Ophelia Dahl on Optimism in Difficult Times

Published by PIHC on

A PIH nurse holds a 14 month old child in her arms
Nurse Asmine Pierre holds Maylove Louis, 14 months, during a home visit in Boucan Carré, Haiti. Louis is four months into the malnutrition program. (Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health)

Ophelia Dahl, a co-founder of Partners In Health and the board chair, reflected recently about the organization’s early days in Haiti and on how deeply she and other co-founders wished to “make a dent in the extreme poverty faced by thousands of Haitians,” in partnership with local colleagues.

Some 30 years ago, their team built a clinic in rural Haiti that had a positive impact on countless lives. That clinic grew into a hospital, which served as a reference point for patients from across Haiti. Their work spurred a movement that leapt to Peru and Russia, expanded to Mexico, and also has taken root in the heart of Kazakhstan and five countries in Africa.

All of this was possible, Dahl says, because they chose optimism over apathy. Here’s is the beginning of her essay, as published on WBUR’s Cognoscenti, the opinion page for NPR’s Boston-based affiliate:

“There’s a well-loved Haitian proverb I often turn to during challenging times: ‘Piti piti, wazo fe nich li.’ It translates to, ‘Little by little, the bird makes its nest.’ My friends and colleagues offer it up as words of consolation and hope when a challenge seems overwhelming. I bring it up now, as I often do during difficult times when so much seems uncertain, because it also reminds me of a specific moment from my first trip to Haiti in 1983 as an 18-year-old volunteer.”

Read more and listen to the interview here.

Article originally posted on pih.org.

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