If you've read my blog at all, you know that I become very fond of our students at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. On any day of the week, they're full of compassion, energy, and determination, so how can I not pull for them?
So many of our students are gone from the Duke campus at this time of year, but many of them travel world-wide, as they take on experiential learning opportunities through internships and summer jobs. This past week, we heard from two of our students who've been spending their summer in Ecuador. One has been working on a summer internship, and the other has been helping out at organic farms in Ecuador. At the end of the internship, they'd planned to do some traveling, and sight-seeing, before they had to head back to school in a few weeks. But as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." .
They happened upon an elderly Ecuadorian man and his wife: the man is not only blind, but he also has a terribly deformed leg from an injury sustained in a car accident some time ago. His leg is broken so badly that there's literally a bend in his lower knee resembling another knee, just lower down on his leg. These two students, alone in a foreign country, mustered up all the drive and passion that they could, in their endeavors to make a difference in the lives of two other people. They were determined to help this man however they could.
Who knows where the story will end. They're running against time, money, bureaucratic red tape, and exhaustion on everyone's part. They've tackled the medical establishment in a foreign country that's not as compassionate as our own country, learning all about patient advocacy, and they've traveled great distances under trying circumstances, and put in long, sweaty, tiring hours. They've done it amidst incredible obstacles, not the least being the language barriers they've faced.
I've thought of them all day. I thought of them when I watched the news last night and tonight: the wrenching photos of starving children in Somalia, and a whole nation struggling through drought. All I can think of when I see those photos is that I remember being a small child in grammar school, years ago, when, you guessed it-- we were trying to raise money to send aid to another set of starving children in Africa.
Sadly, suffering and deplorable situations are part of the human condition. It's not possible for any of us to "fix" all the things that are sad or wrong in this world, but I must say, it does my heart good to know that these students were moved to take on such a project on their own, trying to help these people they didn't even know from Adam.
I hope they never lose that passion. They're young and want to make the world a better place. Maybe one of them should run for Congress. Here's a link to the story of their ordeals: