Espérance Mutoniwase: A Call to Compassionate Healthcare

 

“…..in order to create a better future for global health, it is crucial for the world-leaders to acknowledge that the fact that a problem will be expensive or hard to solve is not a good enough reason to postpone it for when there will be more resources or more time. We cannot allow ourselves to wait for the “better day” in order to deal with what are commonly seen as big and difficult problems”

~ Espérance Mutoniwase, University of Chicago Class of 2019

I often say that Rwanda is one of the most beautiful and reviving places on earth, but my judgment could be biased because that is the same place where I spent most of life and where my most cherished dreams are grounded. I was born soon after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, so I witnessed my country’s total rebirth as I was growing up. Rwanda has made incredible progress since 1994; it currently has one of the highest school enrollment rates in Africa and has been recently ranked one of the safest countries in the world. That being said, every single sector in Rwanda has made remarkable progress during the past twenty years, including the health care sector.

Rwanda has moved from being a place that didn’t have any standing health facility to being a place where everyone has access to medical insurance through “Mutuelle de Sante” (a government health insurance that everyone can have access to, regardless of their financial status). Almost all Rwandans have access to basic health care services in the country. The Rwandan ministry of health has relentlessly worked on creating awareness on health-related issues, such as the importance of balanced diets as well as how to prevent and deal with diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, to name a few. However, giving someone free, or affordable access to malaria treatment for example is great, but providing decent healthcare services for more complex diseases is equally important. Therefore, even though one would have to be very unreasonable to undermine the progress that my country has made over the past 20 years, it would also be unreasonable to say that Rwanda has finally made it. Rwanda is not exactly where it needs to be. We still have a long way to go and more problems to solve as a country.

Rwanda has started to work on more complex health care issues such as cancer treatment, but the Rwandan health care sector would not have taken this path if policy makers hadn’t concluded that the lack of access to specialized health care services for people with a low income was a problem that needed to be addressed. The endeavor of covering every Rwandan’s basic health care needs would not have been undertaken in the first place if the country’s leaders were not convinced that every Rwandan deserves decent care. Therefore, the extra effort needed to move from satisfying people’s basic needs to satisfying the complex ones embodies compassion, love, mercy towards each other, as well as acknowledging the humanity we all share.

It might be tempting to think that the incredible way in which Rwanda’s health care sector has evolved over the past twenty years requires effort that it is very hard to be replicated in other places. However, the key to the progress that my country has made is simple: compassion and team work — the idea that all Rwandans should be able to access decent services, and that all individuals are equally valuable. This idea is what led the Rwandan government to invest a lot of effort in making basic health care services to everyone in different parts of Rwanda, and it is the same idea that is driving the current national efforts of making special health care services more accessible to the majority of the Rwandan population.

The progress that Rwanda has made is not a result of a single individual’s efforts; rather it is a result of the Rwandan population’s efforts, in addition to the help of foreign partners. This shows that as long as leaders of a group are convinced by the idea that equity should be the basis of all their endeavors, then great things can be achieved. Therefore, the need for systems that are based on compassion should not be restricted to Rwanda. In order to create a better future for global health, it is crucial for the world-leaders to acknowledge that the fact that a problem will be expensive or hard to solve is not a good enough reason to postpone it for when there will be more resources or more time. We cannot allow ourselves to wait for the “better day” in order to deal with what are commonly seen as big and difficult problems; after all, we can not confidently make the assumption that everyone will live long enough to see that better day.

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Kelsie Harriman: Origin

This is a blog about origins.

I am a 20-year-old woman, born and raised in a small town in rural Montana. I am a student. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am an Aunt. I am a friend.

I am loved by Christ Jesus.

These are my roots.

Origin was a concept of no real significance to me growing up. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in the tan house with a red door on 604 East Milkyway Drive in Livingston, Montana, with little cognizance of the effect my origins would have on my life.  I doubt I am alone in claiming that I did not think of my roots, or my ancestry, or of the people and the institutions and the cultures that were forming me while I was still immersed in them. I didn’t realize that my small-town friendliness and trust of strangers, or my simple, straightforward view of the world were being formed every moment by the environment that surrounded me. I was not aware that my most foundational qualities would prove to be at all unique in the world at large. It took leaving the tan house with the red door at 604 East Milkyway Drive to appreciate the effect my origins would have on the rest of my life.

In September of 2014, I left the tan house with the red door to live in “The International House” on the University of Chicago’s campus on the south side of Chicago, where I had enrolled as a student. The building appeared more like a castle than a college dormitory, and the residents therein were likewise unique. The corridors of each floor were lined with student rooms, each labeled with the occupant’s name and hometown. Not name and major. Not name and age. Name and hometown. Origins.

As I walked through the corridors of The International House during my first year of college, I made a habit of reading the cities written on the signs of each heavy, wooden door. I did this partly out of curiosity, and partly because I took pride in relaying the distant corners of the world from which my new classmates were from to my friends back home. But mostly, I was trying to develop my own sense of origin. When I would introduce myself to new people on campus (as one must do with painful frequency during one’s first year of college), I would always say, “My name is Kelsie, and I am from Montana,” as if my home was as foundational to my identify as my name. My first year of life away from the tan house with the red door in the community surrounding 604 East Milkyway Drive was a exercise in discernment: not in figuring out where I was going, as often typifies the college experience, but in determining where I was from.

My life has changed quite dramatically since leaving the tan house with the red door at 604 East Milkyway Drive. I am writing Origin’s first post on Easter Sunday in a airborne plane traveling from New York City, where I was visiting a friend, to Chicago, where I now live. My body is in a blue Southwest Airlines seat, but my mind and heart are at home with my family in Montana, who are celebrating Easter with church service and a family dinner at Grandma’s house, just like I did for the first eighteen years of my life. Each of us is some messy combination of where we are going, and where we have been.

Origin is an account of diversity. Of travel. Of expanded horizons. It contains posts from multiple authors, all dear friends, who hail every conceivable corner of our beautiful and broken globe. Origins contains tales of where we are going, and what we are dreaming, but it always identifies, honors and respects from where we have come.