How do you climb Mountains Beyond Mountains?
Follow Paul Farmer.
The Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains,” exemplifies the willpower and determination of Paul Farmer to not only tackle the problems that arise after one problem is solved, but to “bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need.” In 1987, Farmer devised a “comprehensive and community-based approach” to solve some of the largest problems facing the world’s poor today through the creation of Partners in Health (PIH).
PIH strives to raise the standard of care for the poor in the world by applying treatments used in first world medical care systems to those diseases previously thought “untreatable” in third world countries. In essence Paul Farmer, through PIH, has brought hope and healing to nations around the world, while advocating on their behalf to world class agencies and institutions. As a result, Farmer has reframed the focus and capabilities of the modern medical world to tailor their work to address the “mountains” affecting all of humanity, not only those who are suffering from medical problems in first world countries.
Through his work, Farmer has inspired and indeed created a following, so much so, that Tracey Kidder, who encountered Farmer on one of his trips to Haiti, wrote Mountains Beyond Mountains, a book which documents the work of Paul Farmer and his organization, Partners in Health. While each page tells the inspirational story of how Farmer has successfully raised awareness and reorganized models for dealing with the sick poor around the world, specifically in Haiti, nothing compares to the trained response and action Partners in Health took when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti’s core on January 12th.
Since the organization had already been on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years, PIH, locally known as Zanmi Lasante, was well versed in the local culture and needs of the community. PIH has not only implemented a medical landscape in Haiti, but they have trained the locals to care and adapt medical procedures and materials for their own communities. After all, it is the locals who know their country and community the best.
Zanmi Lansante started as a small community clinic in Cange, a village about 60 miles from Port au-Prince, in 1985, and has since grown to be a full service hospital, with operating rooms, in-patient units, and an infectious disease center for starters; similar models have also been set up throughout Haiti’s Central Plateau, reaching hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
This existing “medical network” in Haiti helped serve and continues to serve as a backbone of support and navigation for the hundreds of organizations that travelled to Haiti immediately following the earthquake.
With money still pouring in to aid victims of the earthquake (individuals have and are continuing to raise money and awareness- runwithhaiti.org, www.askyourmama.com, and other events!) PIH has been forced to respond quickly and to reevaluate its focus on the ground in Haiti, while still maintaining the success of its many programs around the world; in Peru, Russia, Rwanda, and elsewhere.
Partners in Health does “whatever it takes.” Through their leadership, PIH acts as we would if a member of our own family fell ill, by using every means at our disposal to make them well; highlighting the fact that “The only real nation is humanity.”