Thursday, August 14, 2008

Erwin Temmerman

One of the most interesting aspects of working with the Orbis team is finding out how each person life journey brought them here. Two nights ago I met Erwin Temmerman, Director of the Flying Hospital. He is a very kind and enthusiastic Belgian gentleman who took some of the Orbis team to a local Belgian restaurant for dinner. In addition to enjoying Belgian food for the first time, I had the opportunity to learn how Erwin's prior decade of NGO work led to his involvement with Orbis.

His involvement with NGO work started in Jordan, where he was part of the operations team for Jordanian Air. One night there was a flight delay in Amman and, in his official capacity,he made arrangements for all the delayed passengers to stay at local hotels.
However, he noted two young African boys were not moving from the airport lounge. After talking with them he learned that they did not even have money to take a taxi to get to the local hotel. So Erwin took them to his house and had them stay with him overnight, and brought them back to the airport the next day to catch their flight.

Several months later he received a letter of invitation to their home in Guinea, West Africa. Touched by the invitation, he decided to take them up on their invitation. He had a great time with their family, including their Belgian father--who was working with Doctors without Borders. After going out to the field and visiting the various field projects, Erwin realized that this was his professional calling. Additionally, he really loved the warm, sunny days he experienced in Guinea, contrasted with the cold, rainy weather of Belgium.

He thus applied to Doctors without Borders. Unfortunately, his first assignment was in Albania. However, much to his relief, all of his subsequent assignments were in Africa.

For six years with Doctors without Borders he was country director of operations for various countries This was followed by 5 years as director of operations for Air Serve--which provides air transport for other relief agencies such as Doctors without Borders among others. He has been with Orbis over the last year.

I suppose it is only fitting that a person with his background initially in commercial air flight, followed by NGO work, would end up at the Flying Eye Hospital!

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