A Party and a Pink Dress
A little girl in a pink dress sent me to Kenya.
She introduced herself to me through this photo, as she cupped her hands under a spigot for perhaps her first exposure to clean water. I lingered over the photo the first time I saw it because she reminded me of myself at four years wearing my favorite pink nightgown. I wanted to help her, because I knew that there is no reason why that little girl, waiting for clean water, couldn't have been me.
Diarrheal disease is the second leading killer of children worldwide. Given the daunting nature of the task at hand, I expected to return from Kenya feeling overwhelmed. Instead, I feel hopeful. And this week, I'll get to share that hope with other young professionals like me who will come together to Party with a Purpose. This unique cocktail party is raising awareness about global health while also raising funds that will help treat thousands of Kenyan children, because no one deserves to die from an entirely preventable illness—an illness that is considered a mere inconvenience in this country because of our access to healthcare.
I feel hopeful because I can now report to my fellow advocates the proof behind the talking points: namely, that despite the magnitude of its impact, the solutions to address diarrhea are simple, proven, and cost-effective. I saw oral rehydration therapy (ORT) corners illustrate first hand that a simple mixture of sugar, salt, and clean water is all it takes to provide life-saving rehydration after a bout of dehydrating diarrhea.
In the rural, dusty region of Bungoma, I visited a hot, muggy pediatric ward where bed nets hung from the ceiling and walls were speckled with peeled paper and chipped paint. I watched a mother's eyes dart around anxiously at a new set of visitors while Alfred Ochola, primary health care coordinator for PATH's diarrheal disease program in Western Province, gently examined her tiny, dehydrated child, who had been receiving IV fluids for 5 days. This child is one of the lucky ones, but if she had received oral rehydration solution just a few hours before she was admitted, she could have been treated as an outpatient. I saw many such children who proved that a cup, a corner, and a community can save lives.
I feel hopeful because I know that we already possess the solutions we need to fight this disease. I feel convicted - and inspired - when I remember a colleague in Nairobi telling me, “You need to be an advocate.” The existence of Party with a Purpose solidified my faith that the passionate hearts and sharp minds of young professionals will seize this opportunity with me, because our challenge isn't to discover a solution to the problem. Our challenge is to carry it through. It's to carry it to the girl in the pink dress.
-- Hope Randall is a Program Assistant for diarrheal disease advocacy at PATH and took her first overseas journey to Kenya last fall.