Departing thoughts

It has been difficult accepting the fact that my time is over here because there are few times when I have left a foreign place feeling at home. It is true that I have missed my family and close friends, but I am leaving Lesotho feeling as if I have become acquainted with an incredible family at Baylor. The physicians, the staff, the patients, and the Basotho people I have come in contact with have been some of the most amazing individuals I have known, and I will never forget their hospitality and their welcoming spirits. I am forever grateful to the Beyond Traditional Borders program, BIPAI, our program directors and mentors who have created such an incredible opportunity and have allowed me to be part of such a wonderful mission.

I have been told by many who have worked in developing settings or in some sort of volunteer work that those who attempt to teach others or contribute to a problem in some way end up leaving having learned much more than they could have ever taught others or end up gaining much more than they could have been left behind as some sort of contribution. I have found this to be true and I have learned so much about the people, culture, health, education, challenges, and opportunities of Lesotho in such a short period of time. I have felt such a unique combination of emotions all packed into a series of encounters and experiences that seem to blend into one another like one of the beautiful tapestries woven in rural villages in Lesotho. It is as if all of life’s emotions can be packed into a single day’s work– happiness, frustration, empathy, anger, desperation, fulfillment… I could go on and on.

I am leaving Lesotho with a refreshed and renewed perspective on global health and the complexities that exist when working on problems of such magnitude. I will miss the daily challenge of working on any aspect of HIV/AIDS and the tough questions I asked that ended up consuming my thoughts and conversations late into the nights. I have seen for myself the tragic truth that many speak of… of the needless deaths that occur daily and the completely preventable illnesses that young and innocent children die from. I have seen the “accidents of latitude” that Bono and Sachs speak of when they talk about the unthinkable disparities that exist among those who have been born in the developed world and those who have been born in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa. I have seen the struggling face of a baby who died of a simple case of diarrheal infection, and the face of her mother who thought her child was on her way to improvement. I have seen the determined faces of a medical team that went to great lengths to take a child to a South African hospital just to put a baby on a life-saving ventilator, a simple tool they lacked in Lesotho. I have felt the pang of injustice, not injustice I have personally faced, but injustice that I have felt through my close encounters with children, mothers, grandmothers, health professionals and people from all over the world working in Lesotho. I have seen things and felt emotions that have left a lasting impression, and I only hope that I have been able to contribute a fraction of the impact I have felt myself and that I have been able to leave just one child with a fraction of the knowledge I have collected during my time here.

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