Paying tribute to a valiant Red Cross volunteer

Publié: 15 mars 2014 5:15 CET

Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC

Patrick Matede, volunteer, CARMany people coming out to the small Bangui compound still hoped the story they had heard about Patrick Matede’s death was not true. The 36 year old father of three was known by all as a humble and committed volunteer with the Central African Red Cross Society, a youth leader and ‘father of orphans’. He was lively and welcoming, always jumping up to welcome friends and colleagues. It was impossible that he was no longer with us.

The truth, however, was soon going to confront us. Driving along in a Red Cross convoy, we were led by volunteers chanting hymns that reflected themes on voluntary work, Red Cross missions and fundamental principles. After making a left turn onto a narrow and bumpy untarred road, the compound, full of broken people, stood before us.

It was the compound where Patrick lived, and on this day, five decorated tents were filled with mourners, come to pay their last respect to Patrick, who, for the past five years, had dedicated his life to helping others, as a first aid volunteer with the Red Cross.  

Patrick’s colleagues came out in numbers, many dressed in the familiar red vests of the Red Cross. I stood there, together with more than 100 volunteers, staring into Patrick’s calm face, hoping to see some sign of life. But it was not to be.  

Many families lost someone on this day. Pain was etched on the face of Patrick’s wife, Huguette, and their three children as they watched their husband and father being laid to rest. Huguette seemed unaware of the crowd that had come to pay their last respects; she was absent.

The Red Cross lost a volunteer who often put the welfare of others before his own. And the 8th district neighbourhood, where Patrick lived, lost a man who was obviously well loved and admired. One by one, neighbours came to lay colourful wreaths, creating a small mountain in tribute. 

One message in particular caught my eye: Farewell Patrick, your candle will burn forever in this world.