A little effort makes a big difference - Cover

A little effort makes a big difference


During my humanitarian trip to Namibia this past July, I traveled to a remote Himba village I’ve visited and researched a number of times. The Himba are an exotic people who have maintained their traditional, relatively primitive way of life for centuries.  This particular village doesn’t get many visitors, but it is clear that they have come to associate foreigners (particularly Americans and Europeans) with three things: wealth, somewhat mysterious and strange lives lived in far away places, and medicine.

Every time I visit the village, the Himba have always assumed that I or someone in my group could fix whatever was wrong with them with various medicines and bandages they expected us to be carrying. Within 20 minutes of our arrival at a particular homestead, a mother from another part of the village walked up with her baby boy, who had sat in hot coals and had a few severe burns on the back of his legs. The blisters had opened up, and there was quite a bit of dirt in them.  I cleaned the wounds and treated them, and by the time I finished we had three other visitors with requests for eye drops, medicine for migraines, and treatment for an infected laceration.  As we left, they couldn’t stop thanking us for treating them.

I was amazed to see how much these people, who did not have easy access to medical supplies or facilities, valued a clean, sterile Band-Aid, a substance that could effectively disinfect a wound, or a few Tylenol.  I think it’s impossible to have an experience like this and not want to be a doctor. It was tremendously rewarding to provide simple first aid to those who didn’t have the knowledge or resources to treat themselves.

As I left the village and contemplated my experience, I couldn’t help but think about the various ways that very small amounts of effort and resources could make a big difference to the health of these people.  It also made me recall the period time I lived in Zambia and contracted malaria, but with $5 worth of medicine was able to recover.  A few months after I left the country I found out that a Zambian boy I knew had contracted malaria, didn’t have enough money for medicine, and didn’t survive. I regretted not being there to provide a measly $5 to possibly save this boy’s life.

I know there are many reading this who are actively donating their time and resources to make a difference in the lives of people both home and abroad in critical need of care. My experiences in Africa have given me a much greater appreciation for you.  Even though I don’t have any formal medical training and I don’t work for a healthcare provider, I’m glad to be able to work for what I’ll call a healthcare enabler who tries to make easier the jobs of those who do.

So, I bring this all up just to say thanks for what you do and for the difference you make.