A new book called "Can You Hear Us?" is about to hit book shelves in the Czech Republic. Its author Pavla Gomba, head of the Czech branch of UNICEF, has lent her voice to those who have trouble making themselves heard: victims of famine, AIDS and poverty in Africa and Asia. In the book Mrs. Gomba tells the life stories of 3 people whom she encountered during her working visits to this part of the world. It is a book that portrays not only the suffering but also the hope and courage of those for whom life is a daily fight for survival. At the book launch last week I asked Mrs. Gomba what led her to write it:
"Actually it was a promise that I gave a young woman. She was HIV positive and she asked me to spread the message about her when I come back to my home country -so that people who will hear her story will know about her and she will forever live in their hearts."
This book contains three stories - three real life stories. As director of the Czech branch of UNICEF you must have met very many people in need. Why did you pick those three stories in particular? /Of course, you've just told us why you picked one./
"It was extremely difficult to make that choice. But I wanted to map different countries and let us say different life paths. So readers will find the story of an HIV positive woman, that of a child soldier in Rwanda and the story of a young girl who has to take care of her young brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. Of course, I met a great many children and heard a great many stories but these are what I'd call the feature stories that I wanted to spotlight because they map different situations that children in the developing countries have to face."
You travel a great deal and see a great deal of suffering. Has it changed your life in any way - this work that you are now doing?
"I think that it definitely did. Even before I joined UNICEF I had the opportunity to work in Zimbabwe and when I came back to the Czech Republic I knew I would not be able to go back to the business and marketing that I was involved in before. There are many situations that make you think differently. For example in Rwanda I met a boy. He was 14 years old at the time and he told me that since he was eight years old he had taken care of his two younger sisters all by himself because their parents were murdered during the genocide. This boy worked really hard and he earned something like nine crowns a day. It was just enough for a dinner of beans and some staple food. But he was very proud of himself and very happy that he was able to keep his small family together. I must say that I think about him every day. And just knowing that for one pair of winter shoes you can feed these children for an entire year - it really makes you think. "
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