Guest Post: Why?
Today's guest post is from Adam Brown. He traveled to Haiti with Nourish Every Child and wanted to share his experience.
“Ahhhhhh. I can finally relax…” I thought as I settled into my first-class window seat. I had just had my first hot shower in 5 days in an American Airlines club and for the next 2 hours, home was 2F , a wide, comfortable, leather seat with some personal space would be my little piece of heaven. The flight attendants finished the safety demonstrations, dimmed the lights and soon enough we were leveling off at a comfortable cruising altitude on the way back home to DC. Despite trying to relax, I replayed on a loop in my mind’s eye the magnitude of the experience I had just had from Haiti. 5 days earlier, I arrived with a team from Nourish Every Child to visit school children in Hinche, Haiti—a moderate-sized city in the Central Plateau where the organization supports school children. I also had a secondary role, as an Emergency Physician, to identify resource needs for the local rural clinics and hospital. And then, I hear a “ding”. I could now either safely move about the cabin or recline in my seat and pull out my phone. I chose the latter.
I started looking back through my pictures and videos of Haiti and somewhat unexpectedly the emotions began to flood. First, I smiled, grinned ear-to-ear and then snickered. At some schools the kids wore uniforms of yellow and orange. At others, all pink. "God, these kids are so beautiful, cute and so hopeful." And then, reality started to sink in, with each swipe to the right, my tears grew…misty first, then a drizzle, and then full-on tears. I was already prepared to blame my contacts for the redness and moisture in my eyes if she looked over, but luckily, my overhead light was off and again, she was spatially unaware. Cognitively, I had prepared myself for my first trip to Haiti. As a physician, I knew I would see unimaginable poverty, healthcare disparities and extreme need, but I also knew I would get back more than I would ever give. I knew I would have to “deal” temporarily with the lack of fresh, running water or hot water or my usual quinoa and kale salad with extra grilled chicken. I knew I wouldn’t have my gym around the corner or unlimited Diet Cokes, but I also knew there would be so many exciting opportunities to better the lives of those in need that would make it all worth it. Despite all of the mental preparation, what I had not prepared for emotionally was realizing the juxtaposition of my everyday luxuries and frankly, my current situation (food, vegetables with grilled chicken, first class seat, drink, AC, privilege, job) with the everyday Haitian reality of almost every single child I saw, I held, I played with and laughed with, and now that I looked at on my iPhone. Why did I get so lucky? Why did I worry about where to get my next Diet Coke while many of the children in the country had no safe drinking water or basic sanitation? Why was I worrying about anything, while a mother I met had to decide between paying for rent for a one-room, dirt floor home for six children or sending one of her six children to school? Why was I spending so much money on frivolous things when I could make a relatively small donation that made a mighty impact in a child or mother’s life? I kept repeating "why" in my head knowing there was no clear answer.
With each swipe, I looked at another beautiful kid dressed in rich colors. I remember so vividly walking through the school grounds, hearing singing coming from the classroom and laughter filling the warm air of the playground. (There aren’t too many things in life that will bring you more joy than hearing the giggling, laughter and singing of school children.) The photos of their gleaming ear-to-ear smiles, as well as their infectious laughter inspired me and gave me hope; yet profoundly, their faces haunted me. What is going to happen to them? What does their future look like especially when their past is, well, in many cases, indescribably horrid? What if they don’t finish school? What if those who can help like me, don’t?
Some may reductively call my feelings "survivor's guilt” and perhaps, that may be partially accurate. But these thoughts and feelings are beyond survivor's guilt. Survivor's guilt often occurs when the survivor had little or nothing to do with the demise or hardship of another. And while there may be some correlations, there is a big, whopping difference… I can do something in this situation and that “something” is demonstrably impactful. So, I did.
While visiting one of the schools, I decided to sponsor two children—Pierre and Edouard. Hearing Pierre at 9 talk about wanting to be a mathematician and 6-year-old Edouard, who wanted to be a teacher, lifted my soul. I knew if they make it, they lift their families and ultimately their communities. I also realized they would not be in school if it were not for the support of Nourish Every Child and me. Throughout my entire life, people have invested in my education ensuring I could realize any dream that I had. That investment allowed me to get a medical degree and business degree and now I’m responsible for hundreds of physicians and thousands of patients’ lives each day. In short, the investment in one had the impact on many. I see the potential in these children as no different if they are given the chance to flourish, learn and grow. Changing their lives through sponsorship has the potential of lifting the hearts, minds and lives of those in their orbit: while knowing we are doing something influential in the lives of those they touch.
* A note from Nourish Every Child: Thank you so very much Dr. Adam Brown for your support and encouragement to our organization. We are proud to take you on our journey to Haiti and inspired by your humanitarian outreach.
If you want to reach Dr. Brown, here is his contact information:
N. Adam Brown, MD MBA FACEP Senior Vice President- Mid-Atlantic, Envision Physician Services System Chief of Emergency Medicine - Sentara Northern Virginia Business email: firstname.lastname@example.org Personal email:email@example.com LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adam-brown-md-mba-452b598