Abidjan, coordinating a project that provides basic health care and sanitation to prisoners. The prison was extremely overcrowded; there was a lack of water, and severe malnutrition and disease were rampant. Her team faced medical emergencies daily, including a serious outbreak of beriberi, a potentially fatal disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin B1. The projects, while rewarding, were exhausting, and Ford gave up working in the field. Eventually, she joined MSF’s Paris office, where she worked placing doctors and nurses on projects in Chad, Iran and Sudan, projects much like the remote health care facility in Sudan’s war-torn south. The years abroad have taken a toll. While she’s passionate about the work of MSF, the slim, 33-year-old brunette is also conflicted. Now back in the United States bringing her unique experience to her hometown hospital, she struggles with what it really means to “help” people. “It’s not as clear cut as you would like,” she explained. “How do they define what they need and then how
Ingrid Ford mentored a group of Kenyan adolescents working to educate their community about HIV/AIDS. Years later, she learned the group has flourished.
do we define what they need?” The answer might lie with a group of adolescents she mentored in Kenya. The group was trying to educate their community – particularly its youth – about HIV/AIDS. The stakes were high – she knew if they didn’t succeed, then everyone in the community would likely die. She, of course, could not stay there forever. The community of Kenyans
did not have that luxury. When she left, Ford felt like a failure abandoning the group. Years later, she heard from the leader of the group that the Kenyan community was doing well. She thinks her brief time with the group, and the training and support she provided, were just what they needed to stick together long enough for them to better understand the situation. “You just never know what your impact is going to be,” Ford explained. “Maybe it was small … but maybe my work with the youth group helped them get to where they were ready for the next step.” It is something she can take with her wherever she goes – in Africa or Anacortes. No gesture is insignificant. No effort is too small. “Our interactions in our daily life can be meaningful,” she added. “You don’t necessarily have to go to Africa to do important things. There are just as important things to do in Tacoma as there are in Kenya.” S
FEATURES > PLU SCENE WINTER 2008