The problems and needs identified in Southern Madagascar are ever increasing. But there are people who choose not to be just observers and to gather the power they have, whether it is in knowledge or in mastery, and practically help those who need it most.
International Humanitarian Aid (IHA) PANAGIA-Cyprus has for many years been active in supporting programs for the provision of medical and nursing services in Missionary Metropolises of Africa as well as in other actions related to the provision of humanitarian aid.
But how does a 25-year-old girl make the decision after obtaining her degree in Medicine to make this long journey, thereby putting her own little stone in improving the quality of life of so many people.
Eleni Sergiou, studied medicine in Sofia and graduated in 2021 while she is currently doing her agricultural studies in Greece and is waiting for a specialty.
And here is where a childhood dream came true.
How did your desire to make such a trip come about?
As a child, watching these people on TV made me sad and I said I will grow up and go and help as I can. When I heard about the organization, INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN AID (IHA) “MOTHER OF GOD” – CYPRUS and after communicating with the archpriest Father Vasileos and members of the organization, who were always there to give us information and answer our questions about the mission, I decided to join the mission in Madagascar.
How does the IHA organization help the people of the area?
IHA has been active for many years in the provision of humanitarian aid in countries of low socio-economic level (low-income settings). In particular, it is firmly oriented to the organization and support of medical centers and missions in countries of the African continent, to relieve some of the poorest patients on our planet.
In these health facilities, patients, the majority of whom are very poor, who suffer from multiple serious diseases, both prevalent tropical infectious diseases and other common non-communicable ones, are served. Due to the lack of easy access to health services, these people are forced to travel vast distances to receive medical care. Among them are many children.
And so you made the decision to take this big trip – a lifetime experience.
So. I went, I came.. and I realized one thing. These people helped me and not me them. What I read, what I knew was not objective at all. When you live them, they are different. Where to start from; We saw small children carrying their younger brothers on their backs, because the parents were away at work from early in the morning. Grandmothers breastfeeding their grandchildren, because the mother's milk was not enough. As for the water? The necessary good for a person to live was completely absent... On the days when it rained for them it was a huge blessing, they prepared their buckets and waited for the rain to fill them. Their joy? Indescribable!
Is such a journey easy?
We arrived by road in Antananarivo which is the capital of Madagascar and then traveled by road to Toliara where we were accommodated in the Diocese of Toliara South Madagascar. Every day we organized medical missions in remote villages, the inhabitants waited for us and welcomed us with immense joy and the children ran towards us and helped us unload the boxes to set up the open-air clinic. Patients patiently, in the company of their pain, waited their turn to be examined and receive the necessary medication. But that was the least, these people felt happy just because we were there, that we understood them, that we answered them with a smile back.
A clinic supported by IHA operates in the Metropolis, where a huge effort is made every day. Malnourished babies receive their milk, patients come from the evening to take turns to be examined the next morning.
How did you feel seeing fellow human beings living with so many difficulties?
In the first days I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I couldn't express myself, I tried to put my thoughts on paper but my hand was freezing. I could not or perhaps did not want to realize what I was seeing. I felt guilty and still do. Guilt for what I have, for what I take for granted, for what I want to change in this world but I know it's not easy and that hurts me, hurts me and at the same time irritates me.
What do you think is the most valuable thing you got from this trip?
I cannot but mention Archimandrite Anastasios Pogiatzis, even though he does not like to be in the limelight, it would be inappropriate to talk about my experience without mentioning him, because maybe meeting him was the most valuable thing I got from this trip. A man noble, tireless, full of love who shares it generously, without limitations and discrimination. He is always on the “socket”, he never rests and arranges everything related to the clinic, examines, organizes medical missions in villages as a monk, teaches... And all this silently, without disturbing anyone, only with the support of IHA. I wish we could all manage to be filled with this dose of light that such people have, and then I am sure that our world will become much more beautiful.
I can't help but mention the people of the mission. Each of us is different, with our own habits, opinions and life attitudes. And yet, despite our differences, our selves united, we entered the same wagon and with the main ingredients of patience and love we became a team ready to offer everything it can. I feel grateful to have met these people, each of them held a special place in my heart, a great memory!
How can one support this effort?
If you want to support the charity work of the IHA organization you can make your donation to the following account:
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN AID (IHA)-MOTHER OF GOD
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN AID ORGANIZATION-PANAGIA
IBAN: CY75 0050 0471 0004 7101 G465 3801
SWIFT CODE (BIC): HEBACY2N