Saturday, March 23, 2013

Deo and VHW in Times Square

Look what appeared the other day in Times Square!  Deo treating a patient along with a description of Village Health Works for all to see.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Butaro Hospital, Rwanda

I wanted to share an illustration and article from Partners in Health which illustrates how their hospital in the Butaro district of Rwanda has had a ripple affect in transforming Rwandan society.  It is an interesting example of how institutionalizing change, particularly through the development of a medical facility, can transform a society from the bottom up.  Partners in Health was co-founded by Paul Farmer  who is on the board of Village Health Works and is a close friend of Deo and Village Health Works.  Paul's life and work is the subject of another of Tracy Kidder's books called _Mountains Beyond Mountains_.  A remarkable story and a must read.  When we were in Burundi, we spent time with an American woman who was spending a month in Africa looking at hospitals like Village Health Works. She had just come from Butaro Hospital in Rwanda and marveled at how Rwandan society has made such strides and progress since the war and how Burundi has been forgotten by so many.  We can learn a great deal from looking at Partners in Health and what they have done, and we hope to build something similar in Burundi.  These institutions are beacons of hope in these areas and serve as examples for the rest of the world.  This is not just about providing medical care but about creating momentum for change and hope emanating from the people themselves.

Take a look at the link here:

I am learning with you and will post things as I come across them!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

honorary doctorate!

Williams College today released the names of those who will receive honorary doctorates this spring, and guess who is on the list?  My good friend Deo, for his work in Burundi!!

See press release:

This is not surprising for those of us who know Deo - what a well deserved honor.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pajama story #1

The people at Village Health Works have decided to send me stories of those children who have received the pajamas we sent over.  They continue to distribute them, and these stories really help to contextualize who these children are and to give us a sense of their lives.  Here is the first story - the names are anonymous due to patient confidentiality.  I hope to get photos also (apparently they just need to keep the names confidential).  

Here is the note about a little boy, 13 years old (nicknamed I.N. for purposes of this story).  You might wonder how a 13 year old is wearing footed pajamas size 5 toddler?  Please read below about his weight and size.

Here is an anonymous story about one of the patients, who recently wore one of the pajamas (Melchiade said he would send photos shortly, which I will forward along as soon as possible.): I.N is a 13 year-old boy weighing 13.4 kg (29.5lbs) and 103cm (3.37ft) tall with a BMI <-3DS. He's from outside of our catchment area, born to a family of eight children--he's not the only child suffering from malnutrition. He was hospitalized in the Village Health Works malnutrition ward for treatment of acute severe malnutrition. According to his medical history, it's his sixth hospitalization for the same cause. I.N. since birth drank his mother's breastmilk because of the absence of formula and other breastmilk. Every day, they looked for a lactating woman near I.N to breastfeed him. I.N. is in the fourth grade, and he has never failed a class. However, his progress in school has been inhibited by repeated hospitalization. Nevertheless, he is the first or second ranked student in his class. After 10 days of hospitalizatio, he left our services in a stable condition.

More thoughts on the letters

I ran into a dear friend this morning at a coffee shop, and she immediately hugged me and told me how much the letter her son received from the child in Burundi meant to him.  I have been approached by so many mothers who have told me that their children - ages 5, 6, and 7, have been explaining to them at home who wrote to them and where they are from.  It is amazing how much children can understand at a young age about the world.  It is also clear that children are naturally curious, open, interested, and empathetic toward others, especially other children in need.  This experience has taught me so much about these natural, childlike impulses, uninhibited, and I am more convinced than ever that prejudicial ideas and ideas around exclusivity are learned behaviors that are, in fact, counter to true human nature.  I'm not a psychologist, but these are my impressions.

I have also been touched to see how at this young age children are absorbing these lessons about others with different lives in different places.  Charlotte announced yesterday that she has a pen pal in Burundi.  This morning Oliver (7) asked me if he could ever go to Africa, and Dorothy (3) asked to look at mommy's Africa pictures.  Oliver said, I want to go to Bujumbura - of course I said yes!