I lived in Kenya when I was a child so Africa has always held a special place in my heart. The sunsets were spectacular, like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else in the world. They’re orange and pink, expansive, like a painting on velvet. I was only seven when I lived there but I made three lifelong friends—each of them uniquely bright, energized, curious, and kind. I fed giraffes and walked with elephants. I tended a carnivorous pitcher plant in my own backyard. Africa is magical. It’s full of incredible creatures, each more fascinating than the last—the stark stripes of the zebra, the proboscis of the anteater, the mischievous cunning of the spider monkey. And it’s full of incredible people, many of whom face unimaginable challenges and hardships. Organizations that serve Africa help to protect this magical place while they help to improve the lives of her people. If you have never been to Africa, go! It will change your life forever.
In the United States, millions of people don’t have health insurance. Every day they fall deeper into debt because of medical procedures they can’t afford. Often, they don’t seek care because they can’t afford to pay. The system is deeply flawed. People suffer from a lack of medical coverage every day. In a country this rich, it’s shameful. Then again, it is illegal to deny care to someone in need. We know if we go to an emergency room anywhere in the country, we will get treatment. I think that safety net, while paltry and inadequate, protects us from the most heinous kind of medical neglect, and for that I’m grateful. We don’t see children going through their lives with cleft palates, for example. Early treatment spares these kids stigma, problems with speech, and infection. Treatable birth defects are treated, even if the parents are saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.
There was a time, several years ago, when I didn’t have any money. I was just out of college, didn’t have a job, and was trying to pay rent, student loans, bills, and to eat (if there was anything left). It was the first time in my life that I felt the real stress of poverty. It could have been worse—I had an education—but I couldn’t find a job and didn’t know when I would. I was two months late on rent and looking at eviction, desperately trying to sell everything I owned to raise the funds. Then one morning I woke up and couldn’t walk. My leg was swollen to three times its size and I was in incredible pain. After years of ballet spent abusing my feet, I’d neglected to care for the blister on my heel, and now it was festering. I knew I needed medical attention but didn’t have money, let alone insurance. Lucky for me, I found Dr. Bob.