What do you do when your truck breaks down — the only one that can steer through the cratered tracks, thick mud and dense jungle that defines driving in DRC — and the spare parts you need are located a continent away?
By Elizabeth Bryant
If you are Jean-Michel, the answer lies among the mountains of old tires, engines and other remnants of vehicles, all stacked in a WFP lot in Goma, the capital of DRC's North Kivu province. "When trucks fall apart, we take them apart and save the pieces to use for others," Jean-Michel says of the rugged Dutch-made DAF vehicles that WFP uses to transport food in northeastern DRC.
"If we ordered parts from the manufacturer, they could take months to arrive," he adds. "And I need to work fast, because there are people who need food."
The head of WFP's mechanics unit in Goma, 28-year-old Jean-Michel is a veteran of fixing the most complex cases. Before moving to the Goma office in 2011, he worked for WFP in Bukavu, some 200 kilometres south. "I've worked with these trucks for six years," he says, as he tours around the spare-parts yard. "I feel like I can repair everything. There are no more challenges."
And Jean-Michel is no stranger to challenges. He has repaired trucks stuck in rebel-held parts of this restive province, sometimes located hours away from the Goma office. On one occasion, when he and his team were forced to spend the night in the bush, armed men knocked on the window of his car. They demanded food and briefly confiscated his WFP badge. "But they gave it back, because they knew WFP was distributing food in their village," Jean-Michel says.
Tour over, he heads back to work. There are still three more trucks to repair before the day's end. "I love this job," he says. "I'm in an organization that helps people, and it pushes me to work hard."