ICRC Health Coordinator on Louisa Akavi
Avril Patterson is the health coordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen.
Avril first met Louisa while on mission with the ICRC in the Philippines in 2010. They were reunited in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, and were set to work together again in Syria. Avril arrived in Syria in October 2013, the day after Louisa was abducted.
Speaking about her friend and colleague, Avril said: “Louisa is incredibly tough, resilient and has a sharp sense of humour. She’s a no-nonsense nurse who just gets on with the job. She’s humble and doesn’t look for the limelight, she just wants to help people. As nurses, we don’t care where people are from, what their politics are, or what they may have done in the past. We just want to help people. And that’s Louisa all over. She is an amazing human being.
“She garners respect with everybody she meets. She can be quite chatty and outgoing, and is never afraid to tell it how it is. People love that about her – her pragmatism and no-nonsense. But equally she knows when to be calm, when to talk, when not to talk. And she is always respectful of other people. She’s just one of these people – when you meet her, you want to be just like her.
“I remember when I arrived in Afghanistan. She was just about to leave and she told me: ‘Avril, don’t take any nonsense from these boys,’ because I was going to be the only female expat in the office after she left. But amid that toughness, she is also incredibly kind and humble.
“She loves being out in the field, not because she enjoys the hardship, but because that’s where she can talk to people to really understand what they need. It’s where she feels most useful and where she can really feel the impact of her work.
“I arrived in Syria the day after she was abducted. I was told that she had been waiting for me and that she was going to cook me dinner. Of course that dinner never happened. If I could speak to her now, I’d tell her: ‘You owe me dinner.’ We all miss her and think about her every day. She’s not once been forgotten.”