12 December 2014

What do I actually do here?

It’s a great question.  Quite valid and I apologize for not being more clear more often about what kind of work I am up to.  I manage to post photos of tropical getaways and funny animals and different foods; but I’ve not managed to write anything as of late about what I am here doing, what I have been called to do, what I have been supernaturally equipped and wildly blessed and monumentally honored to be a part of.   It’s one that will take more than one post to answer, so prepare yourselves.

The short answer?  I manage our Medical Capacity Building programs.

The better answer? I get to be a part of transformation.

Transform – v. [trans-fawrm]
1. to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.
2. to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.

Everyone on the Africa Mercy gets to be a part of transformation, within both of these definitions.  We see it every single day – in our patients.  We see a young man who must hang his face to hide the tumor that once defined his future leave our hospital with his head held high.  We see a young girl who cannot run and play with her friends learn how to use her new legs and dance her way home again.  We see a woman who has lived in hiding for years because of her incontinence have her fistula repaired and her outlook on life completely renewed.  We see a little baby with a broken smile made whole, whose mama can take him out in public again and who will never know the rejection that was once his future.

It’s incredible.

I pray that those beautiful eyes and hearts will find new hope; that their transformation would go beyond physical, that they would rise up in the greatness they are created for, and that they would lead their nation into a future of abundance and favor and hope.

But there is more.

Because if all we did was come in and fix the broken faces and legs and hearts, that would be incredible.  What is even more incredible is…. that isn’t all we do. 

The reason we are able to come in and transform patients?  The care they need is either not available here or they can’t get to it or afford it.

My dream for this nation, and every one that we visit, is really to put myself out of a job. 

I dream of a day when every person in Madagascar is able to have access to the care they need.  I want to see a transformation in this country that means that Mercy Ships will no longer be needed to bring hope and healing.   And I think it is possible.  Because transformed people can transform nations.

The transformation that I get to be a part of is among these incredible Malagasy healthcare professionals with whom I have come to know and love.  It’s not a transformation that happens overnight.  It all starts with relationship – the thing I have been doing since my feet first touched this land just over three months ago – building relationships.  I’ve seen too many broken programs that come in and try to fix problems without first building relationships with the people.  Those are the programs that don’t last beyond a week after the team departs, or the clinic that is beautifully renovated falling into disrepair just a few months later.  Relationship is key, and it builds up from there. 

I had the privilege of sharing my heart with the greater Mercy Ships organization a few weeks ago and talked through the process of transformation.  Here’s the summary:

It starts with relationship.

Once a relationship is built, over time and commitment, you build a level of trust.

Then, and only then, it’s time to impart knowledge/skills/attitudes (teaching or infrastructure).

That step, in collaboration with relationship and trust and more relationship, can lead to behavior change.

True transformation comes when you have all of these things, plus… Behavior change is good, but anyone can grudgingly wash their hands or try to be nicer to patients.  Behavior change within a relationship with a level of trust, and a pinch of faith, can transform a person from one who just follows rules to one who dreams big dreams; believes passionately and strongly in improving things that can be improved, encouraging and championing change in their immediate environment, and pressing forward to change systems and structures and ultimately a national health system.

Transformed people – transformed hospitals – transformed national health system.

It’s possible.

That’s enough words for today.  I will endeavor to write more about specifically what that looks like for me, in the everyday and in my dreams for the future.

Dr. Andry, one of our education participants, with Dr. Frank and a patient. 


1 comment :

  1. Dear Transformer :), on behalf of all the Malagasy,d like to thank you for what you did, you are doing and you will surely do here. May God bless you. Tsiferana


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