Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tracy Kidder: Mountains beyond Mountains

Gabrielle Miller

Tracy Kidder, non-fiction author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Mountains beyond Mountains, wrote about his travels in Haiti with the famous Dr. Paul Farmer. In Kidder’s speech, he began by describing the uncommon circumstances that Dr. Farmer experienced while growing up. Ranging from living with five brothers and sisters on a bus and later on a boat, Dr. Farmer lived out the beginning years of his life without common luxuries such as running water, or a couch to sleep on. Later, Dr. Farmer became a Duke University graduate with degrees ranging in literature to anthropology. However, this is a perfect example which proves Dr. Farmer’s mission, which states that such circumstances do not need to determine the course of life.
Dr. Farmer initially became interested and involved with the Haitian lifestyle, while he was observing the poor and dominantly Haitian, migrant workers of North Carolina. His main concern was that these people seemed so hidden from his life at Duke, which sparked an interest in him to attempt to help. Dr. Farmer, at the age of twenty-two, then decided to volunteer at a hospital in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. His main interests were primarily composed with improving medicine and anthropology.
Kidder remarked on a key memory in which he recalls a doctor from the United States who decided to abandon a pregnant Haitian woman suffering from malaria, because the hospital could not supply blood for the necessary transfusion. Kidder said that Farmer was in tears and distraught over this, and the fact that the doctor could be so indifferent to this woman’s cause. Farmer claimed that “we are all human,” and all deserve the right to life, at all costs. Dr. Farmer then decided to ask for donations for blood transfusion equipment, and was appalled when he found out that the hospital then decided to charge money for the services. This example clearly shows Dr. Farmers utter ambition to help the common people of society, and to give the poor and the suffering justice in the world, much like the mission of the Jesuits.
Poverty and sickness go hand-in-hand together, and Dr. Farmer felt a responsibility to attempt to eliminate some of this in Haiti. At age twenty-seven, he founded a small public charity, Partners in Health. Tom White, friend of farmer, and wealthy owner of a construction business in Boston, was the number one donator to the charity. Partners in Health was created with the aim to help fight Tuberculosis in Haiti, Russia, Mexico and Peru. As a result, nine clinics were built, and nine more were reconstructed. Currently employing 2,000 Haitians, Partners in Health now helps to build homes, promote education and schooling, as well as providing food and clean water to the impoverished.
Dr. Farmer helped to promote justice in Haiti through personal sacrifice, and as Kidder said, “Farmer does not expect people to aim to do what he has done, he understands that people can’t, but hopes that they will try.” In contrast, Kidder also stated, “I have never wanted to be Farmer, I feel like I have contributed something through this book, and through speaking at different campuses world-wide.” Dr. Farmer calls the readers attention to the mass poverty in the world, and consistently reminds us that we are all equally deserving human beings.
Now Rwanda, Africa has been graced with Dr. Farmer’s presence, where he is currently living and working to help fight the AIDS epidemic. Although Dr. Farmer is not a Jesuit, I believe that he has fully been living his life according to their mission to promote justice. As a whole, Kidder’s novel clearly portrayed the need for people to reach out and offer their assistance to those who are less fortunate. Dr. Farmer has gone well beyond reaching out, and moreover, he has shown that it only takes one determined person to make a difference for many.

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