A Little About Context

By Co-Founder Susan Gustafson

Dr. Joyce Cuff, just returned for her fifth year of volunteering at FAME Medical. As always, she returns with a level of dedication that amazes and inspires. Over the next 9 months, Dr. Joyce will be generously sharing her expertise with our team at FAME. She will also be spearheading the microbiology and culture and sensitivity project we hope to have up and running soon. We are thrilled to have her back. The following excerpt is from her personal blog. I am sharing it with you because it captures some of the landscape around us, as well as the daily challenges so many of our patients face.

The drive from the airport to FAME is always a powerful experience for me. The contrast between New England and Northern Tanzania seems particularly stark during those few hours. The first thing that I notice is how parched the land is around Kilimanjaro and Arusha. Large herds of cattle seem to graze on dirt, kicking up clouds of dust as they move from one grassless place to another. The few watering holes that still have water serve as lifelines for the cattle and the people. People travel great distances to collect water in plastic jerry cans or buckets, sometimes carrying the buckets on their heads or on poles balanced across their shoulders, at other times strapped to the back of a donkey or loaded onto a donkey cart. While at the water hole people bathe and wash their clothes and drape them on thorn bushes to dry and exchange news of the day. As we get closer to Karatu, the landscape changes, first to fields of dry, yellow grass and finally, when we reach the higher elevation of Karatu, we see some green. It is not the rich, verdant fields we see after the rains, but at least there is recognizable vegetation. Like the landscape, the circumstances of people’s everyday lives vary from desperate to some level of comfort and security. This differs from New England in that the proportion of people in the lower levels of the comfort scale is so much higher here and the signs of affluence very much less common. It is my hope and my belief that FAME acts much like the watering holes I see on my way to Karatu, providing a medical lifeline for those in the area, regardless of circumstances.