Foreign Aid | Wash Your Mouth Out Wednesdays (late)
Wednesday, I had this post prepared. But then I found out to my chagrin that the new version of this software doesn’t automatically save the drafts that are in progress. Ouch. So I am writing a condensed version tonight.
First of all, let me say that if you disagree with my post, I may not wash your mouth out, but I will give you another chance to reconsider after reading my thoughts.
In 2007, I received a promotion. I would now be working for our international division, based at our local institution, but the operation itself located physically in southern Africa. After my promotion, I needed to go and visit our operation to see what was happening. If I were to be running things from the US side, I needed to see first-hand what kind of work was being done, so I could be the best advocate possible once back at home.
My first flight to Zambia took four days. It was normally a leave-on-Tuesday-get-there-Wednesday-night kind of thing, but we had some technical difficulties with instrument failures and then a bird strike. Needless to say, my schedule was a bit crammed, once I arrived.
My best experience was attending a community support group meeting. Outside one of the clinics from which our group worked, our community team gathered for the afternoon’s event. This was a gathering at which our folks would perform skits to talk about HIV treatment, the myths and truths, and allow attendees a chance to ask questions. A speaker introduced the group and talked about what would be happening on this day. Then the speaker talked about how there was a special and honored guest in attendance. I was so excited – who could it be?!
Then the speaker introduced… me. Gosh, really? I was extremely humbled. Here I was, the paper-pusher from the US, but I was the honored guest. How? By the end of the meeting, I knew that I was the honored guest simply because I was the paper pusher back in the US, responsible for ensuring that everything happened as planned. I wasn’t there, working on the front lines, but I was important nonetheless. My job had a new meaning, and it was important.
In closing, I know that many folks in the US think that we, as a nation, spend too much on foreign aid. I went to Zambia. I looked into the faces of the mothers and babies who were ill with HIV. I also looked into the faces of those who were feeling better because of the medications that our country is providing, and saw babies who did not inherit their mothers’ viruses. I looked into their eyes, felt their embraces, held their hands, and experienced their hope. I know that foreign aid works because I have been there.
If you haven’t been there, then listen to my words. These are people who are supporting their own communities with little to no pay because their country is in a crisis. These people care about their fellow citizens and the future of their country, and are willing to step in to help no matter what it takes. We could all take a lesson from them.
If my words haven’t convinced you, then please look at this video, The Lazarus Effect. These are the people I worked with, and this is their true story. If you can watch this and still feel that the money is ill-directed, then I am sorry, but you are simply wrong. These are the mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, and sisters of humanity. We are all the same in our time of need.