« Never leave the desert because the desert purifies the soul. Far from it, you are deaf and blind. “So, speak the Tuareg mothers. » Mano Dayak
We are about 160 km away from the Algerian border, and more than 1,800 km away from Bamako, in Tessalit, in the heart of the Adrar of Ifoghas. It is close by this sand-colored city, emblematic place of the Tuareg rebellion in Mali, that Rontal Dixon Saint-Juste and Jackson Mwakwilay, United Nations Volunteers, are serving with MINUSMA. In Tessalit MINUSMA camp, among the sixteen civilian personnel, the two UN Volunteers play a critical role for the proper functioning and implementation of the mandate of the Mission.
Jackson Mwakwilay, national of the United States, is a Movement Control Officer. In his capacity, he coordinates freight and passengers’ air transport from and to Tessalit. This role is even more essential as it is mainly by air that the liaison with Bamako, Kidal and Gao, is done, and that the provision of food and supplies is ensured. Jackson had the opportunity to share his knowledge with his national co-workers since February 2018.
Rontal Dixon Saint Juste is from Haiti. Since November 2017, as Logistics Officer at the Mission Support Center, he has been coordinating on any logistical aspect with the military contingents and the Malian Forces based in Tessalit. Besides, for operational needs of the Mission, Dixon also supports, when necessary, human resources and financial processes.
Despite the challenging working and living conditions, Jackson and Dixon do not regret their engagement as UN Volunteers, and the spirit of solidarity and commitment which drives them, is an incentive to continue their mission.
Beyond their respective functions and daily tasks, the Volunteers embody the values of solidarity, mutual respect, and humanism. “We live as a family here,” says one of them. This “family life” is also materialized by moments of welfare and recreation, around sports, games, and shared meals, which always maintain team spirit.
Tessalit is surely far away from the tumult of the city, the climate is arid, the immensity of the desert all around is barely measurable; in this environment, probably more than anywhere else, the Volunteers have become, through their contributions to MINUSMA, ambassadors of living together, humility and courage.