Saturday, April 12, 2008


I affected change!

I have concrete proof that something I did, something I taught, some piece of information I transferred actually produced results that improved someone’s health! It was one of the most inspiring, uplifting moments I’ve had in country.

About 2 months ago I was at my friend Mairam’s house and I met a woman with a brand new premature, very sickly looking baby. We talked about her baby being so skinny, and I asked if she was breast-feeding. She of course responded yes, and then she proudly mentioned that she was also feeding her cooking oil! (An unfortunately very common practice here). I told her very nicely that no, she did not need to give the baby oil, that the reason the baby was sick was because she was feeding her oil, and that all the baby needed was breastmilk. I explained to her what was in her breast milk and that it had all the sugar, and water, and vitamins and antibodies (‘the vitamins to kill germs’) that her baby needed. I didn’t think much of the interaction until I saw her again recently when Amanda and I went to greet that same family.

There she was with her baby. I asked to hold her and noticed that she looked a lot better! She had put on some weight, her eyes were tracking better, she seemed livelier and more alert. I told her mom that to which she responded, (to my extreme delight)…

“Well Binta, I stopped feeding her oil. I’m only giving her breastmilk now. Breastmilk ONLY. Just like you told me to!”

I almost burst into tears. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

That I contributed to the health of her baby by giving her information, by taking five little minutes to just sit and speak with her nicely and give her a little advice, and not yell at her, and encourage her and tell her that she was a good mom….and to have her come back and to physically SEE the progress her baby has made and have her mom tell me that it was BECAUSE OF ME! I am over the moon about the whole thing.

There it is, everyone always says about development work that “if I can just help even 1 person than it’s all worth it.” Well you know what? Checkmark on that one.

And the thing about that interaction is that you can’t quantify it. I can’t write that on a resume, or even in my quarterly report to Peace Corps. It’s not a specific “project” or a health talk, or a class. I was just in the right place at the right time. And because I’m always looking for a chance to talk about health issues when sitting around, I finally made a difference! In some ways it seems like such a trivial victory, but it will make a difference in her life, and her baby’s life, and her future children’s lives and hopefully she’ll tell other people and so on and so forth.

That’s how change starts right? With one person. You just have to plant the seed. I finally have proof that I did.

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