A reminder of what we’re trying to accomplish – and why

This fortnight’s posting, which comes from Dr. Christine Thorne, comes on the heels of Thanksgiving and into the traditional holiday season of giving and our team’s trip down to the Dominican Republic. Using a recent World Bank publication, she reminds of us of the deeper purpose of The 53rd Week’s work: the idea that young professionals, given the right environment, guidance, and tools, can help to address the root causes of poverty and inequity that exist in our world… and that this is what makes our attempts to optimize their deeply personal investments ever more valuable – because of the opportunity to take something that seems otherwise futile and push it towards a belief in achieving greater things together.


Recently, I read excepts from a book, Voice of the Poor, published by the World Bank.  I was struck by the quotes of the impoverished people as to how they saw their lives and their futures and how this impacted the work we are trying to do as The 53rd Week.

All quotes in this blog post are taken from  Voice of the Poor and it’s subsequent document related to health, Dying for Change.

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame.  We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us.”

–          Blind woman, Tiraspol, Moldova, 1997

It is important for us to remember, especially as we head into the upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic, what our organization is working towards and whom it is helping.  We are working to help the poor, to eliminate ill-health and to end the shame associated with poverty.  To do this, The 53rd Week is working to achieve long-term change in the La Romana community of Haitian refugees so that there is adequate health care and long-term projects that provide a bridge out of poverty.

“We do not think that life will become any better for our children and even for generations to come.”
– a woman, Malawi

Together with our partners, we want to empower the powerless, to provide hope to the poor, to given them the idea that the future can be better for their children than it has been for them.  We all recognize this cannot be achieved only in 1 week trips that address downstream, short-term needs.  There needs to be long-term involvement in the community, a collaboration with the people locally and between groups working within the community, both internationally and domestically in order to provide lasting hope and change.

“To summarize: Poor people want institutions that are honest, accountable, treat them fairly and show respect.”

The 53rd Week is working to become an organization respected in La Romana and worldwide for providing sustainable solutions for the poor there and increasing access to basic needs and health care.  We know that providing for people’s health is an essential way to provide them with an opportunity to escape poverty.

“Poverty and ill-health are inseparable.  In 127 case studies in Voices of the Poor which examine why families have fallen into poverty, ill-health emerges as the single most common trigger for the downward slide.”

Thank you for following our blog and working with The 53rd Week to help us develop effective short-term volunteer models that might allow young professionals to lend their efforts towards tackling ill-health and poverty in La Romana and the wider world.

Dr. Christine Thorne is a resident physician in California.

Feel free to read the original document where all these quotations are taken from:
World Health Organization and World Bank, January 2002: Dying for Change

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