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Does the best of humanity emerge from the worst?

MSF workers in Sudan. Sudan, 2007 © Simon Burroughs/MSF
MSF workers in Somalia. Somalia, 2006 © Espen Rasmussen

As a part of my expedition across Greenland next April, I will be raising funds for Doctors Without Borders. I chose this organization after reading “An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the 21st Century,” by Dr. James Orbinski, the former president of Doctors Without Borders.

Dr. Orbinski was on assignment with Doctors Without Borders in Rwanda during the genocide that killed 800,000 men, women and children. In his book, he recaps an incident with a woman he found on a dirt road in the midst of the massacre. Through this chance encounter, he witnessed the absolute worst of man. But in that brief moment, he also caught a glimpse of us at our finest:

“She was slightly older than middle aged. She had been raped. Semen mixed with blood clung to her thighs. She had been attacked with machetes, her entire body systematically mutilated. Her ears had been cut off. Her face had been so carefully disfigured that a pattern was obvious in the slashes. Both Achilles tendons had been cut. Both breasts had been sliced off. Her attackers didn’t want to kill her; they wanted her to bleed to death. They knew just how much to cut to make her bleed slowly. She lay on the road, a 1 (meaning “treat now” based on their system of triage) taped to her forehead, and now we were looking at each other.
‘Je m’excuse, je m’excuse,’ I said, apologizing for the pain my pinching forceps gave her. She blinked once, slowly, to let a wave of pain pass. She held my forearm. I felt a wave of nausea as I looked again at the pattern someone had cut in her face. I turned from her and vomited for the first and only time during the genocide.
She waited as I spit out what was left of the bile in my mouth. Then she touched my forearm again. I looked into her brown eyes. ‘Ummera.’ I wasn’t sure if she was saying it to herself, but then she continued. ‘Ummera-sha.’ Sha, I thought, it means my friend. She was speaking to me. ‘Ummera, ummera-sha,’ she repeated. I tied off the bleeding arteries where her breasts had been. The nurses were calling again, ‘Docteur, le prochain, le prochain! Vite, Docteur!’
The woman was one among many, among hundreds. She knew there were so many more. Again she reached to touch my forearm. She didn’t hold it this time. She nodded, looking at me ‘Allez, allez . . . Ummera, ummera-sha,’ she said in a slow whisper. ‘Go, go. Courage, courage, my friend.’ It was the clearest voice I have ever heard.”

Please help me raise funds for this amazing organization and the people within it by visiting my first giving page. The men and women who work for this organization struggle tirelessly, at risk of life and limb, to ease the suffering of the oppressed and the destitute. Your donations will give them the means to continue serving the cause of humanity.

Furthermore, If you would like greater insight into what we as human beings are capable of, please order Dr. Orbinski’s book through this link: An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century.
All the proceeds I get from this link will go toward Doctors Without Borders.


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1 thought on “Does the best of humanity emerge from the worst?”

  1. God! makes one question oneself, what are we doing? where are we headed with our so called life/existence.
    Thanks for coming into my life Akshay, and opening a world in front of me, that my sheltered up-bringing would not otherwise have permitted.
    God Bless


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Fearvana inspires us to look beyond our own agonizing experiences
and find the positive side of our lives. ~ The Dalai Lama