Sunday, April 20, 2008

Setting the Stage

A Movement in Rwanda is Catalyzing Hope

The first piece of the three-stage flight to Rwanda is complete. I write from Amsterdam’s international airport with a looming 4 hour lay over. This gives me the opportunity to do something I normally do not – set a stage before arriving.

When I began planning this project I knew that the sub-Saharan portion would most likely be the most difficult. It would prove the most challenging to plan, the most expensive to price (an airline ticket is nearly double the cost of any of my other flights), and perhaps the most telling in the effects of HIV on a community, a country, a region. The efforts of Partners in Health in Rwanda has been something I have wanted to see, witness, and document since helping raise thousands of dollars for its cause through my FACEAIDS chapter at Fairfield University. We would get emails from the field and personal stories of success making Rwanda this intimate yet intangible part of our motivation. The culmination of why over 120 universities had FACEAIDS chapters was exemplified in Dr. Paul Farmer’s keynote address at last November’s national conference.

Farmer’s speech highlighted the unified efforts of the Rwandan government, the Clinton foundation, and Partners in Health (PIH) to develop a national healthcare system that maintains the model that has made the Boston based ngo the gold standard of HIV treatment organizations. It was the message of a combined effort that resonated with me during his talk. So many players on this stage, yet one clear mission – creating and implementing a healthcare system that brought health, development, and human rights together. The “story” is best explained in this recent article from the Boston Globe. It is full of insight and spirit and best explains why it is a privilege to document the work being accomplished. I only hope my writings from Rwanda capture the same vivid message of what I call a movement.
I was introduced to the “movement” through Partners in Health’s projects, but the more I researched about work being done in Rwanda I saw that many entities are invested in making a difference in the country. It is this movement that is bringing hope to the “Land of a Thousand Hills”. It paves the way for a bright future that no one could have predicted following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In the aftermath of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu deaths Rwanda has found a way to reconcile and move forward with the goal of the whole in mind.

In two weeks time I will be onsite at PIH’s countryside hospital/clinic. Before that I will be in the capital of Kigali meeting with representatives of the United Nations Develop Program, the Rwandan health ministry, and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as other organizations, such as Orphans of Rwanda and FACEAIDS. The meetings will focus of how each of these entities plays a role in the movement. It is with great anticipation and over two years of “hearing, reading, and fundraising” that I embark on this leg of the Global AIDS Project.

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