The purpose of life is not to only be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Words cannot begin to describe the feelings I felt the day we walked into the halls of the pediatric oncology unit at Baylor [Medical Center].
For the first few minutes I had to pinch myself to remind myself that this was real, I was awake, it was not a dream!
I had to check my privilege seriously… I had hardly ever been to a government-run medical center in South Africa, let alone a medical center run by African government in the heart of Africa.
Cancer affects the lives of children all over the world, but it is estimated that up to 90 percent of children with cancer live in developing countries. In low-income countries where access to healthcare is limited, childhood cancer survival rates are as low as 10 to 20 percent.
As an affluent, young white female, I had become accustomed to what should be ‘normal’ little did I know that my normal and the normal of my peers were in stark contrast.
As soon as we walked through the metal doors of the pediatric oncology unit in Malawi, I knew that what we as Lessons in Conservation were doing there that day was more than me, it was more than us, in fact, it wasn’t about us at all…
It was about them.
It was about the children we were there to serve, the lives we were about to impact, and the smiles we hoped to bring, even if just for a while.
So often, during our lessons, we hope to inspire the next generation of conservationists, to ignite the spark in the hearts of the next generation, but here we had to adjust our expectations…
We were focused on bringing joy, stimulating smiles, and leaving love, leaving part of my heart with the children in the wing of the hospital.
Eighty percent of children with cancer in the United States and other developed nations survive, while many lower-income countries have mortality rates that exceed 80 percent, according to a 2019 paper published in Infectious Agents and Cancer.
Although on this day there was not much we could have done about the inequalities of the healthcare system, the heartbreak we felt as we left knowing that when we visit Baylor again in a few weeks, many of these children would no longer be Earthside.
We focused on what we could do, what we as Lessons in Conservation are good at.
We danced, we sang, we learned, we loved and we laughed!
If you would like to learn more about how you can make a difference for these children at Baylor please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
*NOTE: We have not shown the faces of any of the children in the photos and videos out of sensitivity and respect for them and their families*