KAREN KRAMER HEIN. 70 SPENT A MONTH IN INDIA EARLY THIS year to focus on children in tsunami-affected villages and do health assessment in Christian Children. s Fund-sponsored Child Centered Spaces.
Her travel diary, with photos, is posted on the group. s Web site.
A brief excerpt from her diary is reprinted below.
In notifying P&S about her travels, Dr. Hein added: "I was 'imprinted' at P&S with the importance of international health work during my fourth year of medical school when I spent my sub-internship in ZorZor, Liberia.
With the rising interest in international health, I'm hoping that my personal story and account might be of special interest to the P&S family, where I was shaped and inspired to become a full time humanitarian volunteer."
During the past 30 years, Dr. Hein, a pediatrician, has taken on a variety of roles in health and health policy and pursued activities in program development, teaching, and clinical research.
Before serving as president of the William T. Grant Foundation from 1998 to 2003, she was the executive officer of the Institute of Medicine and worked on health care reform as a member of the Senate Finance Committee staff in Washington, D.C., drafting legislation related to health benefits, workforce, and financing medical education and academic health centers
The Christian Children's Fund, where she serves on the board of directors, is an ecumenical organization with programs in 40 countries.
The diary of her travels to India in February to assist in tsunami relief reflects her commitment to children around the globe.
Half the people living in villages affected by the tsunami are children.
The diary opens on her birthday, the day after she arrived at the refugee camps set up in response to the tsunami.
Feb. 2 (my 61st birthday)
We're spending another day in post-tsunami refugee camps in the Chennai (Madras) area doing health assessments of children.
Yesterday, after a half-day of orientation by CCF staff, we (my husband, Ralph, our Tamil staff person, Gokula, and I) headed to the beachfront for our first experience with the reality of the tsunami — not just a TV clip or an article in the local paper but being with dozens of people, all eager to tell their stories and find out why we were there.
At first, the beach just seemed empty.
A few huge pieces of wooden boats scattered about.
A few men sat on the beach, facing different ways, not facing the water.
As we got closer, we nearly tripped over chunks of broken concrete.
That was all that remained of this fishing village where 1,000 families were living just five weeks ago.
Fiftytwo people were killed in this one village, and not one house remains.
People have to get water from a nearby water pump and use a public toilet at a community center.
Each day, the government brings rice and the women line up to get an allotment.
The kids are going to a school some distance away.
They are afraid to return, and since there's little for them to do where the adults are, they stay at the school all day and evening.
At first, some older teenage boys approached us and began telling us about the situation, then older men and women joined us and finally some kids.
They took us around, introducing us to people who couldn't walk because of injuries from the tsunami.
There are no chairs, no beds, nowhere to sit, and no privacy. Women cook on driftwood fires.
They are stuck between their past and the future.
All night I thought about why we are here and what we can do.
Today, my birthday, we are going to some Child Centered Spaces the CCF has established in various locations so that kids have a place to be ... to grieve, to play and to learn.
Being here is the most meaningful birthday gift I can imagine.
See www.christianchildrensfund.org. for Dr. Hein's complete diary.