Your name is Liz!!
Your name is Liz!
I fathomed even having the energy or emotional capacity to write this post. I still do not believe words will do this experience justice. Today was the first clinic day in the Slums of Niarobi, Kenya. Baba Dogo to be specific. This isn't the worst slum, in fact, it is actually a hell of a lot nicer than the others we will be seeing, as I'm told.
We loaded up the vans with our medical supplies, got on our high American horses and road in like knights in shining armor. It is true, we help these people a great deal to the extent our supplies allow, but their lives would go on despite us not being there today. One fungal infection would have continued to be an annoying itch, one skin ulcer would cause a young HIV mother pain for another day, and one case of Malaria would go untreated. By no means am I saying that we didn't do good things today. Hell, we busted our asses, stepped out of our comfort zones and treated the poor, undernourished, & unclean citizens of these deplorable slums.
I'm not sure how to segway into the next part of my day but here it goes:
How many of you had it?
How many of you made a "happy plate" ?
How many of you waisted food?
I know that I almost wasted a ton of good, nutritious food today. As we broke for lunch the natives had lunch prepared and served us like we were kings and queens. Heaping amounts of rice, potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables...all ours for the taking. Not really starving, but not wanting to be rude, I ate about half of the enormous portion of food. I got up to thank the women who prepared it but before I did, I saw the door open and children scurry in. These children were invite in to eat the left overs.
This was the most emotionally overwhelmed I have ever been in my life, including losing my father. I began feeding these children from the same spoon I had just eaten off of. The same spoon that had spoiled me with a gracious amount of sustenance, had now given a child a meal they might not of otherwise had. As I would bring the spoon to these children's mouths there eyes would light up and a smile that should be reserved for something much greater than a bite of rice, jammed itself right in my heart. Eventually the bowls were put on the table for the children to eat themselves. The older siblings would feed the younger ones without taking any bites for themselves.
At that moment I felt the most guilt I had ever felt in my life. Who are we to complain? Do you shit in a plastic bag or in a hole on a daily basis? Do you live in a 15sq ft house with 6 others? Would you need to let your child eat the left overs off some strangers spoon?
I picked up a bowl that hadn't been devoured yet and started feeding one of the older siblings, this child was probably 9 or 10. He smiled that beautiful smile and then pointed at my medical taped name tag and said "Liz, your name is Liz!". He was so happy to be able to read and say my name. Never mind that his family cannot provide adequate nourishment, never mind a complete stranger is feeding him her leftovers. Never mind the prospect of this child every having anything like the children in America is slim to none. Tears that I had been trying so hard to hold back, were now falling quickly. I fed the last bite to the little boy and excused myself outside. I sobbed, and I sobbed uncontrollably, and every time a little Kenyan child would run past playing, and laughing I would sob more. I have never been one to lose my composure during sad situations, I can be very stoic when necessary, but something today left an everlasting imprint on my heart.
My name is Liz.