Chat with Dr Jessica

I’m walking 640km across Jordan, and the days are counting down remarkably fast. The point of the trek is not only to challenge myself but to raise funds for @MSF_UK as I’ve written about extensively, start at number one and work on through to ten. If you believe in MSF’s work around the world or simply like my blog please head over to my just giving page and donate a few Pounds, Euro, Shillings or dollars to the cause.

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Jessica was the first person I told about my plan to take myself of hiking a long distance trail, I was surprised she jumped at an idea I myself didn’t yet believe in. With her confidence I was able to see this as a viable challenge.  Then, Jess was the first person I ran the idea to raise money for MSF past, and again she was nothing but enthusiasm and positivity, without which this wouldn’t be happening.

Jessica as a werewolf during halloween

Tell us about yourself

I’m Jessica, a literature academic living in Whitley Bay in the north east of England. I work at Newcastle University and I do a bit of proofreading and tutoring on the side.  I also manage We the Humanities, which a former Vix-blogger, Sophie, will be curating in April.  It’s a small world!  Or Vix strong-armed her into doing it…

(I totally did)

How do you know Vix?

We met in Helmsdale, in the top right hand corner of Scotland, where Vix’s mum was living.  I was running a youth hostel for a ‘summer’ in 2004, (fabulously long days, not a lot of sunlight) and was pretty lonely, washed up in a wee village where I knew nobody.  Vix’s mum Mary took me under her wing, introduced me to people and, every bit as importantly, fed me sherry at lunchtime.  A few months into my stay Vix came up from Edinburgh and we hit it off straight away.  We’ve been friends ever since but have grown especially close in the last eighteen months.  She’s an incredibly supportive and loyal friend, even though she insists on living bloody miles away from almost everyone she knows.

Summer 2004 – my mum will now disown both Jessica and me for this!

Why do you support Vix?

Frankly, because anything she chooses to do with her time, energy and talents is going to be amazing and you’d better get on board straight away.  When she first mentioned this walk it struck me as ambitious, dangerous and exhausting: exactly Vix’s cup of tea.  So much of what I know about Medecins Sans Frontieres has come from Vix – she’s given me an insight into the range of work they do and has motivated me to follow them more closely as well as give my financial support through cheerleading and contributing to incredible feats like this one.

MSF Osh MDR TB day 2013

Why do you support MSF?

No organisation can be totally apolitical but MSF seems to come pretty close.  Vix has told me stories about some of the roadblocks (literal and metaphorical) that she’s encountered in her work and I’ve learnt a bit about the difficult circumstances organisations like MSF operate within and I can’t help but admire them.  I have inexhaustible depths of respect for the doctors, support staff, aid workers and administrators who put themselves in harm’s way to help people experiencing hardships that I can’t even wrap my head around.  I read reports like this one, about an MSF hospital being bombed in Yemen, or the MSF field staff blog, and I feel so totally outstripped by these people that the very least I can do is chuck some money their way.

When did you first hear about MSF?

D’you know, I think it was from the Aussie soap Neighbours…  I really clearly remember GP Karl Kennedy talking about them – maybe he was going to volunteer with them or knew someone who had?  I’ve done some extensive googling though, and I can’t find any mention of it.  It’s a really weird thing to have made up if I have had.

(I did find a Neighbours reference, although it can’t be the one Jess is referring too since this was aired in 2015, long after I had started working for MSF)

What is your favorite MSF project/program/country?

I think of MSF as working in places that are far away from the lucky life I enjoy but their presence in France reminds me how fragile our stability is.  This has a special place in my heart too because a friend of mine is working with Refugees at Home and has does a lot of work with Calaid.  It’s uncomfortable but it forces me to rethink whether I’m helping as much as I can and to challenge myself to do more.

I’ve also been finding out about MSF’s projects in India, a country that is right at the top of my travel wishlist.  Reading about the work they undertake there has also taught me that MSF provide mental healthcare as well as physical, something that hadn’t occurred to me before.

(Jess raises a great point, I don’t think many people realize how much of MSF’s work is based on good mental health services. If you are escaping from war, torture, rape it is an essential component to regaining health. But also when people are diagnosed with HIV or TB they receive counselling to ensure they are in a good place to take on these serious conditions. MSF really excels at providing these services. If you want to know more, MSF has a page here)

Where would you most like to visit in Jordan?

Petra is of course at the top of the list, but for contrast I’d like to visit the capital, Amman, too – preferably in July to coincide with the Jaresh festival.  There’s a Roman amphitheatre alongside preserved Ottoman architecture and plenty of restaurants for me to eat my weight in falafel, moutabel and galayet.

If you liked this…other guest blogs:


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