I actually read Mountains Beyond Mountains several months ago at the end of my trip to the Dominican Republic, but am just now putting some of my thoughts into words. A volunteer working in Hato Mayer passed the book to me — and boy, am I glad she did. It’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read; definitely one of those books that just kept my eyes glued to the pages as I flipped page after page on my flight home in November.
The book is Tracy Kidder’s account of Paul Farmer’s life, through both interviews and 1st hand experience traveling with Paul. If you don’t know who Paul Farmer is, head over to Wikipedia and take a look at his long list of accomplishments — most notably, his medical work in Haiti. Farmer is involved in many foundations, including Partners in Health (founded by Farmer in 1987). The vision of PIH directly reflects Paul’s mindset toward medical care —
Whatever it takes
At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services. Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.
I won’t detail all of Farmers’ accomplishments (there are too many), but what Tracy Kidder’s book really brought to light is Farmer’s unselfishness and dedication to helping others. Though it shouldn’t be, his approach to medical work is revolutionary — he won’t let anything stand in the way of helping his patients. Just as you wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of getting help for a family member, Farmer doesn’t let anything prevent him from helping his patients — no matter what their monetary situation or who they are.
The book helped me realize there is truly no limit to what you can do to help others; Farmer continually goes above and beyond what could possibly be expected of a physician in Haiti, or anywhere in the world for that matter. His passion for helping others is contagious, and he’s not someone who throws money at a problem and expects someone else to solve it — he throws HIS time, expertise, and effort at issues that come up. His passion, dedication, and spirit makes Paul one of those people that others seem to find (close to) impossible to turn down when he asks a favor.
If we had a world full of Paul Farmers’, I’d expect to see lack of available medicine as a non-issue worldwide. I’d highly recommend reading Mountains Beyond Mountains; if you are not inspired by it, you obviously didn’t read the book carefully enough…or just don’t care at all about helping others.