Jan 5, 2009

Phone call, Rwanda

I'm not really sure how to begin this post. Today, I'd planned to write about my word for 2009, but things changed when I got a call from my friend George. George Riess does what I do with Hope Aid, except, his projects are in Rwanda. There, he works with Sister Pat (Franciscan order nun, TOR). Sister Pat has visited NC numerous times in the past few years and I've had the opportunity to visit with her on each trip. She is the most selfless person I've ever met and will do anything for the children she works for in Muhororo.

George, and Bridge to Rwanda, has partnered with Hope Aid on a few things but mostly we seek counsel and support from one another. Today, George called with disturbing news. One of their board members, Dr. Sylvia Gleason just returned from Rwanda a couple of weeks ago. She went to compile reports and conduct reviews of the projects, but when word spread that an American physician was in town, she was quickly rushed to Goma in neighboring Congo. There was an immediate need for help at the hospital and she was going to be that help.

The UN has apparently been bringing children from the streets to the hospital. Infants come in one door and caskets leave another door. Children are dying because they cannot breathe. George and Dr. Gleason are urgently trying to get a suction machine and stethoscopes, among other things, to Goma.

When the phone rang just now, George had one question... Could Hope Aid help? Unfortunately, our funds are restricted. I hated saying that. I hated it with everything I had in me. We are such a small organization and our mission, while open, is focused on Uganda right now. All of our current funds are designated to either the school project or the clinic in Fort Portal. And we don't even have a lot of money in our account at that.

I told George that he should contact Dr. Sylvester Odeke. We worked together a couple of years ago to bring George Okudi to NC for a concert to raise money for a hospital project. Dr. Odeke also lead two medical mission trips to Uganda for medical students at the university. If anyone can help, it's him. I'm praying he has some contacts that can get the needed machines to Goma.

I also suggested that my friend, Irene, who is going to her first country of Rwanda in February and March may be able to take something along. Irene is a pharmacist so she would be able to gain medical clearance if necessary.

I write all of this to share with you how very near and real poverty and suffering is to me. I may not know what it feels like to be starving or to have watched my child die because I chose not to feed the weakest of my children, but this is not just a photograph or an image. It is real. It is happening to people that I know and people that I care deeply about. It is one of the reasons Hope Aid exists.

Please, if you are passionate about something, don't just write about it or think about it. Do something. Do something to make a difference for some one. Do something to empower yourself to want to do more. That something doesn't have to be big. It can be as simple as committing to praying for a specific cause or it could be as big as collecting money to help a community or project in need.

I've posted a lot about the global food crisis, and I've mentioned the work Hope Aid is doing in Uganda. While I'd love to check the post office and see lots of donations from all of you ;), I know that realistically, each one of us has our passions. Find yours. And make something of it.

This post is actually a wonderful lead into something I am going to write about soon. Don't forget about Doing Something, as you're certain to see it again. In the meantime, please keep the patients in Goma in your prayers. Please keep this mission in your prayers. I'll try to post some updates as things begin happening. Right now, I've got to get in touch with Dr. Odeke so he will be prepared when George and Dr. Gleason call him later.

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"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it, but I'm afraid God would ask me the same question."
You don't change the world by trying to change the world; you change the world by changing yourself.
-Gerry Straub