We were sitting in the office of the Executive Director of St. Luke’s Hospital in the Nebbe District of northern Uganda, along with the Medical Director and several other department heads. Our main reason for being there was that our organization, Pathways to Hope Africa, is working with a medical equipment company in the States that is donating medical supplies and equipment to the hospital, where it is desperately needed.
St. Luke’s is in one of the poorest districts in the northwest Nile region of Uganda, so you can probably imagine how severe their needs are. Yet St. Luke’s is home to a dedicated and determined staff doing everything they can to save and heal as many patients as they can. At times, doctors have to diagnose patients based only on their experience and observation, since they do not have the equipment or supplies needed for definitive medical testing.
Many of the patients at St. Luke’s are young women – including some very young women – having babies. “When the mothers are taken care of, the babies will do better,” the Director said. That may seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done, especially in an area such as this. The women themselves often arrive at the hospital malnourished, with little if any pre-natal care. That’s one of the staff’s many concerns. Ours, too, which is why our plans for the future include the building of a maternity center where women can stay for several weeks before giving birth, so they can build up their own strength and health in order to give their babies a better start in life.
That’s just one of the many issues that need attention at St. Luke’s. And – like many of my experiences in Uganda – it’s one that gives me both a new and personal understanding of the suffering and needs of others, and a renewed sense of gratitude for all that we have and take for granted here in the States. I can shake my head in sadness over the suffering and the uphill battle the hospital patients and personnel have to struggle with every day, but I also marvel at the dedication of those who do so much with so little in resources, and who are determined to make a difference in the lives of others.
It was Margaret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In my own small way, I try to be one of those people.
Small steps can bring about big changes, and small sacrifices can have an enormous impact. I try to remember that when I see situations – like those at St. Luke’s – that seem hopeless and impossible to change.
Because they’re not.
January 13, 2019
©Betty Liedtke, 2019
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