BY GUEST BLOGGER | August 21, 2014
written by: Caitlin Smith | Walsh Jesuit High School ’15
I attended my second Ignatian Family Teach- In for Justice in 2013, where I sat in on a breakout session hosted by a representative from Partners in Health, Phil Garrity. He spoke on healthcare and liberation theology, focusing most of his presentation on the works of Dr. Paul Farmer and Father Gustavo Gutierrez. The company’s mission statement highlights a key tenet of Catholic Social Teaching: preferential option for the poor. This preferential option for the poor calls us to live and work with those living in impoverished communities and facing social injustices, to commit to a life of solidarity instead of charity, and to give these communities the tools needed to help themselves.
I witnessed the effects of social injustice first hand during my immersion experience to Duran, Ecuador with a group of fellow students from Walsh Jesuit High School. I was a witness to the struggling, and the poverty, and the inhumane conditions the people of the community were forced to live in. My heart was broken open by people such as Jenny, Ricardo, and Rosita, who were all born into poverty and yet continue to live a faith filled life. Meanwhile I began to struggle deeply with my faith, asking myself where was someone who could fix this situation for all these people. I realized that person was me and the hundreds of other American students and volunteers that experience the poverty of Duran, Ecuador every year. I also realized though, it was not our mission to fix the problems of the entire country or all impoverished countries, we were simply called, during our short time in Ecuador, to be people of presence, to simply live in these people’s lives, hear their stories, and allow them to break our hearts.
It was after my experience in Ecuador I began to truly understand what Phil had said in his breakout session just months before. He said “how do we say yes to life when there is so much to say no to?” Suddenly it seemed that my passions in life were coming together to shape what I wanted to do with my future. Instead of breaking down and allowing the injustices that occur around our world to break my spirit, I’m allowing them to shape me. Through this and the inspiration from Partners in Health, I have felt myself drawn towards a career in public/ global health to help communities in my surrounding neighborhoods and communities around the world, such as Duran, Ecuador. I am hoping through this blending of passions, I will be able to commit myself to living a faith that does justice.
“Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.
We draw on the resources of the world’s leading medical and academic institutions and on the lived experience of the world’s poorest and sickest communities. At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone.
When our patients are ill and have no access to care, our team of health professionals, scholars, and activists will do whatever it takes to make them well—just as we would do if a member of our own families or we ourselves were ill.”
– Partners in Health Mission Statement