MEET JAIME SHAFF
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
"What is your name?"
"Oh! My name is Jaimie, what is your name?"
"Well hello Kuach, nice to meet you. Tu parles francais aussi?"
"Wow, Dinka, Arabic, English and French? How old are you?"
"5." – points at my pen and notepad, and proceeds to try and draw English letters.
"You can write in English too? Kuach, you're pretty smart, do you go to school?"
"Mmhm, I go to OT!"
The OT is the Operation Theater, where this brave five year old boy has been undergoing treatments for severe burns at the Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Aweil, South Sudan. It's a difficult place, South Sudan.
A country ravaged by war, whose people are both fragile and strong. I saw the PTSD and psychosocial issues. I saw the violently unpredictable mood changes and severely repressed experiences. I also saw the love, the warmth, and the compassion. I saw the smile on the faces of adults when they watched children play... was not part of a childhood spent fleeing from violence. I saw the relief on the face of a father when his child began to recover from severe acute malnutrition. I also saw the tireless efforts put in by aid workers from organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, who will knock down all boundaries to provide vulnerable people access to healthcare.
After 8 months in South Sudan, my days were dwindling and I was beginning the process of finally heading home. I had one last goal, and on my last weekend set out with another MSF teammate to build a tire swing at the hospital. The minute we rolled that tire into the hospital, Kuach and his gang of patients supported by crutches and bandages followed us and watched in anticipation. As soon as we put the tire up, the patients became kids, and played. Parents, MSF staff, and other expatriates gathered to watch the sheer, uninhibited laughter coming from this group of children. Smiles and laughs that had not been genuinely free until this moment. As I sat with some of the mothers, one of the older men came up to me, shook my hand, and said, "You did a really good thing today. You did a really good thing.
Three years ago, when I left my comfortable life, yoga kula, friends and family to begin a humanitarian life, I thought I knew what I was in for. I was not prepared for the lives that would touch me, or the tiny humans who have the capacity to change the world.
Lokah samastah, sukhino bhavantu.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all. "