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Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

For Partners In Health, the idea of ‘accompaniment’ most often refers to our relationship with patients. It describes an approach of standing in solidarity with those we serve, of listening to their histories and attending to their needs, of being with them on the journey to better health, for however long it may take.
In the big picture, everyone needs accompaniment throughout their lives – and that goes for organizations as well as individuals. The need is great for those taking baby steps…like PIH Canada. We quietly celebrated our second full year of operation last month and it has been so inspiring to see the support building over the past two years. From University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, to food security in Rwanda – thanks to wonderful partners including ONEXONE Foundation and the University of Guelph and hundreds of donors from across the country -- we are helping to save lives and build stronger communities. We are providing accompaniment … and receiving our fair share as well.

Some of the strongest accompaniment PIH Canada has received has its origins on university campuses across the country. On Aug. 24-25 in Toronto, as 18 student leaders from seven universities gathered for PIH Canada’s first Students for Partners In Health conference, there was accompaniment in the air. Of the many themes and shared emotions that emerged from our weekend together, one of the most gratifying was the realization expressed by everyone in the room – be they PIH Canada staff, volunteers or student leaders – that we were drawing strength from the knowledge that we are embarking on a new project together.
As put by McGill student Hilary Hwu: “The conference was so helpful and informative, and I am so glad to now have the support system from other students across Canada and the PIHC office. The biggest thing I am taking away from the conference is a sense of responsibility and a great deal of pride in being the first student movement of PIHC, and I am really looking forward to grow this movement at my campus!”

In one of the conference workshops, students shared personal stories of why they are attracted to the values that underpin Partners In Health – say, a commitment to social justice or health equity or inclusiveness. One student spent her childhood in a household full of schizophrenic adults because her mother took them in to live with the family when no one else would; from this she learned generosity and compassion. Another understood what poverty felt like on the inside because she lived poverty growing up in the Caribbean. Another student from India saw what it meant for his grandfather to live too far from the nearest hospital in a time of need.
And so as they go back to their respective schools this week, they are drawn together through their mobilizing. McGill University students had a PIH club up and running last year and accomplished great things, but for most of the other campuses represented at the conference – University of Toronto, Queen’s University, Ryerson University, University of Western Ontario, University of Alberta and York University – PIH clubs are in the formative stages. They will be recruiting members and planning awareness, advocacy and fundraising activities throughout the year. Students at these universities or others can check out the Students for PIHC website and get involved.

To all the students who spent a beautiful summer weekend together indoors scheming to make the world a better place, thanks for your energy and your commitment and your inspiration. I can’t wait to see what you will accomplish.

To everyone who supports PIH Canada and those we serve, thank you for your accompaniment.

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