Logose Eve offered me groundnuts and steamed cassava outside of her mud hut in rural Uganda. I was in a village one hour away from the nearest paved road by motorcycle, conducting interviews for a journalism fellowship. Eve sat on a mat on the ground while she offered me her best plastic chair. Last year, her child Shafik died from malaria. Eve had journeyed to three health centers in ten days but could not find medicine. As she was traveling to the fourth health center with Shafik, the baby died.
During my time living in five countries on three continents, I have had learned to look beyond the overly simplified stock images of communities in need. Sharing and participating in the stories of people from all over the world, I have felt visceral frustration and deep sadness at the plight of people without healthcare and education, and little opportunity to determine their own destinies.
I have also found that there is far more that unites us than divides us.
No matter who we are, we are united by our common humanity and in our quest for dignity, companionship, and purpose.
I think of the kind man with a megawatt smile in a rural trading center in Uganda who ran after me to return the phone I had lost – a phone that was worth as much as he earns in two years. I think of the resilient and warm family in Colombia that was displaced during the guerrilla wars but invited me to stay at their house for a week asking for nothing in return. I think of the many others that I have met across the world with whom we mutually felt the deep warmth of understanding and empathy. We may come from far and feel alone, but in truth, family and community surround us wherever we are.
To restore and strengthen these connections, we founded an organization, Empower Through Health, which seeks to build a model medical system in rural low-income countries through interdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration. We conduct public health and clinical research projects while providing healthcare for a catchment area of 70,000 people who did not have reliable access to modern medical care before.
It is unfair that in the 21stcentury, so many people do not have access to modern medical care and opportunities to join the modern world.
We stand in solidarity recognizing our shared humanity with the most marginalized communities in the world. Through giving people the agency to determine their own destinies with modern healthcare, we are no longer seeing the overly simplified stock images. Sharing in the stories of the several, we become more empathetic to all; and, we move towards restoring agency for the most marginalized globally.