By Alice Chenault
The second “Cay Topics” program of 2015 took place Tuesday, February 17 at the Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay. A sold-out crowd of women sat engrossed by Sidne Maddison’s account of her work as a nurse in Medecins Sans Frontiers (known in some countries as Doctors Without Borders). Her duties took her to Africa, Bosnia, Pakistan, Rwanda, Somalia and many other sites where sick or injured people face extreme hardships in obtaining medical treatment.
Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) was founded in 1971, when Biafra’s secession from Nigeria had triggered a two-year war that killed a million civilians through conflict or famine. MSF has since grown into a voluntary workforce of 30,000 doctors, midwives, epidemiologists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, sanitation engineers, and administrative staff. Its medical staff has worked in more than eighty countries and treated tens of millions of people. MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for its pioneering humanitarian work.
To maintain independent action and speech, MSF disallows all political and religious ties. Eighty percent of the organization’s $400 million budget comes from private donors, the rest from governmental and corporate contributions.
A trained and seasoned nurse, Ms. Maddison worked for more than a decade in places where natural disaster or other calamity has caused basic medical care to fail. She treated people with tetanus, malaria, and meningitis, and once was in charge of a children’s ward in which not one of her patients still had all four limbs. In Bosnia she went to work in a helmet and Kevlar vest. She was stoned in Afghanistan. She suffered from malaria. Still, her message to the Cay Topics women was, “I went there to serve and give back, but I gained so much more than I gave.”
A fine buffet luncheon, featuring lobster salad, was served by Tom Hazel and his admirable staff. “Froggie’s Out Island Adventures” graciously provided transportation to and from the venue.
The next Cay Topics luncheon program, featuring Abaco blue holes expert Brian Kakuk, will be held on Tuesday, March 17, at Harbour’s Edge (reservations 366-0087). For this Cay Topics event only, male guests are cordially invited.