Mountains Beyond Mountains
By: Tracy Kidder
When Tracy Kidder, a graduate from Harvard, came to Loyola College to speak about Mountains Beyond Mountains, written in 2003, he described the dedication and amount of time that went into writing the novel and also the different experiences he underwent while visiting Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti.
Dr. Paul Farmer came from a very poor family where he moved from a bus to living in a boat which was not an ordinary boat because of the fact that it was very old and had no source of running water. Although Paul farmer was not wealthy he stayed determined to take advantage of every opportunity which he came about and ended up obtaining a full scholarship to Duke University and later on went to medical school at Harvard University. Farmer first became interested in the life of these Haitian’s while talking to farm workers in his hometown of North Carolina. While at Harvard, he earned a degree in Anthropology and graduated in the top of his class despite the fact that he spent more time volunteering in hospitals in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This sparked Farmer in that he felt as if he needed to promote justice as revealed through his Jesuit values in order to make a difference in the world. If Dr. Paul Farmer didn’t help to make a change who would? Farmer volunteered in different hospitals throughout Haiti and very quickly became interested in medicine.
A very vivid description that Paul Farmer gave to Kidder while writing his novel about reaching out to help others was when a pregnant mother in Haiti had malaria and therefore needed a blood transfusion. What we would think to be a simple and cheap operation in the United States happen to be costly and not possible in Haiti. Farmer described how the pregnant women’s sister offered to give her blood so that she would not die, but this was not possible because the hospital did not have the needed resources to perform this simple operation and so the sister had to watch her pregnant sister and baby die. This example of not being able to live a healthy life is a part of the many important Jesuit values. Kidder claimed that when Farmer told him this story he was in tears. This example was put into the novel in order to show that the lives of other cultures are very interesting and that everyone can help to make a change for the better in their own community or even around the world. This also proves that it only takes as little as one human being to realize that our society is far from perfect. Help is needed throughout the world and through the mission of globalization and justice anything can be achieved.
Even at a young age, as told by Tracy Kidder, Paul Farmer felt the need to help out others even if it cost him a whole life of dedication and so he created an organization in Haiti to help aids and T.B. patients called Partners in Health. This organization was started with one of Paul’s friends from college, Tom White, who was very wealthy and contributed over forty-five million dollars. This organization that all began from the desire of a very intelligent doctor at the age of twenty-two has proved that all illness’ can be treated economically no matter where you are. Paul has proven that his Jesuit values have influenced him and that everybody can help to change the world like he did. When Paul received an email from a student asking how he could walk in Paul’s footsteps, his response was that he did not expect others to dedicate the amount of time that he gave, but that someone had to step up to the plate and take the challenge.
Thus, during Tracy Kidder’s speech on his novel Mountains Beyond Mountains, the importances of our Jesuit Values are portrayed. Kidder reveals that Dr. Paul Farmer had a goal to help others out and that by doing this he also figured out who he really was and why he was placed on earth. Farmer’s main message as portrayed throughout Kidder’s novel is that we can all make a positive change to help out others and use the mission of justice as incorporated in our Jesuit values to decrease poverty and help cure the sick. Dr. Paul Farmer currently lives with his wife and daughter in Rwanda, Africa where over twenty million dollars will be used by Partners in Health for the research of treating illness’ including Aids and T.B.