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.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Climbers compete for Choc and Chalk

Annual competition attracts more than 100

Sarah Simpson Column: Social media mobilized to identify found film photo

Over the course of the day, the post generated a couple of hundred responses.

Skating at the Gardens

Duncan Skating Club entertains at Butchart Gardens

T.W. Paterson column: Hudson Bay Co.’s Dr. Benson marched to a different drummer

Chief Factor James Douglas soon banished him to the Columbia River

Cowichan resident with dementia breaks silence on stigma in Alzheimer Society campaign

“I don’t think I’ve encountered stigma as much as I’ve encountered a lack of understanding”

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

Blue Monday is a myth but seasonal affective disorder and the winter blues are real

Canadian Mental Health Association says weather can affect mood

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Wind and snow spark power outages across Vancouver Island

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Most Read