Robert Barron column: Hats off to humanitarian workers

Saurazas didn’t seem to be fazed very much by the peril she was exposed to

One of the great delights of my job is that I get to meet some very interesting people.

One such fascinating person walked through the doors of the newspaper office last week and I had the honour of conducting an interview that was one of the nore interesting in some time.

Julia Saurazas, a transplant from Ontario who decided to move to Duncan a number of years ago, has been travelling around the world for decades working in poor countries and she had some amazing stories to share.

With a background in higher education, Saurazas worked for many years as an administrator helping to set up new universities in developing countries.

She has spent the last two years working as a human resources coordinator for the Doctors Without Borders organization, and it was what she experienced in that time that riveted me the most.

Saurazas has recently returned home from nine months in the war-torn country of Iraq and is resting and relaxing at her home for the summer until duty calls her to some other forlorn and dangerous part of the world.

She told me that she was helping with the organization’s medical operations in northern Iraq, near Kirkuk, in an area devastated by the war with ISIS that saw thousands killed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced in the conflict.

Apparently, there are still remnants of ISIS in the area and shootings and suicide bombings during the nights are not uncommon.

I asked Saurazas if, being a westerner and a very slight one at that, she was concerned about being kidnapped or even killed by roving bands of ISIS fighters as she travelled between work sites.

But she said she felt secure and safe during the daytime when she was on the roads, and tried to stay off the roads as much as possible in the evenings when chaos has been known to erupt in some areas.

I had to wonder if I would ever feel even a little safe in such a volatile area.

Like most people, I vividly remember those videos a few years back of ISIS beheading western journalists and others who had travelled there.

Saurazas didn’t seem to be fazed very much by the peril she was exposed to by working in such a place as northern Iraq, and focused her thoughts and conversation with me on those she and her organization were trying to help.

Even the last part of our conversation, when she told me some stories about working in South Sudan, Saurazas impressed me with her fearlessness and courage.

She was talking about taking a shower in a place that was not exactly a five-star resort when a huge rat hauled its way up the drainage pipe and started running around the shower stall.

That would have been it for me.

I likely would have run all the way to the airport buck naked and jumped on the very first plane back to Canada.

But Saurazas said she just waited for the rat to find its way out of the stall and casually finished her shower.

It takes people with big hearts and little fear to do these kinds of jobs and I’m thankful there are people like Saurazas who are willing to put themselves in danger to help some of the most downtrodden people in the world.

Saurazas will be heading to either Pakistan or Nigeria at the end of the summer to continue her work.

Give her a pat on the back if you see her around the Valley.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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