Doctors Without Borders is an incredible organization that brings medical care to impoverished victims of war and disasters. In one of their newsletters, they featured an excerpt from the book Writing on the Edge, a collection of accounts by 14 highly respected writers who traveled with Doctors Without Borders teams to crisis areas. I’d like to share part of the story Booker Prize-winning novelist DBC Pierre wrote about his journey to Armenia.
“(In the Southern Caucasus) there’s a great stigma placed on mental disability. Sufferers are alone with their problems. Lesser conditions like depression and anxiety are ignored altogether, just taken as another fact of hard life. This dynamic forms the heart of Belgian psychologist Dr. Luk Van Baelen’s project. He has made a start on the task of destigmatization.
“Chambarak opened its first DWB day center in 2003. There is one in each of the towns I’ve visited, staffed with psychologists, social workers, and assistants. They are a hub not just for the disabled, but for the wider community, if only for warmth, coffee, and conversation. Every weekday the center is open for counseling, crafts, music, fitness, anything that brings the twain together in a relaxed and constructive way. Picnics and open days are mounted whenever possible. The able and disabled are mingling. ‘We use any excuse for a party,’ says Chambarak’s psychologist, Loussine Mkrttchian. Subscription is steadily growing at her center.
“It’s also at the day center I see a remembered face. I meet him. His name is Petros, a handsome,weather-beaten, profoundly retarded 35-year-old with airs of great musing and reflection and a fixation with the buttons on his coat. A familiar sight around the district, he simply wanders from morning to night, often in the mountains, often around the prohibited border zone. His family feeds him, but that’s as far as his care goes. He’s been left all his life to wander. He has never spoken a word.”
The people who work with Doctors Without Borders amaze me. Right livelihood in action.