A Jacqueline* of all trades?

*I know this is usually Jack, but I’m female so I thought I’d make it a more relevant phrase for me 😉

I have spoken in previous blogs about some of the ‘other jobs’ I do here at Guinebor II Hospital.  Despite being a pharmacist, and that being the main reason I’m here, long term mission work always lends itself to opportunities for learning a whole gamut of other knowledge and skills.  Some of which I’d have preferred not to have learned, but you know, needs must.

·      Solar energy production and system maintenance
We’re not on mains power here, so the majority of our power is harnessed from the sun.  Including for my house, which is where I’ve learned the bulk of my solar power knowledge.  Panels, regulators, inverters, batteries are all words I’ve learned in both the languages I speak.  Is it a 12v or a 24v system?  Should we have an inverter?  How many watts should the inverter be?  How many watts are each panel? Which direction should we put the panels facing so they get the most of the sunlight?  Why is the inverter alarming?  Has it fried with the heat and dust?  Or is it because the regulator has died?  Or worse (because: cost) have the batteries died?  Slight panic arises when it’s cloudy for more than two consecutive days.  Especially when that’s in hot season, or rainy season, when it’s hot and/or humid and you could really do with cool water from the fridge and a fan.  Two or more consecutive cloudy days often means there’s not enough sunlight to charge the batteries, meaning a potential lack of electricity.  Cue lots of washing of the panels to try and harness as much of the cloud-blocked sunlight as possible!

·         Septic tanks
Whether it be the pit latrines at the hospital or the septic tanks for each house, I’ve learned a lot about how to ventilate them to a) dissipate the smell and/or b) stop a build-up of nasty gases that could theoretically cause an explosion.  I’ve also learned the process of finding a septic tank emptying service (process: go into N’Djamena, find where the tankers are parked, copy the phone number from the side of the tanker, call the number and arrange for the tanker to come to the hospital.  Be prepared to pay a high price for your pit latrine or septic tank to be emptied)

·         Construction terminology
My French vocabulary in this arena has soared.  Cornières, contreplaqué, ciment (ok, some of them are easier than others), vices, raccourt, perceuse, planches, sable, gravier, fils d’attache to name a few.  Not sure if this knowledge will ever become a ‘transferrable skill’ but you never know!

·         Chadian labour laws
With almost 90 members of staff, there’s almost always something cropping up from an HR perspective.  Some of the laws here are truly baffling to me but as a visitor to this country, I have learned to accept them, as there’s nothing I can do to change them, and we need to comply with the law of the land.  Basically, the labour laws here are extremely pro the employee.  Which if there is a rogue employer is great and needed.  However sometimes these laws can get a bit frustrating in certain circumstances!

·         Staff uniforms
We try and ensure each staff member gets a new uniform each year.  This involves asking someone to buy rolls and rolls of fabric in the market.  Arranging for one of four staff members who do tailoring to come and chop of a length of it and make scrubs for individual staff members.  Oh and don’t forget the yearly negotiation of how much we’re going to pay for each set of scrubs made!  Last year this literally took weeks to negotiate……

·         Management training
Now that we have department heads for every department in the hospital, it’s giving good opportunities to guide and coach some of our Chadian staff in both change management and staff management and empower them to take charge of the development and progression of their departments.  This is an exciting stage for the hospital as we develop our Chadian staff to be leaders and for me, learning to delegate to them.

I hope that’s given a bit more insight into some of the many things I’ve learned and continue to learn here in Chad!  It leads to a very varied life 😊