KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
"I want to be a virus!" one of the Burmese medic students shouted in response to the question, "What animal would you like to be?". The other medics replied with more typical answers like bird or tiger or lion. His reason? "Because viruses are really hard to kill." This was shortly after learning the differences in diagnosis and treatment of bacterial versus viral infections. The other instructor Kylie and I had to laugh along with the rest of the class at his creative response, but it meant that he had learned the concept we had taught. He would go back to his border clinic and do his best to treat only bacterial infections with antibiotics rather than indiscriminately giving antibiotics to every patient with an illness.
I had the privilege of serving in Burma (Myanmar) with Global Refuge in March 2011. Our goal was to train up a group of men and women, both experienced and unexperienced, to become better decision makers and more competent medics in the areas of Burma from which they came. They had traveled days to weeks on foot through mountainous terrain, exposing themselves to the dangers of enemy territory, just to be at the 6-month training session. These medics, whether they knew it or not, were respected members in their villages and had a significant influence on their people. Our hope was that the education attained from the training would turn into a healthy sense of pride, duty, and responsibility to positively impact the health and lives within their respective villages. At the end of the training, each of the medics proved to have a strong knowledge base to care for the sick and injured. In the classroom as students, they were hungry and thirsty for knowledge. They learned that through knowledge, they had the power to fight against the atrocities committed against their people. They were not helpless and did not need to watch those around them suffer and die from preventable diseases. They chose to be active in their pursuit of knowledge, which greatly changed the way they looked at themselves, other displaced people, and the world around them. They gained an extraordinary power within themselves that will never be easily overtaken. Much like a virus!