Meet Joseph. He is a five year old, healthy, little boy from Cyvadier, Haiti. He presented to the clinic today to be seen for scabies with a young woman. I was perplexed during the initial examination because the woman seemed very young to have a child, much less a five year old. One of the first questions we ask during a child’s visit is, “Are you the mother?” However, this time, due to my curiosity, I first asked her, “How old are you?” She answered that she was 15 years old. I then asked if she was Joseph’s mother, and she told me that she was his aunt.
After more questioning I found out that his mother, her older sister, had died in childbirth, and she has been raising Joseph since she was 10 years old with the help of other family members and neighbors. I was truly floored. Many of my friends at home in the United States cannot even imagine taking on the responsibility of raising a child in our twenties, but as my interpreter has told me many times when I am confused about things here , “This is life in Haiti, Ashley.”
God bless this woman’s devotion to the health and well-being of this child, it really showed me the power of love and the common ground that I found with her. I, as well many people who do medical missionary work I presume, feel compassion, connection, and responsibility for the well-being of all people, regardless of whether they are part of the same family as you, the same country, the same political party, the same gender—the point is we are all connected, we are all one family. This young woman reminded me of this very concept, she “opened my eyes”, and for that I am tremendously grateful.
As I was reflecting on this experience it reminded me of a quote by Virginia Woolf I love that perfectly sums up this concept I am trying to articulate. She specifically addresses being a woman, I believe, because women were historically involved in volunteering and charitable causes, but it applies to everyone. I specifically chose it for this due to the fact that this is a story about a woman, a woman who chose to step in and not worry about whose responsibility this child was, she took it upon herself as part of the human family.
We all could do a better job of this. Poverty, injustice, social stratification of healthcare, the exploitation of people all over the world, this is our responsibility. These people are, in effect, our Joseph.
We have been exposed to a part of the world that desperately needs our help, and we have the ability to provide for it. We need to open our eyes to the horrors of this world, and do our part to nurture, heal, and protect it without question, just as Joseph’s aunt.