Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rwanda's Orphans

In 1994, on my last day in Central Africa, we had just delivered humanitarian relief from the Red Cross for the refugee camps near the interational airport in Goma, Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo), and I had a chance to ask the African Director of UNICEF what he needed most. He replied, "Logisiticians. We never have enough."

Logistics can be as simple as driving personnel to camps and bringing back children/people who need hospital care to planning and directing airlifts for humanitarian relief. The newer term for logistics is supply chain management...moving supplies and cargo from point A to point B and then Point C through to Point G. The key requirement is co-ordination to make sure the delivery arrives on time, and this involves computer technology from preparing bills of lading and customs documents to keeping track of cargo that crosses many borders.

President Obama talked about the need for people to serve their country. Most often we immediately think of the military, but what we once called the "peace corps" (but are now non-goverment organizations such as UNICEF) desperately need young people to volunteer their services. In Rwanda in 1994, our Canadian peacekeepers supported one orphanage south of the capital Kigali--they rebuilt the convent and flew in specialists to help the children who survived after their arms and/or feet had been hacked off learn how to carry on with artificial limbs--and when they were recalled home, handed this project over to the Christian Children's Fund headquartered in Ottawa. Such non-government organizations (NGOs) need personnel even more today.

When the global economy regains stability, one area of business that is always looking for experienced and resourceful employees is the logistics division of any corporation or transportation/freight forwarding company. Since logistics is the backbone of business, it's a career with a future. Working for NGOs provides young people with the background that attracts employment for they gain priceless experience in team dynamics as well as on-the-spot problem solving, not to mention logistics skills and the satisfaction of knowing that, for a few short months or years, they made a great difference in many people's lives. No school or university can teach more valuable lessons in life.

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