Wednesday, May 18, 2016: Fragmentation
Day 3 of clinic. We should be experts by now, I muse as I stare at the ceiling after having been awakened so gently by Samantha’s rapt rhythmic knocking. I’ll never get used to waking up at 5:30.
Business proceeds as usual: I fling myself off the bed (as gracefully as one can fling oneself of course), trudge myself to the sink, attempt to look presentable, and ravenously descend upon my breakfast. Well fed and somewhat more chipper, we load the buses and move to our next destination: a school ensconced deep in the lush Guatemalan landscape.
Upon arrival, we work: to registration, to vital signs, to weighing children, to shadowing, to dentistry, to pharmacy. Each of us diligently holds our station, prepared to help, prepared to talk (although somewhat sheepishly), prepared to continue the search for that “great perhaps”—that perhaps we are as good for them as they are for us, that we will give them what they deserve.
It seems that I have a ways to go.
An old woman came to me asking to take her vitals. I managed to greet her with a smile. I took her vitals, but given how backed up we are, I could not send her to the doctor. We wait together in silence for several minutes as I desperately wrack my brain for a conversation starter. I finally find one.
“What time did you arrive here?” I ask.
“I arrived at 4 AM.” I stare at her blankly for a moment. She continues, “I had to leave my town at 2 AM. It’s quite cold up there compared to here.”
I am briefly rendered speechless. I had struggled to leave my cocoon at 5:30 AM, but this woman had been awake since 2 AM.
She had to come down from her town in the cold to get to our clinic.
She had to walk to our clinic.
She had to wait in line outside of the clinic before it had opened.
She had to wait in line once the clinic had opened.
She had to wait with me before going to the doctor. Bear in mind that we met each other at around 12 PM as the merciless sun beat down on us both.
I recollect my thoughts, apologize to her, and we continue talking. A few minutes pass and she is free to go. As soon as I tell her, she asks, “May I hug you?”
She embraces me and murmurs, “May God bless you all in all that you do.” I could only nod, return her embrace, and let her go.
Somehow we had connected in that moment.
I know that part of my heart rests within that quiet, gentle woman. I know that part of my heart will embed itself in the pastel walls of Antigua’s lively market, will lay down in the rubble in the cobblestone streets, will find itself swept up and carried away in the soft zephyrs that blow before dusk and dawn.
Such fragmentation is the price of knowing a country and falling in love with its people.
I burn at the thought of leaving.
For now, I choose to treasure what I’ve seen and look forward to what I will see—that great perhaps that is simultaneously within and beyond my grasp.
- Marina Ibraheim, Humanity First student volunteer
Humanity First is registered in 43 countries across 6 continents, and has been working on human development projects and responding to disasters since 1994. These have included the earthquakes in Turkey, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, floods in Africa and Latin America, hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) , tornado's (Kansas) and wild fires (California) in the USA, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and conflicts in Eastern Europe.
Since its inception and IRS registration in 2004, Humanity First has been focused on spending most of the raised funds on direct program related expenses. As a result, more than 90% of its funds are in that expense category. This is achieved through dedicated volunteers in its management, and program operation teams.