is a country blessed with natural beauty, from the snow-capped
Andes Mountains to the lush green tropics around the Amazon
River. But it is also a country of deep-seated poverty and social
in the steep hillsides of the altiplano, at fifteen thousand
feet above sea level, is the town of Ambana, where twelve Emory
students, faculty, and staff (including myself) spent the last
two weeks of May on a Journey
of Reconciliation, one of four such trips sponsored by the
dean of the chapel and religious life. The other groups traveled
to Cuba, Northern Ireland, and Native American reservations
in Billings, Montana.
group came to Ambana to learn about reconciliation and to support
the work of justice and the movement of hope being led by Andean
Rural Health Care (ARHC), a nonprofit organization dedicated
to providing preventive and curative health care to the underserved
in Bolivia, Haiti, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley area of Texas
before our journey, Emory had been connected to ARHCs
work. The organization receives support from the United Methodist
Church, and its current executive director, David Shanklin,
is an adjunct instructor at the Rollins School of Public Health.
task for the week was to take down a cement brick three-room
clinic with structural damage to prepare the foundation for
a new two-story brick building, which would house a large conference
room and provide living space for health workers who serve this
greater goals for the journey were to learn about the lives
of Bolivians and to open our lives to the possibilities of hope
and healing that come from engagement in the work of justice
Ambana, villagers often lack nutritious foods and safe drinking
water. There is an abundance of potatoes and corn but very little
market for them, so farmers are unable to buy other vegetables,
fruit, or meat. When children are malnourished, they cannot
learn. When children are poor, they must leave school at age
seven to work the fields with their families.
day several members of our team accompanied doctors and health
workers as they made their daily visits into the community.
As we walked down winding dirt paths, the doctors stopped and
talked with each person we passed; they knew where everyone
lived as well as the names and ages of the children.
doctors vision of health is not one of simply providing
medical services, but of relationship and community.
one visit, I accompanied two doctors to a school several miles
down the mountain from the health clinic. We came to give the
children fluoride treatments and to talk to them about cleaning
their teeth. One by one the children rinsed their mouths and
gladly sat down with the doctor to receive their flouride treatment.
After they saw the doctors, the children taught us Bolivian
the way back, we stopped and talked with the family of one of
the children. The doctors asked about their farming and their
health. They gave us several sweet potatoes to take to the clinic
with us. As we continued on our journey, we shared sandwiches
with a woman and her young son. She had never come to the clinic
so the doctors stopped to share some hospitality in hopes they
could build a relationship of trust.
the end of the two weeks, several students had renewed visions
of their work along with a determination to use their education
to provide health care to the disenfranchised, to teach children,
and to empower the poor in their own communities, realizing
that their own freedom would be found in bringing liberation
to others. In this way, they would become true healers.
BY KAY HINTON, UNIVERSITY PHOTO AND VIDEO
Cogswell, former Emory University assistant chaplain, is now
associate pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville,