As part of Friends of MSF Leicester (an excellent university campaigning organisation which seeks to raise money for medical aid organisation Doctors With Borders), I recently had the pleasure of taking a flying weekend visit to Berlin to attend the International Humanitarian Congress which was taking place in the city centre. While we were in the city for a mere 48 hours, it certainly served as an amazing insight into what can be achieved with a little motivation (and we got to see the Brandenburg gate, hurray!).
The conference took place over a thrilling two days, in a beautiful old hospital, the Charite, which really put the Leicester Royal Infirmary to shame. The keynote speech was given by a renowned humanitarian with whom some of you may be familiar, Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, whose UN peacekeeping force was one of the only ones to stay in Rwanda throughout the 1994 genocide. He told us a harrowing tale of how he disobeyed direct UN orders to pull out of the country, and instead used his 450 peacekeepers to protect over 32,000 civilians, in the face of extreme danger (to put it mildly). Pretty inspirational, all said!
We also had the pleasure of attending many other talks, such as one introducing us to humanitarian aid and the physical limit of my ability to take notes. From protection clusters in Syria to the current crises in South Sudan, it was a real joy finding out about this that and everything. Best of all were the people – seriously, I’ve never seen so many individuals in one room get so excited about discussing the impacts of anti-biotic resistance on global health delivery. The big shame, as is often the case when Brits travel abroad, was our little entourage’s complete lack of German, and the English fluency of the German medical students we met. Definitely need to take those language lessons back up!
After myriad talks, fascinating talks and copious amounts of apple strudel, we eventually had to rush back to the airport and catch a sleepy late flight to Stansted. Once back in the UK our national express coach managed to breakdown and we ended up back in Leicester at 5 in the morning! Hurray!
Anywho, if this sounds exciting to anyone at Leicester, I would wholly recommend considering joining some kind of campaigning or charitable society, and lobbying the committee of said organisation to attend this that and everything. What I’m finally learning, after two years at University, is the sheer breadths of opportunities available to you, if only you go out and find them!