Monday, September 13, 2010
Journey Measured in Hope
My recent travels through West Africa—Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone—have left me at an a typical loss for words to describe the depth of the experience.
In Cote d’Ivoire, I visited schools in rural communities where there is no water. Fetching water, a responsibility of the young girls in a family, is a task that can take hours each day. When the family is faced with the choice of having water or sending a daughter to school, the decision is simple: the family needs water. A well can make all the difference.
In Liberia, I saw the amazing work of the Camphor and Ganta missions, where health care is being delivered in the most limited circumstances. I had the privilege of meeting the traditional birth attendants (TBA) at the Camphor mission. Mothers-to-be in rural villages entrust their prenatal care to the TBAs, and each day, they deliver their babies into the hands of these dedicated women. The incidence of problematic deliveries has been reduced in the villages thanks to the TBAs.
In Guinea, I visited a small clinic supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) that is the only hope for those who suffer from malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases of poverty. Similarly, in Sierra Leone’s Kissee Hospital and the Manjama clinic, life-giving care is provided to the people of a war-ravaged country.
It is difficult to find words to adequately respond to the sight of a baby gasping for breath as she struggles with malaria and pneumonia. Or of the child lying in bed whose life is being cut so short by tuberculosis. Or of the man in a wheelchair who lost his leg to leprosy. It is hard to find words….
But in each of the places I visited, I knew I was a privileged witness to hope. I could see that through our partners, UMCOR is bringing hope to the mother cradling a sick child. When UMCOR helps build a well in Cote d’Ivoire, we not only provide clean water for a community but we also give a young girl the opportunity to attend school and create a future for herself. When a young mother delivers her baby into the hands of a TBA, two lives are saved.
My trip to West Africa was a long one, but I measure it in more than distance or days; I measure it in hope. As I held the baby gasping for breath and prayed for the young boy dying from tuberculosis, it became clear to me that this was a spiritual journey. It was a journey of love and of possibilities for a new future. It was a journey of hope.
I hope you are as proud as I am of the work UMCOR is doing through our committed brothers and sisters in places like Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and elsewhere.
*The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey is head of UMCOR.