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Log 2—Pre Flight Jitters

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Blog Articles, Ethiopia, Recent Works | 0 comments

Log 2—Pre Flight Jitters

Readers might be surprised to know this, but in over 30 years working abroad I have never left my mothers home for a new assignment, except on my maiden voyage to Taiwan on my first flight to Asia. Since 1981 I have always been working and leaving from my own residence, with my own immediate family, my own home help and my own teams of employees surrounding and supporting me. Normally I have people who help me prep for new assignments (be that for clients or on contractual projects like this).

I realized when I signed this contract in San Francisco California (not in my home in Asia) that my preparation required me to do many more steps in the process of departure. Simply I have my mother and my sister and my best mates to consider. I could not just drop everything, pack a bag and depart with passport in hand: a trait I am known for doing in less than 24 hours. To leave for Ethiopia required me to consider how my parent would feel. Instead of calling her up and telling her I was leaving tomorrow for Timbuktu, I knew a quick departure would not be right. It would not feel good. And, so preparation meant planning quality time together before leaving. No quick exit.

This preparation period concurring simultaneous to some horrific world events— the announcement of the aid worker Kayla Muellers death in Syria, and the beheading of over 20 Copic Egyptians by ISIL My mother a news junkie is very much aware of these world events and I am knowingly aware that these events were creating more worry for her. How could they not: I am at heart (whether working on a commercial or non profit project) an aid worker. And, she a mother who always has to let go. The pre departure jitters for both of us at an unusually extreme level of silent nervousness….

Every aidworker, every global executive, every world traveler and their family must be much more aware of the dangers that exist now (than in 1980’s when I first left the states) when one steps offshore. “We” international global citizens are at risk. That’s fact. Not an easy thought or realization but the truth. And, the further we travel, the more distant places we take assignments to, the more unknowns for ourselves and those we leave behind.

I have felt jittery for the last few weeks.
I have never in three decades experienced this contemplation of my own fears.
I have never admitted to myself that by doing what I love (helping world communities) I set those I love up for weeks of worry………

I face this fact now.
Its not a pleasant feeling of the truth.

Ethiopia 2015 – Short term assignment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Blog Articles, Ethiopia, Recent Works | 0 comments

Ethiopia 2015 – Short term assignment in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Some where in the fall of 2014 I saw a advertisement for a short-term technical health role in Addis Ababa. The project description similar to a project I worked on three years past for USAID. But this assignment for a private sector group ‘Human Dynamics’ based in Austria under contract for the European Union. Like with other applications once they are emailed out they are forgotten. And, I go about my daily life working as I normally do, working in my community, socializing with my friends and spending time with my family. No more thought is given to the application because the reality in today’s 2015 market place is that I am one of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of job applicants in the global market. And, the chance of securing new contracts with new organizations that don’t know me is as slim as finding a needle in the haystack. And what is even at greater odds is the fact that I am working and each new opportunity must line up the stars——with the time to take off of work for my present employer and a sincere interest in the new project.

That stated, in late January I received notice that I was being considered for the short-term health advisor role with Human Dynamics. And luck had it: I am on leave at home in the States enjoying family time. And, yet also willing and interested to take on interim consultancy. So, when they called me I told them so… Consequently, I was awarded the contract after as series of emails and discussions.

And, it is here where I will begin. From this point forward I will write about going on a consulting assignment to Africa. As, I have never documented any specific assignment, I have decided that this Ethiopia contract gives me an opportunity to express my thoughts as I carry out the role from start to finish.

In part if not the only reason, I am going to write from start to finish for my family and dearest friends. They always ask me what I do and because my type of international lifestyle and career is foreign to the Americans who are my greatest supporters, I feel it is time to let them read about my daily activities. But, what ever I write applies to all of my blog readers who are considering a global career. My work is an example of what you can do and where you can go. So many people hear the term “AIDWORKER” but they don’t really understand what it means to work as a humanitarian, or what a developing nation is. They only know their own experience, their own industrialized modern western environment……

One thing I can say is this…..

Going to Africa is not the same as going to Hong Kong. The expectations I have for my assignment are different than when I am working in an industrialized city. Why, because everything is GREY.

Greyness is working in a place where the rules are not set in stone. Greyness is traveling to a place where the systems are naïve and health facilities are limited in the functionality and ability to cope with the issues of the people . Unlike in a industrialized city where every road is paved clean, homes, offices, hospitals have electricity (and generators that work 99% of the time in crisis), developing nations like Ethiopia suffer from a lack of supplies, manpower, and funding. So, rules and procedures are to be studied, strategized, and promoted for policy development, planning, implementation, and building. Consequently, my role as a aidworker ( or more frequently as a health consultant) is to give advice.I am given the opportunity to investigate, suggest, and provide my insight to others. What ever ideas I can provide are ideas for the local host nationals to consider. And, in that, I find great satisfaction for each and every opportunity I am given to travel to places like Addis Ababa.

So heres’ where I begin….

NAVIGATING GRAY WATERS…….

Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Blog Articles | 0 comments

NAVIGATING GRAY WATERS…….

The Aid Worker Cares…..

Navigating patients through the health care system whether in a developing, emerging, or industrialized nation is far from a pleasant blue water sail…

For each there is risk.

Today the health system(s) that exist are like shifting winds, changing tides— unpredictable.  Everyday can be gray. Different. Steering patients ahead as an aid worker is the similar to steering the helm of a sailboat safely to safety.  Each must take care.

In my world of aid and development I have navigated patients across many turbulent seas.  There have been times when I have maneuvered individuals from village hut to health center to provincial hospital to national centers of excellence (in places NOT measured by high tech devices or new drugs but only by the touch of a caring nurses hand or sound of her gentle voice).

And, in more recent times I have navigated patients from their home in their township ambulances to high tech emergency rooms filled with all the newest medical devices with nurses with no care and or little touch (in places monitored by international JCI standards of excellence with all the newest high tech devices and powerful drugs).

In both situations I have seen death on its doorstep. And, in both I have felt a calm come over me as I did what I do best … navigate through the turbulence at a time when my patient, my client, the person who’s family I am assisting needed my help most. At their most vulnerable time….

The reader may ask:

 Why is Terry writing about navigating patients when she is an AID WORKER not a Patient Navigator?

A fair question given the blog’s goal is to educate those that are interested in international development.

My response is simply this:

Aid workers are many things to many people.  And, to define an aid workers job is to also  (especially when the person working is in public health) to define  “care”.

When an aid, relief, or emergency worker takes a job abroad (especially!) in an emerging or developing nation, the job role more than always requires you to do the unexpected: To take care of an individual or group that is sick. And, many times doing just this will require many decisions to be made without teams of support, a doctor, or a boss. To me, an aid worker is always taking care.

An aid worker is always navigating unknown passages. An aid worker derives her pleasure from these unknown challenges. It is these gray passages that are not defined by westernized JCI rules and regulations.  But they are defined by the moment of need. Simply, the need for immediate medical attention. This drives the aid worker to provide her own continuum of care. Something she must decide on and create to make change.

My analogy is therefore that sailors are to navigators as aid workers are to caregivers.  Each maneuvering gray waters at unexpected times.  Each caring to be home safe and sound.

Not wanting to admit

Posted by on Apr 30, 2014 in Blog Articles, Recent Works | 0 comments

Not wanting to admit

Not wanting to admit…

The story of Gabriel’s message of sight………..

When ones work is in the field working as an aid worker, humanitarian, missionary or journalist in far flung poor locations of the world or urban ghettos or at times of natural disaster or war, the scenes of deprivation the worker views can be horrendous. And, they can be those that cause long-term sorrow and posttraumatic stress. But, the scenes of need are also what motivate the worker to ‘roll up her sleeves’ and give her best to make change.

However, every field worker must find the ways to remain healthy, clear thinking and able to enter and leave and enter the work situation with the energy to face the challenges in aid and development, disaster, relief and recovery.  It is not easy to do this. And, it takes time to find the way to preservation of self.

This said, I know that to be able to travel and work in difficult areas with marginalized communities I have had to learn how to protect myself from long days of depression, or from anxiety caused by extended 24/7 working days. I know that when I am relieved of my duties I must return to a home that is more a home of western culture and comfort  than that of the local  host village where one may have started ones career in a peace corp village hut.

Today, as an experienced humanitarian and social entrepreneur who has gained the respect for my working deeds of past in hard locations, I know I must shift between field assignments in local environments and residences to a home base that is comfortable. That’s a must to my own sustainability and survival. Mental and physical. Therefore, I choose homes in affluent environments with the same western comforts that I might have in Hong Kong, San Francisco, or London.  I seek out and find a beautiful health club to swim daily at.  I find a driver who can escort me safely around town at night. And, I get to know my European and American neighbors as well as the local professionals that can afford the same lifestyle. I do not choose to live isolated in village conditions because I know I must preserve my own wellbeing. This allows me to more easily travel to emerging and developing environments and back to industrialized nations facing less culture shock. My choice today is to disassociate on my return to Makati from the memories of the harsh environment I am helping (as best as I can) to the comfort and security of my good bed and lovely home, with the ornaments of my life, my animals, and when possible my family around me. This is how I have survived +30 years of work in some very challenging environments.

And, this is where the story of not wanting to admit begins….

Something wonderful, something mystical, and something that has become one of my stories of my life in the Philippines happened last year in what was my comfortable Makati neighborhood…

The story is about reflection. Its about accepting that the ills of the world are around us all the time and can not be avoided. Its about showing kindness even when wanting to retreat back home to the comfort of ones own home walls.

When I am in Manila I stay in Makati. The flat were I stay is located on probably one of the best streets in the country because it is lined with trees, maintained office buildings, and door fronts opened by security guards and concerges.   Flowers and trees are trimmed, storefronts are styled, and coffee shops and restaurants have lovely outdoor street side sitting. There are no cracks in the road, no garbage on the street, or no street children pestering walkers.  The street seldom if ever floods, and people can walk and talk and mingle with each other safely.  I feel safe and at ease on this street in this neighborhood…….

And, on weekend mornings I love the walk to the outdoor market where I buy organic food for the week, see friends, eat Indonesia or Chinese, and buy home art and items for gifts…..  My walk to the market a short distance from my flat. But three years ago this walk became something of a hassle, a definite annoyance, and a situation which made me angry. I choose my flat because it was the one place I did not have to face poverty. Or so I thought.

For many weeks on Sunday I passed a begging man. And, in Makati’s Greenbelt Area begging is illegal, police round up the beggars and street children and chase them out of the area. It’s the central business district. The township leadership wants the streets clean of rubbish and of the poor. To most people, it’s the richest and most sterile environment in the nation;  it could be part of any urban center in any industrialized nation. Beggars begone….

When I passed this beggar instead of being kind to the man showing a smile or saying hello, I found myself feeling angry that he was invading my space. I took on this particular flat on this particular street to avoid having to interact with poverty and beggars when I was in Makati. This location was to be my place of normalcy, of rest away from work, away from hardship, away from the poor. It was supposed to be a place where I could dress well enough to wear nice clothes and jewelry (something I don’t do in the field) and a place where I can feel like the professional more affluent woman. But, somehow each and every time I ran into this mans begging hand I felt just pure anger and resentment because he was infringing his life needs on the moments I needed rest away from this reality. I felt guilty each and every time I encountered him.

To resolve this problem I decided to take alternative routes to avoid the beggar at all costs. I did this each and every weekend I was in Makati on leave from the field. And, for about 1.5 years I managed to never meet the man again.  I had my peace. I had my sanity. And, I could rest my mind from my work world of  poverty alleviation.

Well, the world is full of tricks that make one face themselves at unexpected times.  And, this time the trick was played on me.  On my October 2013 birthday, I ran straight into the beggar at a place I never saw him sit at. It was not his usual spot.  And, it was not a weekend.  It was a weekday when police are normally patrolling. The beggar was at the corner of the junction near the country’s most famous 5 star mall. He nearly tripped me with his hand and foot leaning out for help.  I was walking too fast, with too much on my mind, with the goal to catch the crossing light so I could beat the signal changed. When I almost tripped, I caught myself and instead of laughing at myself for racing too fast, as soon as I realized the beggar was in my space, I instantaneously became annoyed.  Without expressing “excuse me sir with a kind tone”  I fled past him with a flustered glance of annoyance and no words.

But, as I stepped ahead I heard faintly…

“Mam I am hungry….

I have not eaten for three days….

Please feed me”

 

By the time I digested the meaning of his words, I was in the middle of the street crossing. He was not asking for money he was asking to be fed. As I realized this I heard a voice in my head……

“GABRIEL SON OF GOD”

 

I froze dead in my tracks. I could not move on. I would not be consciously able to celebrate my own birthday and eat a nice dinner if I did not apologize to this man and offer him food.

Turning around, I saw the beggar for the first time….

And realized he was going blind…..

I  went back to him and said…

“Sir, did you say to me you are hungry?”

He said…

Mam, I have not eaten in three days, can you feed me?”

As I faced him for the first time really looking at him, I realized with a sense of more anquish and shame that this beggar was not old but was very young. And, that his eyes had cataracts rendering him nearly blind. He could not see me.

Because I had never ever really looked at him. I felt so ashamed to admit this to myself. How could I have walked by trying to avoid him in the past? I knew then that I had missed the chance to help him get services. I know this is not my usual behavior when in the field so why should it be different when I am in the city….. especially when the man is my neighbor.

All people deserve the basics. I work for the benefit of the poorer and less able. And Gabriel was right in my back yard with so much need that my stomach ached with pain. What is worse is I felt embarrassed until today to admit this to anyone or write this story out in my blog.

As I walked with him across the boulevard, I said. ……

Sir what is your name? I would like to call you by your name…

He said:

Man, I am Gabriel!

At that moment I knew he was a message from God. He was a living angel. And, I understood immediately that I had to reflect on my behavior of avoidance and anger and why I felt I could not be kind.

Poverty exists and will always exist right next door. It’s not going away.  Sadly, the sight of the poor is here to stay. But, as I have always known, just my smile might make a difference 1:1 in someone else’s sight.  Gabriel is now my friend and I feed him every time I see him, and am working to find him a surgeon to remove his cataracts.

 

POVERTY – Gabriel Blind

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Blog Articles, Recent Works | 0 comments

POVERTY – Gabriel Blind

I hide
I am invisible to most who pass me.
I am young in my 20’s
I am loosing my eyesight with cataracts that need to be operated on.
I live in the bushes hiding from the police in a city that frowns on the HOMELESS….

I am scared
I am hungry
And, I am truly in need.

Who cares?
Seems no one.

I am passed on the street by 99% of the working people
Too busy to look at me,
Too scared to acknowledge my quite presence,
Not wanting to hear the words
I am hungry. …. please feed me.
No food for 3 days….

I am on the streets today hiding in the park, living in the bushes.
My reality is hiding from the law as it is illegal to be homeless in this city.
Ironic, isn’t it….I moved for a better life to the city from the province…
And, I have been passed over
By too many.

What country do I live in?

I am Filipino : I live in Manila, Philippines

I am Gabriel…

EASTER ALLOWANCES

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Blog Articles, Recent Works | 0 comments

EASTER ALLOWANCES

In new life at Easter my spirit is alive and clear.

I am aware change is in progress. I am aware of giving in and letting go. And, that in my faith I will be guided. Just as a bee is guided to collect pollen for the hive and queen mother, I have been collecting my thoughts and discussing the meaning of life with my own mother. Having just experienced a period of time with her physically, near family and life long child hood friends, I have been renewed.

This Easter, special, as I am physically home with my loved ones, especially with my Mom.

I celebrate with her my blessings and I thank God for allowing me a life with these gifts

– To have the knowledge of Christ as my savior,
– To not be controlled by the $$$
– To understand minimalism and how to live on little
– To understand the complexity of poverty
– To be able to work with the poorest yet also with the wealthiest
– To work in roles that is never a ‘ job ‘…
– To have work that is always fun….
– To be free to schedule long holidays with family…
– To have the privilege to travel the world…
– To receive fair and yet sometimes exceptional compensation
– To share my world from people of all ages, races, cultures
– To never feel obligated to anyone
– To be wise enough to make solid decisions
– To experience the lesson of failure and to rebound back
– To not be embarrassed by my failings but aware
– To be loved
– To feel I am always going to be all right, even during hard times
– To be a global citizen.

In this picture of the bee humming I see my self this Easter moving ahead and being allowed to make change. I pray for all to be as blessed and that Easter allows you to see your future and that you are able to also see your blessings…..

TREE RINGS

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Blog Articles, Recent Works | 0 comments

TREE RINGS

Only since my return to the States have I realized that my life as an expat has been shaded by my field experiences. To me death is close enough to touch.
But to Americans who share my life in California, death and aging is a topic not near to their heart, not part of their daily awareness (except avoidance of it).

Tree Rings, a picture shot by German photographer Josef Mueller, is poignant.
He looks down as if he is the trunk counting his years of life, his rings. He is aware and conscience that each line is one more year of being. Each represents his fortitude, his statue, his growth, and his existence. But, since my return to the States this year I have observed that family and friends want ‘youth’. That American drive to be perfect means looking young, acting younger, being focused on observing themselves from the outside, not from their trunk.

My sister, an effervescent personality sparkles. She strives for her youth. She focuses on anything except aging. She loves being adventuresome, outdoorsy, sporty, and able to keep up with her 20 something children. She speaks with authority on doing now not waiting to do later, on being younger. She has young friends. She epitomizes to me the persona of a healthy woman. And, she has this youthfulness in spite of very suddenly loosing the love of her life, her husband six years past. Of anyone I would have thought my sister should have aged in minds spirit when her love of her life died. Instead she rose above his death to take care of her children, to show a face of survival, to remain youthful in action. And, because of this she has blossomed into a healthier happier boomer with healthy happy succeeding adult children. I believe her adventuresome husband is shining on her to be positive. I can’t help but admire her resilience in the fate of her loss. And, respect her for acting young at heart.

But my soul feels old. Instead of seeing youth when looking down at Josef’s tree rings, I see a life nearing death with each year. The stump of the tree cut off: Life ended. I see myself as closing in and nearing my death in the second half mid century of my life. And, I am not trying to be young. I am working to be my age, dress my age, act the part of a middle age boomer. I am very very much aware that 57 is close to 60, and 60 is on the way to 70, 80, 90, 100. I am aware I don’t look, act, or feel like a 20 something niece or nephew. I don’t feel I need to be that anymore. And, I don’t feel young. I feel every day of my age. I believe I look my age, too.

These months have made me question why one sister can have such a youthful attitude and look so amazingly effervescent, and one sister can look just her age. Whether or not others see us, as we perceive ourselves to be, is for the viewer to decide. But, our feelings and attitudes on our tree rings part and parcel of our self’s… Why? Is it our life experiences?

My sister saw her husband die way too young. I have seen people die in war, strife, floods, typhoons, and natural causes of death way too early.

My sister has lived in a country blessed with two of everything (two homes, two or more cars, two or more cats and dogs, two children but not yet two husbands! two or more swimming pools on her street, two or more gyms on her street, two or more grocery stores in a few blocks of her house, food everywhere, goods to buy easy to get, gas plentiful…). She has lived without strife, war, floods, typhoons or other harsh environmental or societal problems around her.

I instead of had seen the realities of crisis. I have seen the inner depths of ultra poverty below 50 cents a day (in most places I go under 25 cents a day). I have seen people die without medication, without safe water, without care, alone…
I have seen guns that control street corners to fend off offenders.
I have seen the harsh reality of decisions of politicians living in white towers making rules and regulations that destroy life’s of children (the USA never ratified the RIGHTS of the CHILD because we as Americans support in policy wars where children fight—). I know life from this perspective…

I am a humanitarian.
And, I have been influenced by the world.
Is my view of aging and death to be faulted?
Is my viewpoint wrong?
Should I be trying to see the world, my future differently?
I wonder if other aid workers have a similar perception?

Tree rings……..
When will my own life end?

POVERTY – South Pacific Sister and Brothers

Posted by on Nov 13, 2013 in Blog Articles | 0 comments

POVERTY – South Pacific Sister and Brothers

Water
Blue Silver Sparkles
Shimmering Day Delight….

Reflection
Strong
Against black skin

Two children
One a teen girl
The other a preschool boy
Arm in arm…

Bismarck Sea
Far from no where
She stands between two separate islands
Their homeland….

Their eyes clear
Their smiles wide
They are delighted with our presence
Unexpected…

We not surprised by their reception.
Joyful.
Welcoming
Interested
Helpful…

They come to face us
To talk
To walk
To their village
To bring us to their elders.

Thought of mine at that moment
In my time line
In my minds eye
Beauty is in the mind of the beholder

Children against the backdrop of the sea
The most beautiful vision of creation.
In the most magnificent place on earth
So very happy in this serene environment

Free from the worlds harm….

Urban poverty
Toxic pollution
Violent man created hatred
Guns
Bombs
Fighting…

POVERTY – Yolanda

Posted by on Nov 13, 2013 in Blog Articles | 0 comments

POVERTY – Yolanda

Yolanda….
HaiYan….
November 8th

Dark
Furious Rain
But far from the eye of the storm
Friday, November 8th

Umbrella blowing sideways
Cat like eyes inside the drawer of a garbage bin
So it seemed at first glace.
But wrong
I was…

A child
A boy
Maybe age ten
Soaking wet
Dirty
Trampling black plastic bags
For food
For items of worth
For money

No storm for him
Work as usual

Poverty
A reality of urban life 2013 in Metro Manila

POVERTY – War Veteran

Posted by on Nov 13, 2013 in Blog Articles | 0 comments

POVERTY – War Veteran

 
 
 
I sit in the library.
I read the newspaper daily.
The air conditioner is my friend.
The librarian is my neighbor.
She smiles every day I walk in and greets me with a big hello.
She is my only true friend.

I am 68
I am a retired veteran of Vietnam
I have not worked for 45 years.
My last job was the war.

Agent orange destroyed my mind first and since my body
I am living on government subsidy. My food stamps don’t cover ends meat.
I don’t go shopping for extras.
I don’t buy.
I put up with neighbors that are rough in the housing unit.
I feel unsafe at night and venerable.
I only go out during the day.

I am Major John Michaels
United States Marines…