Burkina Faso 2008

On a dusty August afternoon in dry and humid weather we arrived at Ouagadougou airport. Crooked logs took the place of columns, while the roofs were made of metal sheets haphazardly laid onto each other. We looked around for any signs to follow, but none were to be found. A couple of French-speaking officers were all that separated this restricted area from the open street.  Many times one ponders whether God has forgotten us. On walking out onto the streets of Burkina Faso this sentiment is brought to the fore.

As three young volunteers we ventured away from the capital, deep into the heart of this West African country, to a small village by the name of Dedougou. Here we spent a month working with the sick and the poor. Our work included palliative care, medicating and dressing wounds and dispensing medication to people from all over the region. During the afternoons we also provided literacy classes to mothers and siblings of malnourished children, our objective constantly being to provide a measure of solace to these people. People, who are many a time forgotten, were it not for the Missionaries of Charity (Sisters of Mother Theresa).

Our first day of work at the clinic revealed a depressing scene, with many young people, gaunt and haggard in appearance. More than half the patients, most of them in their twenties or thirties, lay in their beds wasting away. In time we learnt that although the physical pain was hard to cure, it was the psychological aspect that was more crippling, due to the patients’ lack of motivation and enthusiasm for life.  Abandonment leads to despair and nowhere was this more evident than in this remote clinic. But love can cure the deepest wounds and while tending to the peoples’ physical ailments and their educational needs, love was what we sought to give most of all. People responded in many ways. A particular episode I can recall was of a female patient, who went to collect flowers, to thank us for treating her and making her feel loved.

As we prepared to depart on our last day some patients had been injected with a dose of hope. We had formed a bond with many of the patients and were inspired by the courage many of these individuals showed. The strongest pain we felt was that within our hearts we desired to do more.