I happened upon the Emergency War Victims Hospital in Kabul by accident. I had grabbed a cab in the street and asked the driver to take me to the outskirts of town, but in the afternoon, when I had finished my work, he said he knew a place that might be of interest to me. He dropped me at the gates of Emergency, and once inside, I instantly knew I wanted to spend some time there. I had come to Afghanistan looking for stories about the daily struggles people face that are unique to a country ravaged by war, and Emergency definitely offered a cross section of the kinds of dangers people are exposed to, but it also seemed to be one of the rare cases in which an NGO truly serves its purpose.
I spent a month in the summer of 2007 going regularly to the hospital, started by Italian war surgeon, Gino Strada, in 1994 that gets its funding from Italian and international donors. It plays a unique role in conflicts around the world, treating any victim of violent acts for free, no questions asked. The international staff also trains Afghans in specialized medicine and eventually turns the hospital over to the local population. It’s a great paradigm that hits several birds with one stone.
I have always admired those who leave the comfort of their home countries, dedicate themselves to fixing people, and put their own lives at risk to save others. I was especially taken with a certain Dr. Ghirelli from Italy, who first introduced himself by saying that he had amputated over a hundred children in Cambodia, a sort of de facto confession that his work is who he is, and that the horrors have not gone unnoticed. He and the rest of the staff at Emergency worked with such clear dedication and sincerity; it was a true lesson in global responsibility.