Colleague relationships are quite complicated and no one ever tells you what to expect. Some colleagues become lifelong friends while others remain just that. I’d like to think that everyone has one or more persons in their workplace that they consider as a friend(s) ‘’Work best friends”. Some of my seniors have been colleagues for more than a decade! Or is it 2? Eventually colleagues become a team and you know how a team works? Everyone has their role to play. When a member suffers a loss the whole team feels it. But, what then happens when the loss is a team member and a friend?
Just before COVID-19 put the country on lockdown we at COMRED lost a team member. Alexandria Jumah (Sandra). I met Sandra at COMRED, she had come in alongside her classmates to make a presentation on their youth-led marine-based organization. This wasn’t her first time at COMRED. She had earlier on completed her university attachment here. I had heard of her but this was our first time meeting. At first glance there was nothing out of the ordinary about Sandra but after her presentation I was certain I wanted to know her. She spoke with such confidence the kind you find only in people who are self-aware.
A few weeks later she came back to COMRED, this time as a volunteer and later an intern. Fresh from University and awaiting graduation, she was enthusiastic about conservation, sociable, resilient, very inquisitive, ready to learn, a brilliant mangrove scientist and her data analysis skills were really good. With my sociable nature, it didn’t take much time for our friendship to brew. Apart from work, we had other interests in common and we were both glad to have bumped into each other. I could tell we would be really good friends, lifelong friends. Since we were both commencing our career journey we would talk about our future plans. We had good days and bad days but we knew our best days were ahead of us. She was a marine conservation champion who never missed an opportunity to partake/plan events that would lead to improving conservation efforts. She had so much passion for what she did; this is what I admired most about her.
I sincerely never thought that one day I would be writing a tribute to honour her memory. Her passion for conservation opened opportunities for her in other conservation organizations and one of them adopted and named a mangrove rehabilitation site at the Tudor creek after her (Alexandria Juma site) in honour of her memory and conservation efforts.
News of her demise caught all of us by surprise and heavy-hearted. There was no time to say goodbye, some of us had meant to call her and check on her but never got the chance to. With the current pandemic, life seems to be having a theme of loss and some of us cannot help but worry! Many of us are experiencing firsthand the pain of illness, tragedy and loss be it a relationship, source of income, material possession and loved one(s). These are not easy times for many people and our social relationships are being strained; a good example is colleagues who now work from home. At COMRED we never got the chance to get through Sandra’s loss as a team and working from home hasn’t made it any easy.
Individual response to loss vary and we are all trying to survive the pandemic with our loved ones. Take your time today and check on one of your teammates while you still can. Stay safe!
The author, Yvonne Muyia works with COMRED.