At our most recent Probus meeting we had a wonderful talk about ‘Doctors without Borders (a.k.a. Médecins Sans Frontières).
Andy Dennis gave us a highly professional and moving talk about this worldwide humanitarian organisation, started in the 1970s, that relies for its funding on individuals and companies rather than governments, in order to maintain its independence from governments and political pressure.
Their work in areas of conflict, where local healthcare resources are overwhelmed by circumstances, where people are unable to get healthcare because of the remoteness of their habitation, and in natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake, and epidemics such as the Ebola outbreaks, has a truly global impact.
It seems to me that it’s the individuals that really matter.
• I can’t imagine having the grit and determination of volunteers like Andy, putting themselves in extreme danger in caring for people who they’d never met. The contrast between life here in Harrogate and life in Africa, where Andy acted as a nurse in desperate situations like the Ebola outbreak just a few years ago, was amazing.
• The talk made clear that there was hope for individual patients, with just a few weeks’ re-hydration and medical treatment restoring them to their normality – among the many patients not so fortunate.
It’s very easy to get ‘donor fatigue’, exposed as we are to endless advertising and appeals to our consciences – on TV and in the Press. Pictures of emaciated children are moving, of course, but I cannot deny my irritation sometimes when, sitting in my comfortable home, immune to the massive difficulties faced by others, I am interrupted from an evening’s TV viewing to be jolted back to earth to face the monstrous injustices in our world.
I wonder if there is a selfish gene? Richard Dawkins certainly thought so back in 1976, when he was concentrating on gene-centred human evolution.
With the guilt I feel at being relatively selfish, maybe I’ve got one of those genes rather than the ones that amazingly selfless volunteers like Andy have?