At the 2006 CURE International Directors meetings in Nairobi, Rev. Francis Omondi told a story for which Booker T. Washington is credited. The story goes like this:
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: “Water, water. We die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal, “Water, send us water!” went up from the distressed vessel, and was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A third and fourth signal for water was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.
Apparently this ship lost at sea had drifted from the Atlantic Ocean into the Amazon River without realizing it, so the captain thought the water all around his ship was full of salt.
When told by Washington, this story wonderfully illustrated the opportunities for the people of the United States to seize the chance to empower all those left standing to work toward a new society after a horrible and devastating civil war. In a different context and time in history, this story’s point has informed CURE International in its efforts to fulfill its mission. The ability and need to recognize the resources at hand has been embraced and cultivated to the extent possible within our context. It is too easy for organizations similar in scope and focus of CURE to look cart blanche to expatriates to fill all their human resources needs and to neglect to consider the capable, local individuals who may be available.
For each hospital managed by CURE International, for each surgeon trained through the CURE Hydrocephalus initiative, and for each program within CURE Clubfoot Worldwide (CCW), medical training is key to our mission. Local physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other clinicians are taught through on-the-job mentoring, in the classroom with hands-on training, and in residency/fellowship style teaching. We engage experts to help create new experts local to the healthcare enterprise, so that those new experts can do the same in the future.
It is a simple plan but not an easy one. Good intentions and raising money are often not enough. Administrative capacity coupled with business acumen and leadership will-power are all part of the recipe we have seen work. Confidence with humility and prayer accompanied by hard work are also necessary components for receiving the blessings of success.
I was privileged to help start and run the first CURE International hospital. In 1997, Dr. Joseph Theuri and Mr. Peter Kyalo were the first two local hires for that hospital in Kenya. They initially served as surgeon-in-training and finance director, respectively. Since then, Dr. Theuri has become a globally recognized expert in orthopedic surgery, in particular in the Ponseti method for treating clubfoot, and Peter Kyalo has ably served at CURE hospitals in Uganda, Malawi, Dominican Republic, Zambia, and Afghanistan in vital executive leadership and financial management roles critical to their specific timeline need. Over the course of time, both men have received proper degrees – in orthopedic surgery and in business administration, respectively – from internationally recognized, African-based institutions.
There are others who are part of the tapestry of talent for the ongoing ministry of CURE International who are now experts in their own right through elevating their capacity for good work through continued collaboration. There are too many for me to name, but I list a few here better known to me: Dr. Nyengo Mkandawire in Blantyre, Malawi; Dr. Francis Niiryo in Addis, Ethiopia; Dr. John Mugamba in Mbale, Uganda; Mrs. Aracely Salgado Pardes in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Ms. Christine Kalamo in Nairobi, Kenya; Mrs. Atula Jamir in Delhi, India; Dr. Femi Bankole in Lagos, Nigeria; and Dr. Rezina Hamid in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Since its inception, CURE International has sought out and fostered collaborations and collegial partnerships between peoples from different educational backgrounds, cultures, languages, and geographic locales. This philosophy has allowed me and other CURE colleagues to work with and learn from experts we otherwise might not even meet. These attempts to grow future leaders or foster partnerships have not always been without difficulties or even failures, but when it works well, strong motivation exists to repeat the attempt.
I shudder to think how things might be now if back in 1997 we had not looked to Kyalo and Theuri to address the short-term needs of the time. In each of their cases, success was and still is, at least in part, a result of humble confidence and prayerful hard work. They helped create a course that has been repeated often within CURE International hospitals and programs – a course toward generation and constitution of capable resources through recognizing, empowering, and teaching local individuals to better themselves for expanded service and responsibilities in the future.