Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The business of giving

In this Advent time and a couple of days before Christmas, you would rather expect a title such as "the joy of giving," wouldn't you? Surely, today, I witnessed the joy of giving but, as genuine as it was, it is the result of a complicated and long process, a real business process.

This morning, Birt and I joined Emebet and Joseph, the co-founders of The World Family, to visit two hospitals in Addis Ababa: Saint Peter and Gandhi Memorial. The former is part of 50 hospitals that Joseph equipped with 2nd-hand and refurbished medical equipments from the US. It specializes in tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS treatment and asked for equipment to expand in the orthopedic and reeducation field. The second is on the candidate list for an upcoming project and is the largest maternity in the capital, the hospital where Emebet was born. The two institutions being at very different stages of the project, that provided a great opportunity to seize the broad spectrum of activities and hoops that Joseph and Emebet have to go through just to... give! Which include a call from the Minister of Health on Joseph's cell phone while we were driving through town. We should actually see the Minister himself at the inauguration of the community center in Gara Dima in one week!

At Saint Peter we conducted a review of the content of the three containers which have been shipped this year. Explaining to the local staff what some devices are meant for or how to reassemble and set them up. A dozen of articulated beds have been placed in a special pavilion which is empty today but has been setup in case of a swine flu epidemic.

At Gandhi Memorial it was a very different story: Joseph and Emebet were trying to convince the Director of the hospital to use some of his budget to cover part of the transportation costs and get a lot of needed supplies in exchange, instead of spending all his budget on much fewer brand new equipment. It seems like a no-brainer from an economical standpoint, but it is not that simple from an administrative point of view and also because it requires change of habits. The same issue we encounter in the... business. The discussion was all about submitting a wish list that Joseph will fulfill. Quite timely as we approach Christmas... Working from hospitals' wish lists is actually the very unique value proposition of The World Family, a much more sustainable approach than the one of other associations who decide on their own what they ship. It makes the logistics much more complex with very specific needs to meet, and that is one of the purposes of The World Family's Oakland warehouse which serves as the Santa Claus' hub to handle and mitigate this complexity.

We visited several sections of the maternity starting with the emergency room, in full swing (one lady in labor arrived with her husband with blood on his pullover). A room smaller than our car garages or not as clean... It would have been indecent to take pictures... We stopped by the consultation room, then the brand new premature section which only Emebet got in after putting some protection on. Overall, certainly the local state of the art which the Director and his staff can be proud of, but so far behind what we have in the US, health care crisis or not.

While the four of us had lunch in an Indian restaurant, the cell phones kept ringing to track the progress of the rest of group and we arrived just in time at 1:30 to see most of the group coming out of immigration and customs controls. With the remaining 6 exiting 15 minutes later after they checked on the missing luggage that didn't make through the connection and change of airlines in London (Agnès reported it was a total mess in the luggage warehouses at Heathrow). Everybody was looking so pale and exhausted after this 76-hour journey, door to door. Back to the theme of the title, the kids were given the opportunity to experience what it takes to fly overseas to conduct business. Although, fortunately, not all our business trips turn to such an awful adventure. What a way to give up three days of your vacation to such a noble cause. The business of giving...

PS: one quick word on running (the original blog theme...). None today as Mengsitu canceled our morning meeting last night. If we are leaving for Metehara tomorrow as scheduled (we'll decide tonight based on the form of the troops after their 4-hour rest this afternoon), the next opportunity will be there. In a much warmer weather as it is raining again today in Addis.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jean,

What an amazing time of giving at Christmas as you said in your blog, thank you for your wonderful narrative. We can feel your experiences through the words. May God watch over all of you in this work of service. Merry Christmas and we look forward to your next post.

Anonymous said...

Vous suivons mieux grâce à ton blog.
Espérons que les voyageurs vont récupérer après cet éprouvant voyage;
Nous vous remercions infinement de nous avoir tant gâtés et vous embrassons tendrement
Papa et Mama,