Robyn White - Butare and Kibeho

Running time
2 min 38 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I did a couple of day trips to some towns, whose name escapes me. But the main place that I went to was I was stationed at a place called Butare in the southwest for possibly up to a month, where we would go to the displaced person's camp Kibeho and do some humanitarian work there. We basically would set up a clinic and we would have thousands of people lined up to see us, to see what we could do to help out them or their families.

We were limited with what we could do though. I guess for me, a lot of my concerns would centre on the clinical aspects of what I did, because that was my focus. But I felt when I was going down to Butare to work in the displaced person's camps, I felt quite anxious and quite unsure of myself. And I recall growing up and seeing images of aid workers on the TV helping out in Africa, and I used to think that they were amazing people, what they were doing. But I just felt incredibly inadequate working in these displaced persons camps. And I tried to find out any information that I could to help me to do something worthwhile and valuable in these camps.

And we did have these World Health protocols. They were very basic, very short about what we could do in certain situations, but it was very limited as to what we could actually do for these people. And a lot of it was giving out soap or giving out worming treatments. We couldn't do a lot more than that, but we used to get a lot of people to the tents just trying to do whatever we could for them. In a way, giving them, say, soap would, would be something, maybe not so much a placebo, but something better than nothing.

And at the end of the day, if they wanted to, they could on-sell the soap or what have you. But it seemed to me at the time when I was looking up say worms and a cough could be worms or this or that could be worms, anything could be worms, so you might at least give them worming treatment.

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