The Japan Times: Jan. 5, 2000

Good deeds


I wrote this column before Y2K became a reality instead of a speculation.
I had water, a charcoal stove, six cans of tuna, batteries,
and the hope that since I was ready, nothing would happen.
But I didn't know.
Now I do: Being prepared pays off again.
Perhaps there was a hint of disappointment.
We were expecting something!

Recently I wrote of Medecins du Monde, a group of doctors and nurses who,
like Nobel prize winner Doctors Without Borders,
go where the needs are greatest whenever a crisis strikes.
They are part of a large group of professionals who give their skills to help
those in need.

A few days later I had a letter from a Japanese doctor, Tetsuro Irohira.
He wrote that he was deeply moved by the article and told me about his work.
He did not ask for publicity, but I would like to tell you about him.
He quit school at 21 and traveled extensively throughout Asia,
often helping the underprivileged.
Deciding he wanted to do more,
he enrolled in medical school and after graduation chose to work in a remote m
ountain village in Nagano.
Many Asian and Middle East people came to this area before the Olympics to work
on construction projects
(if they were men) or the entertainment industry (if they were women).
Their problems multiply as work decreases.
There are continuing work-related impairments,
and ailments endemic to the entertainment trade inevitably resulting in HIV carriers
and AIDS-infected people.
He says many Japanese medical students come to his village to learn about comm
unity health care.
(If I were to make a prediction,
it would be that Japan's younger generation will make a huge contribution both
 within Japan and internationally.)

Dr. Irohira is an associate of Bangladeshi doctor Sumana Barua who works with
Filipino villagers under the precept that one must start at the beginning, doing
what can be done now.
There are, he says, advanced hospitals built with foreign aid in the Philippines
but there are no funds to maintain them properly even if qualified people could
be found to staff them.
It is far more practical to establish village schools and health centers that
can meet today's most demanding needs.
Dr. Barua earned his medical degree in the Philippines in a program that emphasized
public service.
Now he teaches and advises organizations working at the grass-roots level.
He still travels extensively, helping those who would be helpless without his caring.

An old Chinese poem expresses the feeling that inspires his work:
Go to the people, live among them, learn from them, love them.
Start with what they know, build on what they have.
But of the best of leaders, when their task is accomplished,
their work is done, the people will remark, "We have done it ourselves."

There was no request for help.
In fact, I had to search through the papers I received to find an address.
If any of you feel motivated to give, I am sure your contribution will be put
to good use.
Send it to Tetsuro Irohira MD, Minami Aiki Village, Nagano 384-1211.

Finally, ...

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