A Surgeon in the Village

“A Surgeon in the Village” is the story of neurosurgeon Dilan Ellegala and his key role in a Norwegian-funded mission hospital in the hinterlands of Tanzania. The story neatly unfolds in three parts. The first traces Ellegala’s life from his birthplace in Kandy, Sri Lanka, through an almost natural trajectory to a medical career, which accelerated after his ever-supportive family emigrated to the United States. Ellegala eventually lands in Haydom hospital in Tanzania, where he discovers its austere conditions and unfamiliar cultural terrain. It is here that he meets and ultimately decides to train an assistant medical officer (AMO), Emmanuel Mayegga.

The second part puts Ellegala back in the U.S. where he struggles to balance his “day job” in an Oregon hospital with a persistent pull back to Tanzania. Ellegala soon cobbles together a non-governmental organization (NGO) of sorts in an effort to promote his “teach first” approach, which emphasizes the transfer of skills and knowledge as an alternative to the hand-out-driven paradigm of most global charities.

This story is compelling enough on its own, and author Tony Bartelme tells it very well. Embedded within it are two themes that thoughtfully converge upon the relationship between Ellegala and his Tanzanian counterparts in particular, and between the Western and developing worlds more generally.

First is global health. To get at this, Bartelme pauses occasionally to give the history of Western medicine and explain the basics of neuroscience. What this does is contrast the broader challenges of global health and the hard realities of practicing medicine in the African context. For instance, Bartelme notes that while Ellegala was at Haydom, there were a paltry three CT machines for all of Tanzania, and 70 surgeons for a population of 40 million.

The book’s second theme is anchored in what Teju Cole has elsewhere called the “White Savior Industrial Complex.” Here Ellegala confronts the tendency of Westerners to patronize Africans in order to provide an experience for themselves. For instance, he is driven to madness by foreign medical students sitting in the front row during Haydom’s staff meetings, treating Tanzanians like “the hired help.” Above all, Ellegala is dismayed by the cycles of dependency that seem to plague both large-scale development aid programs and short-term medical missions. Bartelme seems refreshingly aware that even thinking about such things amounts to a self-indulgent validation of privilege in and of itself.

[The Post and Courier]

Millennials are changing charitable giving

Many people think of Millennials as self-centered, selfie-snapping, uber-texting, uber-riding, narcissists. Even some Millennials share this opinion. Johnny Oleksinski, a Millennial himself, wrote in the New York Post:

“This is my number one rule: Do whatever millennials don’t. Definite no-nos include quitting a job or relationship the moment my mood drops from ecstatic to merely content; expecting the world to kowtow to my every childish whim; and assuming that I am always the most fascinating person in the room, hell, the zip code.”

He sounds like he’s loads of fun to be around.

But is this true? Are Millennials really the most selfish generation of all time? Are Millennials only obsessed with the Kardashians and Snapchat?

Millennials care more about others than you might think. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report reported that 84 percent of Millennials made a charitable contribution in 2015.

Read about 6 ways that Millennials are changing the face of charitable giving

Yemen war causing devastating humanitarian crisis

Pope Francis says he is praying for the safe return of a priest kidnapped 14 months ago in Yemen, yet again highlighting his concern for the country which is plummeting into what the UN is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Millions of people continue to suffer in Yemen, a country struggling with military conflict, famine, and a failing health system, with a child dying every ten minutes. Humanitarian organizations are working hard to bring fresh water and medical aid to the people of Yemen, but their efforts are challenged by the ongoing situation in the nation.

“Sana’a airport has been closed since last August. Even if people have money, they cannot go for medical care. …It takes us, for example, three days … to send one person out of Yemen,” said CARE International Country Director Wael Ibrahim.

Ibrahim argues that it is the duty of humanitarian organizations and international governments to help. “Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, at the bottom of the UN development index…Yemen cannot survive on aid alone. There has to be an investment in the development and recovery activities. We would like to see more money going into growing food, building infrastructure, facilitating the opening of the airport, and so forth.”

The Australian government recently announced their pledge to the humanitarian efforts in Yemen, saying they will give $10 billion. Ibrahim hopes this action will show the world that Yemen is important and needs to be addressed.

[Vatican Radio]

The motivation in humanitarian work

I stepped off the plane in Lima, Peru in 2009. Eight years later and I am living in Huaraz where I have created a humanitarian project called Changes for New Hope which reaches several hundred children each year.

What I have learned by being with these children and their families has been a deepened sense of my own compassion and love for humanity. Wealth is not measured by the accumulation of stuff. To recognize cash as the only measure of wealth is like recognizing potatoes as the only food.

There will be a tombstone with our names on it one day. The dash between our date of birth and date of death represents an entire life.

Most float through life without finding a purpose. I want to make sure there are passionate experiences that bettered the lives of many thousands on my dash.

[From an Opinion piece by Jim Killon, writing in ‘Living in Peru”]

Pope Francis delivers TED talk

The annual TED conference is known for featuring impressive speakers. But on Tuesday evening, one unannounced speaker took the audience by surprise: Pope Francis.

At first, the pope’s subject matter seemed familiar: “As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: ‘Why them and not me?’ ”

But his message quickly moved to the conference’s core subject matter (technology and innovation). “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” Francis said. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”

“People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money and things, instead of people,” he said. “And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves ‘respectable,’ of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.”

Nearly 400,000 people around the world have already watched the pope’s video and seen him tell the tale of the Good Samaritan, which he called “the story of today’s humanity.”

“Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude,” Francis said. “It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

[NPR]

Unsung heroes: Dr Tom Catena

I met Dr. Tom Catena in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains — the site of an African war and famine few have even heard about — in a hospital overflowing with children. I saw bombs had ripped away their arms, flying shrapnel had taken out a baby’s eye, anti-personnel mines had shredded legs to jagged bone and ribbons of gangrenous flesh, infants suffering kwashiorkor and the other horrors of malnutrition.

Inspired by St Francis of Assisi, ‘Doctor Tom’ has worked almost every day, all day, since he arrived as the only surgeon for the Catholic hospital in Nuba nine years ago.

I asked him: “Why do you stay?” He replied: “There’s no other option. You leave and abandon everyone here or you stay and keep going.”

Heroes like Catena convince me that giving to charitable causes in Africa is the right thing to do, because at least some of what you donate will help rescue children like those in Nuba.

[The Spectator]

Who gives 0.7% of their gross national income to overseas aid?

Under legislation approved in 2015, the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA), popularly known as foreign aid. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates has urged the UK to maintain its promise to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, warning that reducing the commitment would cost lives.

According to the latest figures from the OECD, in 2016 two G7 countries met this target: the UK and, for the first time, Germany. Other countries that spent at least 0.7% were Sweden, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Denmark and Norway.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May described the target as a “critical pillar” of the country’s foreign policy. But some Conservative MPs and newspapers have suggested that the figure is too high and should not be maintained after the election.

The top 10 country recipients of UK aid in 2015 were Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, India and Bangladesh. Humanitarian projects received the largest proportion of aid in 2015.

 [BBC]

Hillary Clinton warns President Trump of ‘grave mistake’ of cutting Foreign Aid

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that she thinks President Trump is making a “grave mistake” on foreign aid. In a speech on women’s rights at Georgetown University, Clinton said Trump’s proposed cuts to international aid in his budget would undermine American diplomacy.

“Turning our back on diplomacy won’t make our country safer,” Clinton said. “It will undermine our security and our standing in our world.”

Clinton’s comments about Trump came in a talk that was largely an impassioned call for advancing women’s rights around the world.

“Advancing the rights and full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century, she said. “It is not a partisan issue, it is a human issue. A rising tide of women’s rights lifts entire nations.”

[TIME]

Africa has worst hunger crisis in 70 years amid US budget cuts

Africa faces the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people facing starvation, and any cut in funding to humanitarian agencies working in famine-affected areas will cause untold suffering, a spokesman for the World Food Program said, responding to questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $10 billion in foreign aid.

“Any cuts at this time are extremely significant, not just for us but for any U.N. agencies and any aid organization,” said David Orr, WFP’s Africa spokesman, at a media briefing in Johannesburg. “With the magnitude of needs at the moment is it vital that we continue with a high level of assistance.”

The current hunger crisis is in three African countries, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, as well as nearby Yemen.

The U.S. is WFP’s largest donor and was one of the organization’s founders. Last year it contributed more than $2 billion, representing about 24 percent of WFP’s total budget, Orr said.

“The more dramatic cuts in any aid budgets … the more suffering there is going to be,” Orr said.

[Cox Media]

Bill Gates meets Trump to argue for foreign aid

Tech billionaire Bill Gates met with President Donald Trump and highlighted the “indispensable role that the United States has played in achieving these gains,” his foundation said in a statement.

Gates wrote a blog post Friday to argue that the U.S. shouldn’t slash humanitarian aid. Spending on projects overseas helps “keep Americans safe,” Gates wrote.

“By promoting health, security, and economic opportunity, they stabilize vulnerable parts of the world.”

American aid, Gates wrote, helps prevent and eradicate epidemics, citing polio and Ebola as examples.

To illustrate the security benefits of international aid, he praised former President Bush’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS abroad with a program known as PEPFAR. Eleven million people with HIV are alive because of the program, Gates said, and “many more never got the virus in the first place because of the prevention efforts supported by PEPFAR.” What this meant, he continued is that there were more teachers, entrepreneurs, and other workers “contributing to strong, stable societies,” and Gates pointed to a study that showed that political instability and violence in African countries with PEPFAR dropped signficantly, compared to when PEPFAR was not in use.

[CBS]