During the winter of 2012, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Moshi, Tanzania where I would unknowingly embark on a journey that has forever changed my life. Coming from a small town in Southern Maine, my intention was to broaden my horizons, to breathe in the diversity of this world and to try to give back to those in need of medical care. At the time, I was a third year nursing student at Simmons College in Boston, Mass. I had traveled to various areas of the world, none as magnificent, unique and unforgettable as that of Tanzania. Little did I know that this experience would help pave my path of becoming a Registered Nurse immersed in advocating for women, children and equitable healthcare for each human being.
The Half the Sky Movement has resonated with me ever since my time in Tanzania. My experience at St. Joseph's Hospital provided me with the opportunity to interact with a young mother. She had given birth to her daughter, and soon became pregnant with another child. Contrary to our knowledge in the States, this kind-hearted, loving woman chose not to breastfeed her daughter while pregnant, as she thought it would interrupt and end the growth of her fetus. Consequently, her nine-month-old daughter developed Kwashiorkor, a protein and energy wasting disease resulting from severe malnutrition. For these are the diseases we so briefly hear about in nursing school, yet pithily review because they are 'never seen in our population.'
This nine-month-old child was precisely the size of her newborn brother. Her mother was unaware, and did not have the resources to understand that breastfeeding would not harm the growing fetus. This infant's small head peaking out of the blanket showed signs of despair; sunken, glassy eyes shot right to my heart. We unwrapped her blanket to find what remained. Her limbs were wasted and malnourished, most definitely smaller than that of an American Girl Doll.
The disparities are noticeably different between cultures. This is a class problem. A world problem. Is it a problem that I am comparing my beloved patient's arm to that of an American Girl Doll's? Feelings succumb me. Those of guilt, sadness and helplessness. Some hope still remains. With the powerful movements, such as the Half the Sky Movement, the possibilities seem tangible. Opportunities for young women and girls to immerse themselves in an education, and advocate for what they believe in are emerging. This short anecdote was one of the many jarring occurrences that will forever stay in my mind. Equipped with my nursing skills, and love for the human race, I hope to better the lives through health education and health equality advocacy.
What brings us together at the end of the day is the ability to be present with one another. Race, class and gender may influence the way that we look on the outside; these small differences are nothing compared to that immense similarities of which we share as human beings.