Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By Brent Johnson
For the Salisbury Post
Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier welcomed an eager audience by asking them to be attentive to a special speaker by turning off their cell phones.
“But,” he said, “pacemakers can stay on.”
Cavalier, dean of education and director of the First-Year Experience at Catawba College, was speaking to Catawba’s freshman class.
Freshmen gathered in Keppel Auditorium at noon Tuesday to revisit their reading last summer of Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains.”
In the book, Kidder follows Dr. Paul Farmer on his travels to Haiti, one of the least-developed countries in the world. Farmer, a co-founder of the nonprofit Partners in Health, is a charismatic visionary who has joined the quest to provide those in desperate need with the resources to survive.
Edward M. Cardoza, director of development for Partners in Health and the speaker Tuesday, accepted a check for $1,668 from freshman class President Lucille Scott. The money was raised by the class’s “Beauty and the Geek” dance March 14.
According to Cardoza, the money raised is enough to build three homes, and the leftover $100 can feed a family of four for a year.
“Who do we say constitutes our neighbor?” Cardoza asked the students. “If your neighbor is sick and in need of care … what is your responsibility?”
Cardoza challenged the students to consider the meaning of “neighbor,” arguing that there are no limits to calling one a neighbor. Cardoza asked students to extend their hand to anyone in need.
Partners in Health, said Cardoza “deals with death, dying, and those left behind. It is our moral responsibility to take care of our neighbor.”
“We ought to be concerned with other human beings,” he said.
Cardoza made simple but powerful statements.
“If you are poor, you are much more likely to get sick and much more likely to die of sickness,” he said.
If you are a woman or child, you are even less likely to survive, he said. Individuals may vomit after taking medication because they haven’t eaten in 3 to 4 days. Some are given medication to eliminate health problems but cannot do so because of the lack of clean water.
About 3 in 10 people in Soweto, South Africa have been infected with HIV, he said. If things continue the way they are now, he continued, Soweto will disappear in two decades.
“We have to start to humanize this,” Cardoza said.
He pleaded with students not to avert their gaze from those in need.
“You must become a servant to the poor,” he said, and be attentive to what is wrong in the world.
Since the publication of Kidder’s book and Farmer’s story, Partners in Health has increased its aid to countries including Russia, Peru, Rwanda, Mexico and Guatemala and is expanding into southern Africa. The fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is no longer a hopeless battle.
Though the world has carried its burdens of disease and disaster throughout history, change is visible.
“Technology and transportation are making the world very accessible,” said Cardoza. This evolution makes it easier for people to play a part in aiding those in need.
Better yet, the younger generation is stepping up to the plate and taking the initiative to make positive changes.
“The book has been read by more than 800,000 students” Cardoza said.
He reminded his audience what students have accomplished.
With roles in abolishing slavery and promoting civil rights, “students have always had privileged roles in movements.”
College campuses offer space, talent and, above all, opportunity “to think through solutions of fundamental problems,” he added.
Solutions to the problems in the world are emerging, he said. Clean water is being provided to communities, cutting the risk of disease. Free public hospitals and clinics are available. Resources previously unaccessible to the poor are now being introduced, saving lives.
Students were impressed with what Cardoza had to say, contributing eagerly to an open floor discussion about Partners in Health in the active world.
“He did a lot of good today describing the incredible progress as far as global health care goes,” said freshman Devin Rodgers.
“It was a great opportunity for students to see beyond what they are familiar with,” Cavalier said.
“None of us believes we can solve every problem in the world,” Cardoza said, “but if one says something is impossible, we want to say that it is possible.”
Brent Johnson, a senior at Catawba College, is an intern for the Post.