The 41-year-old Singaporean nurse was assigned to a HIV/AIDS project in the remote communities of Zambia as well as the Ebola emergency response team during the peak of the epidemic in Sierra Leone.
Despite working at the frontline of an epidemic, Wong Li Wai did not consider herself being faced with any life-threatening or devastating situations.
“I’ve seen my patients die (during the Ebola outbreak in 2014) and while it’s sad, we expected that as the mortality rate was really high,” she explained.
One of her most memorable challenges, said Wong, interestingly, was managing the local staff.
“Supervising 24 male staff in South Sudan was not easy – I had to pull in a male staff many times to make my voice heard,” she added.
Wong, who served with medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) between 2011 to 2015, is one of the Singapore-based panelists who will be sharing their experiences at the second edition of the Doctors Without Borders Film Festival in Singapore.
The film festival, held at The Projector over the weekend (3 to 5 August), will see free screenings of five documentaries, including Affliction, which chronicled the efforts of the MSF during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, TB: Return of the Plague, a collection of stories about patients suffering from tuberculosis in Swaziland, and Al Jazeera’s Afghanistan: Medics Under Fire, a short documentary about the aftermath of the US airstrike in 2015 that destroyed the MSF’s trauma hospital in Kunduz.
Each screening will be followed by a sharing session with the organisation’s field workers.
Wong, who is currently working as a part-time nurse at a local hospital, hopes that the festival will allow the Singaporean audience to be aware of MSF’s efforts and one day “open their minds towards going beyond their call of duty”.
She, however, cautioned those who are interested to join the organisation to “serve with pride, but don’t be a hero”.
Equally of importance, is to “learn from locals and be respectful”, added Wong, who intends to join the MSF again.
Dr Natasha Reyes, interim executive director for MSF Hong Kong, who officiated at the opening of the film festival on Friday (3 August), spoke about her experience working at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, in September last year.
“The sheer magnitude of needs was like nothing I had ever seen before – food, shelter, medical care, mental health support. We’re hitting the one-year mark since the influx, and the crisis is not over,” said Dr Reyes. “We hope that we will inspire you here in Singapore to join us or
support us in the work that we do.”
The Doctors Without Borders Film Festival is held at The Projector from 3 to 5 August. Admission is free. To book your tickets, head here. For more information about the festival, visit doctorswithoutbordersfilmfest.com.
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