Susan was a girl with sickle cell disease who came to see me in clinic in May of 2013 while the team was in Kenya. I had seen Susan every year, and I have numerous pictures of her, because her sweet spirit enchanted all of us. She became something of a mascot for Straw to Bread.
On this particular day, Susan was very ill, and we did everything we could think of to help her. In addition to antibiotics and pain medicine, the students and I also gave her water and a CLIF bar, because Susan lived with no certainty that she would get food or water for her next meal. I told the students to give her the energy bar slowly so that she wouldn’t get sick with something so rich and unusual to her. Gradually she felt better, and we gave her the remaining half of the bar in a bag to take with her.
She said goodbye, and we watched her immediately go to a friend and give him the rest of the CLIF bar. This child gave us far more than we gave her. She taught us what it means to love others by joyfully giving away everything she had.
I tell this story in many of my classes, and a number of students on the team in 2014 were eager to meet Susan. That did not happen, however, because Susan died the day we arrived in Kenya. Her health was fragile, but she could have lived if she had had adequate health care that day. We mourn her deeply, and we grieve for a world where there is so much inequality of resources.
Many donors contributed to the Bethlehem Home Hospital in remembrance of her. Susan taught us that it is better to give than to receive, and her legacy will continue to be told at the heart of the Straw to Bread story. The new health center will change the community for generations, providing our friends on the plateau with a level of access to healthcare that Susan was not afforded.