Clinic Blog: 2011 Gambia Blog
July 1, 2011
The Hardest Day
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.
~Henry David Thoreau
For anyone who participates on a OneSight clinic, the hardest day is the last day.
In The Gambia it is hot and humid, hot and humid every day – an almost unimaginable heat. In The Gambia the sun is unforgiving in its intensity and one can almost feel the rays reaching out and pricking the skin. Our clinic site was part cinder block walled shelter with a corrugated tin roof that at times served as a blanket ensuring that the heat would not escape. The doctor lanes were in in concrete rooms with an almost suffocating still air. The dispensing area was in the dirt, under a tree that provided a circle much needed shade. For Team Gambia it was one of the best places in which we will ever work…… but our bones and muscles are sore from this less than less hospitable climate along with a less than hospitable bed.
In Gunjur our connection with the volunteer team was quick and full. They became our friends and our teachers – we always learn more from the volunteers they learn from us. Email addresses are exchanged and a piece of your heart is captured by their smiles, and their sad faces as we leave. In many clinics the volunteers are from a privileged class – in Gunjur their privilege ends with their knowledge of both Mandinka and English, today they are back to village life in a home with no electricity and no running water. The needs in Gunjur are overwhelming and we know we cannot help with them all. The lack of clean water and adequate sanitation will cause hundreds to become sick from diseases that are extremely rare or no longer exist in the western world – cholera, malaria, polio, meningitis. The last day is an emotional day, we know we will probably never again see our friends, we know there is so much more that needs to be done, and so it is and extremely hard to say goodbye.
Team Gambia had some difficulty arriving en-masse as is the tradition for a OneSight cliic team. Another unusual occurrence was that 6 of our team were in the far away village of Farafenni for the first week of our time here. And yet, despite all of this we became an instant team and quicly built strong friendships. The word family is quite overused to describe everything from a corporation (“we’re glad to have you as part of the xxxx family”), to sports teams, and on and on. So, to call Team Gambia a family seems almost too trite, too cliché. What we have is something special and something that we will probably never experience again. Not all of the bonds created in this little piece of Africa will last forever but we are truly fortunate to carry this experience with us as we arrive home and go forward with our lives. Abaraka!
When we leave tomorrow our friendships expand in a tangled web from Winnipeg to Milan to Cincinnati to Charlotte to West Palm Beach to Calgary to Detroit to New York to Banjul to Tuscon to Los Angeles, to Chicago to Dallas to Cleveland to Sydney to London to Gunjur to St. Louis to San Francsico to San Diego to Buffalo to Yorkshire…….. That’s a lot of longitudes and latitudes.