Thursday, February 19, 2015

The People We Serve

     Something happened today that really put the Ebola outbreak into perspective for me. Today I was handed a list of the dead whose bodies had been collected by CRS burial teams. I know that many people in the US have had a hard time relating to people in West Africa and to what’s going on here, but if you want a way to put the number of deaths into perspective really quickly all you would need to do would be to look at that list. It was pages and pages long. And these were only the people that had been collected by CRS and not by any other organizations. CRS burial teams only work in 4 districts. There are 14 districts in Sierra Leone. The names and ages of all the people were listed and it was pretty upsetting to see “14 years” and “22 months” typed on there. A colleague also told me that a lot of the kids were likely orphans who had died because there was simply nobody to look after them or call for help for them when they got sick. I've heard some misplaced criticism of the Ebola response in terms of how much it's costing in proportion to how many people have actually died. Ebola in West Africa certainly hasn't killed even remotely close to as many people as diseases like malaria or HIV, but when you see the names and ages of the people who have died, you're quickly able to recognize that it doesn't matter how many people have died. Whether 5 people or 50,000 people had died in this outbreak, it wouldn't diminish the pain felt by those who have lost loved ones. The Regional Director for West Africa has been here visiting for a few days and when I looked at this list, I couldn't help but think of something she said in our staff meeting the other day. She said, "The people we serve are not as lucky as we are." She's right. I'm incredibly lucky. I have been given so much. In one of the first papers I wrote as an MPH student, I quoted Luke 12:48 which says, "...Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." That's something that I've always believed deeply. I'm so grateful that this experience allows me to give back while also doing work about which I'm extremely passionate. That's not something that everyone can say about their job and sometimes I can't even believe I've been given this incredible opportunity. It's an absolute privilege to be here and to serve the people of this country. 

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