I've just finished 'mountains beyond mountains' by tracy kidder. it's excellent. it's about the work of paul farmer, an infectious diseases doctor based in haiti ... in the book we travel to cuba, boston, peru, russia...

it was particularly helpful to me, as cange, haiti (pre paul farmer) was very like kirema, uganda, where i worked 10 years ago. the health care centre i was at wasn't meeting the needs of the community - the people were very, very poor, and the centre charged for their services, and basically nobody had any money so nobody got health care. which was dreadful. in the book, paul farmer works to provide a preferrential option for the poor (o for the p!) and creates zanmi lasante, a health centre in the central plateau of haiti, where the poor are treated for free, and people with aids and tuberculosis are given the same drugs as people in the first world (which until paul farmer was considered to not be cost effective.) and he'd walk in the mountains all day just to see one family because people matter, and lives everywhere are valuable, poor or rich, 3rd world or 1st.

this book was exceptionally helpful for me. processing my experiences in the third and developing world - mostly different countries in africa, and latin america, and asia, i have been angered, frustrated, helpless, despairing, by the sense that nothing can be done to make any difference. in each world, it's almost impossible to believe the other is real.

standing on the dusty red road in kirema, uganda, surrounded by delightful, shiny-skinned undernourished, big-eyed children, it's almost impossible to believe there's a place of wealth and cleanliness and nourishment and creature comforts. Snug in bed after a hot bath and a block of chocolate in the first world, it's almost impossible to believe there's a place of poverty and helplessness, where children die of dehydration and fever and malnutrition and malaria and diarrhoea.

in the west, a baby is welcomed with a room set aside especially for her, painted, decorated, a crib, a mobile, a dozen teddy bears, shelves of books, days on end with mother.

in the 3rd world, a baby is welcomed by her siblings squeezing together a little closer on the floor where they sleep in their mud hut. mother is so busy trying to feed and cloth her children she doesn't have time or energy to stop and gaze at her baby.

this injustice has been hiding in my heart ever since i lived in uganda, and tracy kidder's 'mountains beyond mountains' has helped a little of my ache leak out of my private world and into the realm common to humanity.



Benjamin Ady said…
why doesn't anyone respond? I am reading...Not in Kansas Anymore, by Christine Wicker, and A spot of bother, by Mark Haddon, and waiting for Lisey's Story, by Stephen King
Pleenky said…
I just read Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich. She's fantastic. She also wrote Nickel and Dimed which fascinated me.

I wish I could read faster.

Wonderful that this book has so clarified your thoughts and feelings, Meggs. Haiti used to be one of the things I agonized about before becoming a Christian - I think from reading the Grahame Greene book on Haiti, but I think i read up on it too. So great to hear of something working there. Have just had a few days with Merry, who is some sort of patron to medical doctors from Oz who go to work in Vietnam. She says it's wonderful work. Mary Bashir, our Governor, is also a patron.
Mary Bashir is to come to our Churc on the day I go to Sydney to pick you all up. (I'll go, then drive off.)

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