Helping today    Helping tommorow

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January 2018

Blog by Vanessa Sweet

Sister Monique and VanessaWe’re sitting at the airport now waiting to board our flight home (in an air-conditioned lounge – what an incredible treat! Down to 26 deg!). On the one hand, it’s so hard to believe that the week is over already, and on the other, it’s been a long week and we’re definitely ready for a break!

This has been an incredibly transformative experience. As a group, we uniformly agree it’s impossible to spend a week doing this work and not be changed by it. We went to mass again this morning before departing Zinvie and again I was struck by the joy and gratitude of the people we have served and the community we have been privileged to be a part of this week. It was truly overwhelming.

The day-to-day work of our mission was, in many ways, very similar to how I spend my work days at home (albeit with very different equipment, a better selection of drugs, and generally more advanced processes and procedures etc.). To do that work in THIS environment, however, was a very humbling and convicting experience. At home, we have so much – so many resources at our disposal, such comfortable homes and lives, such easy access to the some of the best healthcare in the world, and yet we often fail so terribly to be even remotely grateful enough for what we have. We, as a society and individuals, live very entitled existences. And here, with so little to offer these people compared with what we can do at home, we were received with nothing short of extreme gratitude.

Furthermore, to have been part of THIS team has been wonderful. We commented throughout the week about how often politics and red-tape and self-interest can get in the way of a team’s ability to do work. It was such an honour to work among people who, despite adversity and less-than-ideal conditions, have all been able to step outside of themselves to get the work done, and get it done to the best of our ability – from those of us in the OR and at the hospital, to those doing clinics in the village, and to those making sure that everything that needed to happen behind the scenes got done seamlessly. It was truly remarkable.

There is so much about this week that I will need to take time to process over the coming days and weeks – being thrust into such a different culture gives one pause and makes you think so much about the way you live your own life, and how your reality compares to what we’re truly being called to live out. The trip might be coming to an end, but I have a feeling that some of the hardest work is about to begin! So farewell Benin – the pleasure, truly, has been mine – but I still can’t wait to have my husband and daughter back in my arms!

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