A Change in Approach

By:  Wendell Krossa

Years ago when I worked in Mindanao with Manobo tribal groups our endeavors (muddled as they may appear to anyone else) were to improve the human condition.  At first, I responded at a gut level to human suffering, taking sick people out on logging trucks (the only transportation) to lowland medical clinics and hospitals.  It was a horrendous waste of time, in that the trucks stopped and sat at varied places along the way.  What was usually a 4 hour trip by motorcycle could take the entire day by truck.  After being left at the hospital, these people would just get up and return immediately to the mountains. They were scared that because people died at the hospital, the evil spirits were prowling in such a place of death.  Therefore, such activities could ‘waste’ several days.

We began inviting nurses and doctors into the mountain areas to vaccinate everyone, and to start holding clinics there.  Later we started medical training programs, getting nurses to come and teach tribal people about basic health care (emergency care, nutrition, and so on- changing people’s views from spirit causes of sickness to germ theory). Training barrio health workers for each area was a more efficient use of our time.

The educational programs spread, and with agricultural programs increasing wealth, the tribal people could solve their own issues.  Clean water systems were developed, helping solve the cause of 50% of child mortality.   Pig breeding programs were introduced as well as coffee and cacao plant programs.  Examining the root economic and livelihood issues in order to do the most good for the most people, was our attempt to improve the human condition in that part of the world.

To this day, I have found the best way to solve critical problems in life is to try to improve the human condition.  The important thing is to discover the critical issues related to the long-term requirements, taking into account what humanity thinks and feels, and what motivates people.