A long overdue update of our activities. Obviously during the last four years of medical school, our activity has slowed down significantly. We were able to raise funds to support our partners at Arunodaya Eye Hospital in India, the good doctors Sethi, Sethi, Sethi, and Sethi (Yes, there are four eye surgeons from the same family now!). I will have an update from them soon, but last time we checked, they were going strong with their mission of addressing preventable blindness, and offering curative sight restorative surgeries to the poor in their community and enjoying their new grand babies (who will Also probably grow up to be ophthalmologists).
In addition, our board member and friend Crystalynn has been semi-permanent in Greece, and with her facilitating contacts and communication we have raised close to $5,000 during the last year and a half to help a few specific Syrian refugee families caught in the crisis there. They have needed medicine, clothes, diapers, basic necessities made scarce by the crisis and worsened by Covid-19. We have received photos and updates from the families in question, but for their safety, cannot publish many of them without editing out recognizable features. Sadly, there is no end in sight. We will continue to do what we can to offer financial assistance to these families when they reach out to Crystalynn and as accountability remains viable. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the millions of other displaced refugees. Please take time to share the videos posted here and on YouTube to help disperse misinformation about who these refugees are and what they hope for.
Our last update is regarding Mali, sort of where this whole thing began. I have recently been in contact with Yeah Samake, a native Malian and key leader in the NGO Empower Mali, and I am excited to share that he has agreed to make a collaborative effort happen. As some of you may know, it has been roughly 10 years since I found myself in Western Africa with a host I called Madame Diallo. She graciously agreed to help me learn the lay of the land in her community. Her hope and mine was that we would be able to collaborate on work that would lift people out of poverty and provide educational opportunities. During my time there we visited two rural villages outside the capitol, and sat down with the leaders of those communities. They felt educational infrastructure, in the form of a school, was a key part of their community needs assessment. She had the local connections, the commitment to help, the knowledge of the issues facing her country, and we had access to resources. Or so I Naively thought. It turns out, raising money is rather difficult, especially in the current climate where Americans are encouraged to look to our own needs above all others. I desperately wish to counter this view with one that emphasizes that we are all humans sharing one planet. With today’s technology, the entire world is truly our back yard. After incorporating Hope for a Better World as a 501(c)3, the plan was to return to Mali. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to. We have had a small measure of success helping our partners in India and a select number of refugees in Europe/the Middle East as mentioned above and in previous posts. However, returning to Mali with enough funds to carry out the project that the communities in question requested has been impossible. Even more sadly, Madame Diallo has since passed away. The only remaining connection I have to the rural villages she and I visited are a few names written in my journals and photographic records from that time.
The bright side is that shortly after returning from Mali years ago, I reached out to Yeah and have kept in touch over the years, getting to know his wonderful family and associates better. He and his wife took their children to live in Yeah’s childhood community after their graduate studies in the US and have worked tirelessly through their NGO, which was incorporated in Utah, to mitigate poverty and provide opportunities for education, access to health care, and basics such as clean water. I cannot say enough of the wonderful changes they have wrought for their fellow Malians.
Now in my first year of residency, I am anxious to reingage in the passions that brought me into medicine in the first place. Our board and I feel that at this stage in HBW’s development, we want to be a vehicle for raising funds to support local leaders who are helping their communities. Our friends at Arunodaya Deseret Eye Hospital in India and Empower Mali are two great examples of this. One local example here in the states is the Pocatello Free Clinic, currently overseen by Dr. Milan. We are also collaborating with them and a smaller portion of the funds we raise in the coming months with go to the clinic (More to come about that in a separate post). We want to continue making connections with amazing people like this, and collaborate whenever possible. My medical skills are still not quite what I can bring to the table in any meaningful way in the international scene, unless I find myself on the ground long term in Mali. What we can bring is an element of philanthropy. As such we are beginning a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $25,000 to help Empower Mali with the construction of a water well in one of the communities where they operate. This is not the school I envisioned helping fund all those years ago, but it is a step in the right direction. I plan to visit the beautiful country of Mali again this year, cement ties with Yeah and his crew, and hopefully reconnect with the two villages I visited with Madame Diallo so long ago. I wish to humbly apologize for the promise I made to them then, without knowing the difficulty we would face in keeping it. I wish to find out if they still are in need of the school they requested help with, if they still want help, and if they would trust us as partners after so much time has passed.
Within 30 days of this post, our immediate goal is a mere $5,000 which will be batched by a donor who has already promised the funds. With this $10,000 we will begin phase two, which involves reaching out to as many local community organizations as possible. If you are wanting to get involved in anyway, please never hesitate to reach out to us. We are reachable through facebook, the comments section below, and my personal email, if not listed elsewhere, is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please consider donating to the upcoming campaign and sharing contacts or getting involved in some way. We will try to be better with the frequency of our updates. Thank you for taking the time to catch up with us, and we look forward to sharing more in the near future.
Brandon and the rest of the HBW crew.
Below: Photos sent from refugee families in question showing the supplies they requested and purchased, as well as the in climate weather that continually batters their makeshift shelters.
Drs Sethi and crew working in India.
Empower Mali’s logo.
Original art piece by Robbie Comish.