My first experience of the Central African Republic (CAR) - filming Unreported World: Witches on Trial in 2010 - wasn't the best introduction to a people and their culture. I watched as people were imprisoned for being 'witches' and I was left with a very uncomfortable feeling.
But once I'd spoken to Olga Yetikoua, a midwife working for International Medical Corps and heard a bit more about the current situation in CAR I knew that we had to go there and report what was going on. And once I'd seen how Olga works, I knew I was with exactly the right person. Sometimes making Unreported World is a bit like delivering a baby. Not that I'd know of course, but there do seem to be some very broad similarities.
Working on Unreported World in a country like CAR is physically and emotionally draining. Painful even. At the end of it you come back to the UK with a load of footage and it's like arriving back from hospital with a new-born - that feeling I do know. You're filled with a mixture of fear and responsibility, knowing you have to do the story and the people justice.
It was easy to bond with Olga over our shared experiences: being away from family, the adrenaline you feel when you're in the middle of work, the danger we put ourselves in, the sense of privilege and responsibility when people allow you into their lives, returning home and not being unable to sleep for thinking about work and the people you've met. Olga and I shared these experiences and it really helped me to get to know her.
Olga was always keen to stress that she works because she needs to. The rent needs to be paid and the children need feeding, schooling etc. But I suspect there's more to it than that.
She could have gone to work in a suburban hospital somewhere in Paris. She made it clear that she had considered that option. But she also knows that Central Africa needs educated people to stay - she described how she has witnessed a 'brain drain' as skilled workers go to Cameroon, Congo or even France. Equally, she could have gone to work in a private hospital in Bangui, delivering the children of the wealthy. But neither option suited Olga.
The passion with which she goes about doing her job suggests that she is doing it for more than money or patriotism. Ultimately she gets a rush out of working on the edge and coming back with a story. Witnessing her country first-hand when so many others, even in the capital, haven't. And it's that rush of excitement that allows her to forget how painful and difficult the job can be and to keep signing up for more.
The Jungle Midwife will be broadcast on Friday at 7.30pm on Channel 4, and available on 4oD soon afterwards
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