You’re probably thinking, Aditi, what is wrong? Why such pessimistic reflections so soon into your service?
Well, two experiences of late have really shown me the integral part money plays in the lives of EVERYONE. The first is more personal so I won’t bore you with the details; let’s just say fun can get very expensive, even in “developing” countries. The second is more serious in nature. I recently went on an outreach/community service “mission” with a group from my nursing school (side note: I do enjoy the change in possession, as I have come to call the nursing school at which I work “my nursing school”). We went to a hospital near Kyotera/Kalisizo (about 30 to 40 minutes away from my town). Upon arrival, we prayed and distributed goods to the patients in the different wards. The items distributed included clothing items, soap, bread, bananas, and accessories (and by accessories I mean purses for women). I really enjoyed the outreach/community service because it engaged the students to do more for others. I also found it nice after having a conversation with one of the staff members, who indicated lack of preference when it came to doing community service (when I say “lack of preference”, I mean to say that the staff member has indicated the students and the school does not give preference to any hospital with any specific religious affiliation over others, the school helps all that they can). I thought this was nice, especially after all the looks of confusion at my lack of attendance at church services. While at the hospital, I realized this kind of work is really necessary because the patients more often than not bring their own supplies to the hospital (including blankets, water jugs, razors, soap, food, etc…). Even with the government assistance of the hospital, or complete funding at the district level, it seems that the hospitals do not have enough money to provide some basic services to their patients. I have even read articles about hospitals which require their patients to pay for electricity should they require medical services which need electricity (such as some surgeries). It is very eye-opening to see the stark difference between medical care provided to us, PCVs, and that provided to host-country nationals. The difference is parallel to the difference between the private health care centers and the public ones. After experiencing this level of sadness and having a renewed need to do more outreach and work to help these patients, I spoke with another staff member about doing outreach more often. I ran into another wall, as I was told we needed money to buy the food, soap, and other essential supplies (we were also at the whim of those who donate the clothes and accessory items). This was somewhat disheartening, though it makes perfect sense. While I’m a huge believer in teaching people to fish, not just feed them, I do not believe giving donations is a bad thing. I hope to engage the community in donating more over the next two years in order to be able to do more outreach. I also hope that future outreach endeavors include some educational component (maybe not at the hospital per say, but at other outreach events). After all, it’s all about sustainability, right?
On a more positive note, I am happy to report things are improving at the nursing school in terms of my interaction with other staff members. I think participating in the outreach really helped on both ends, allowing the staff members to see that I wanted to participate and allowing me to see what exactly “outreach/community service” entailed. After the outreach initiative, I spent most of the remainder of the night talking with the staff members who had remained behind about the outreach and how it went. The next day it seemed that they now considered me as a friend, as they greeted me in the morning, we talked about different things and I was invited to a football match later that day. After the football match, I spent some time with the pastor and other staff members, and the pastor even prepared supper for me that night! I feel like I’m making some read headway, putting not only my foot in the door but allowing these staff members to really become friends of mine. While these all probably sound petty and miniscule, I believe it is small steps like these that make all the difference in the world.
Mpolampola nja kukola njawalo mu Rakai. *Trivia: if someone can translate what I wrong in Luganda to English, I will send you a postcard!*
This evening I have been asked to give another “sermon”. I am going to read Peter 3:8-11:
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”
Following this, I thought I’d speak about what I thought these words mean, especially now, during the holidays:
“During the holiday season, it is important to honor these words. Christmas is a time for giving, loving, and showing kindness to all. You must all take this time away from your studies as a time for good and seek peace. Do not forget about your commitment to serve. As health workers, your duty is to help others and during your time away, this commitment may often get lost. I pray you do not lose yourself in the superficial nature of the holidays, where often we find ourselves wanting more than we are giving. I also pray the New Year brings a new quest to forgive those that have wronged you and show them the kindness that all deserve. Allow your enemies to become your friends this New Year, let us start 2012 with love and kindness and let go of the hurt we may have felt. May peace be with you during the holidays and through the New Year.”
I hope the students get something out of it…