉 Tout de bon, comme disent les suisses, et à tres bientôt !

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