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Fishermen Teach a Man
Wednesday March 9, 2005
From Thousand Oaks, California
- I met three of the four members of what must be one of the smallest Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on the planet, Knightsbridge International, during the trip in January to India and Sri Lanka [see Sri Lanka & The Khaki Jacket Boys] following the Indian Ocean tsunami.
- We parted on the tarmac at the Colombo airport in Sri Lanka. I was headed back to Washington, DC; they were headed north into rebel-held territory to deliver medical supplies to the devastated villages there.
- The head of the outfit, Ed Artis, has just returned from that trip - a 60-plus day adventure which also took him to the Philippines and who knows where-all.
- While he, and two of the other three members were in Sri Lanka they, indeed, delivered medicine to hospitals and clinics all throughout the country as they were scheduled to do.
- Along the way they picked up two other docs and some journalists. He played a DVD with footage of their going into clinic after clinic and surprising the local doctors by looking through their pharmacies and producing from the Knightsbridge van antibiotics and other medicines that had been washed away and/or used up in the aftermath of the tsunami.
- One of the doctors said on the DVD, "When you ask what they need and they say they need a stethoscope, you know they've got nothing. That's the most basic tool in medicine and if they need a stethoscope, they need everything."
- The Knightsbridge team couldn't provide everything, but they provided something everywhere they went.
- Ed told the story of driving past a small village one day and seeing a group of men standing around a boat which was up on the beach. This is instructive as to how people like Ed Artis and his team who want to do good, can find good to do wherever they are.
- As Ed tells the story, "I saw these guys around the boat and said, 'Stop the car. We're going to learn how to fish.'"
- The boat on the beach was the only one in the village which survived the tsunami. The men around the boat represented the bulk of the village's male survivors. They were out in that boat when the tsunami hit, and so bobbed up and down in the ocean as the waves passed under them; as opposed to having been crushed by the waves' enormous power when they slammed ashore.
- Artis was told that their fishing net had been torn up by the tsunami, They said the net they had would be fine if they just had the tools and the materials to repair it. But they couldn't afford those items unless they could get out to fish and raise the money, which they couldn't do because their net was trashed.
- A classic Catch-22 situation.
- Knightsbridge has a basic operating philosophy when it comes to giving away goods or money: It goes to the people who are actually going to use it, not to bureaucrats or officials. So, Ed gave them the money to buy what they needed, they repaired their net and the next day were back out doing what people in that village had been doing for generations: Fishing.
- Watching them push the heavy boat off the beach by hand; row the boat over the breaking waves; then manhandle the large net, Ed suggested Knightsbridge buy them a motor for the boat and a winch for the net.
- "They didn't want either one," he told me. "This is the way they've been doing it forever, it has worked forever, and having winches and motors would have been unnecessary complications to their lives."
- They already knew how to fish. They just needed some help in getting back to it.
- Help, is what the men like those of Knightsbridge International - all four of them - do and do astonishingly well.
- On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Knightsbridge International web page; a terrific Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption which is in fairly bad taste.
Copyright © 2005 Richard A. Galen
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