Monday, January 28, 2013

Community, Faith, and Healthcare

I have arrived! I am now officially in Mantsonyane at the St. James' Mission Hospital! Today is also a special day because it marks 5 months of me being in Africa. Thinking back to when I stepped off the plane in Cape Town seems like so long ago. It's been quite the adventure so far!

Ntate John, the hospital administrator, picked me and all of my belongings up from Maseru last Wednesday. I spent most of the day getting settled in my new house and office. The accommodations they have given me are incredible. I have my own kitchen and bathroom, which are fantastic. I have really been missing the ability to cook for myself over the past 5 months so I am ecstatic about a kitchen of my very own! 


Living Room


My House

Tuck Shop
I'm so very excited to be here! The hospital and the staff that work here have an incredible sense of community. I guess you have to when you live in a place this rural! The hospital functions as its own little community. There are houses, stores, offices, maintenance shops, and practically anything you could need or want. I stopped by the hospital's tuck shop (general store) on Wednesday to pick up a few essentials for my new house. The tuck shop has a limited selection of items, so if I need anything specific I can head over to Mantsonyane, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from the hospital grounds. I explored the town this past weekend and visited some of the local shops. 


Life outside the hospital grounds is very different from life inside the compound. Many of the villages surrounding the hospital do not have access to electricity or running water. Horseback riding and walking are the main modes of transportation. Many people survive off of subsistence farming, while others travel back and forth between Lesotho and South Africa for work. Keep in mind that it's at least 2 hours from Mantsonyane to the nearest border crossing. Lesotho has an unemployment rate around 40%. Of the total population (1.8 million), 58% live below the international poverty line. Working in South Africa is often the only work Basotho men can find.

My "Executive" Office
I realized when I moved into my office that I've never had an office of my own before. I think I’m going to become spoiled because the office they gave me is HUGE. I feel like an executive with my big desk and a view that rivals any corner office of any high-rise building anywhere. My job here at St. James is the Communications Officer. For the first part of my time with the hospital I will again be working to building a website, just like I did for the Diocese.

View from My Office

Idea Wall
Building the website for the Diocese had its challenges, but for the most part I was able to figure it all out because I have a basic understanding of how the Church operates. That knowledge was invaluable because it helped me create the story of the Church. That being said, I don't have any knowledge on how hospitals are run, nor do I know how I can communicate the story of St. James. But luckily for me, I have a huge wall in my office devoted to my crazy brainstorming process. Introducing “Jared’s Idea Wall!” I’m a very visual learner and I like things to be tactile and changeable. My wall asks two central questions: “What is our Story?” and “How do we tell it?”  My focus, for the time being, is to figure out the story of St. James. Each post-it note on the wall has a piece of the story on it. When I find something new, I stick it on the wall!

The Beauty is Indescribable
The way I’m approaching the story currently revolves around 3 pillars: Community, Faith/Church, and Healthcare. I think of each of these as being indispensable to the story of St. James. I just need to figure out how they all connect (hence the post-it notes). I’m excited to delve into the question of what it means to be a mission hospital. What exactly is the “mission” in St. James “Mission” Hospital? Is the hospital tied to this mission only through the funding it receives from the church? Or does faith and spirituality permeate through everything the hospital does and everyone the hospital effects? I think the answer is probably the latter one and I can’t wait to figure out why that is. There seems to be a lot of questions to answer, so I’ll just have to keep covering my wall with post-it notes until I figure it all out! Sala hantle!


  1. Hey Bro Jared
    This is such a cool blog - well done!! Great writing and pics - giving us a real sense of your journey. Your willingness to absorb the discomfort and turn everything into an adventure is heart-warming and says a lot about you! Be well!! Chris

    1. Thanks Father Chris! We'll see you back in Lesotho real soon.