HUFH Journal Excerpt: Through the eyes of a volunteer

Author: Jayant “Jay” Kairam

“I found the daily visage of the cruise ship a too perfect analogy for the historic barriers the country continues to face. How can a place so close to so much wealth be so far away?”

Jay, taking a walk with the kids.

As the sole non-health professional on the team, I had to sort of explain my reasons for joining. They were primarily personal.  First and foremost among them was an opportunity to witness and work alongside my brother, who I’ve admired for as long as I remember. It is a rare chance to be afforded a chance like that. He has a passion for service and teaching, one that was instrumental in my decision to enter public service, and it was in full display during our days in the clinics. Call me sentimental. Second, though I work in the public sector, I rarely interact directly with constituents, or those to whom I’m supposedly most accountable. It’s an odd dynamic. In any case, I felt compelled to join this team, to regain a sense of perspective, humanity—and ultimately rejuvenate my desire to work in public service, which sometimes get lost in the minutiae of property taxes and civil service reform.

What you quickly learn in situations like the clinic, is that boundaries and ostensible roles can easily blur and dissipate. A medical novice, I felt completely integrated into the cycle of treatment our roaming critic offered. It was a truly immersive experience and total crash course in a way of thinking where I’m obviously limited. This is a lesson for global health, or any development work where resources are scarce. You are pushed to become multi-dimensional, improvise and learn on the fly. If you can run with those things, if you are too tightly bound to conventions and structure, then frustration will hit fast.

To be continued…