Back to the Basics


Natural solutions are some of humanity’s most vital solutions. Natural solutions are the answers naturally available to us. The solution responsible for saving millions of lives—life support training—is a teachable and transferable piece of knowledge available to anyone in the world. Life support training is an example of this solution, as it enables and empowers a person to resuscitate and save a life, when time is of the essence and there is no time to waste. Every community should possess the know-how regarding critical health care education, and every community has a responsibility to its members to help in a critical situation. When an individual has the knowledge to perform life support training, that person can save countless lives. Nowhere is this ideal more relevant than in Kenya, a country that is in the midst of political upheaval and change. Having recently returned from a 10-day mission to Nairobi, and to several nearby villages, the enclosed Q&A is a primer about the power of providing life support training and the impact it has communities.

Why is life support training a natural solution?

The techniques are by their very nature, natural. Meaning life support training does not require a massive investment in equipment, infrastructure, or economic upheaval. For example, performing CPR can do more to save a life than all the riches and resources in the world. This really prioritizes what matters most, doesn’t it? Areas that do not have quick and affordable access to medical care need to have, at a minimum, life support training. That rule governs my work on behalf of the Disque Foundation and National Health Care Provider Solutions (NHCPS), where we are the first to offer free life support training courses online. It also inspires the missions we undertake, at home and abroad. In collaboration with the Foundation for International Cardiac and Children’s Services (FICCS), we were able to educate, train, and empower superusers of basic health care skills, including nurses, medical students, educators and other caregivers.

Your most recent mission was in Nairobi, Kenya. How does the situation there influence events elsewhere?

First, I would be remiss if I did not mention—and salute—the people I met, the communities I visited, the children who greeted me, the parents and teachers whose graciousness it was my pleasure to enjoy, and the hospitality it was an honor for my team to receive. To experience the essence of nature to immerse oneself in the beauty of Kenya and the bounty of Mother Nature, is a memory too transcendent to translate into mere words, and too memorable to characterize as just another trip abroad.

Secondly, life support training gives a community a degree of independence it deserves. It saves lives, yes, but it also saves a city from, say, having to serve so many with so few supplies—which means what? It means that organizations like the ones I represent, in concert with doctors, nurses, and volunteers, empower a community with the skills that can—and do—save lives. For every life we save, and for every individual who joins our Save a Life Initiative, we enrich the world with the innocence of the youths we help and the innocents whose lives will redound for the good of all—from Kenya to Kansas and Nairobi to New York City, from the byways of Africa to highways of America.

It was an honor to contribute to this mission. It is a personal milestone and a professional highlight to have taken part in this initiative. I welcome others to emulate the efforts of my colleagues, and to empower communities large and small.

How does a community’s culture influence the services you provide?

We must always be mindful of the customs that define the communities we serve. There are traditions that differ from one village to another outside Nairobi, for example. There are folkways you need to familiarize yourself with before you go abroad, in addition to ways of communicating that are familiar to all. A smile often says more than what an interpreter can convey or a translator can transmit with even the mightiest vocabulary at his or her disposal. Still, you need to earn the respect of the people you want to help. It is neither our place, nor is it proper, to summarily enter a village—to go anywhere, be it in America or Africa—and start issuing orders.

To teach a community something, you must first earn the trust of the men and women you intend to instruct. There must be a mutual understanding of the wants and needs of both groups. There must also be the requisite planning that increases your ability to succeed, which involves logistics, lodging, timing, participation and plenty of preparation.

About the latter, I cannot stress how indispensable preparation is to a successful mission. It prevents you committing mistakes that can sideline your work and/or deny you the chance to do your work. Sharing how to prepare for a philanthropic trip is a lesson I hope people read and take to heart, because it is vital to the outcome of your goals.

What are some things common to all communities you serve?

The bonds of humanity unite us more than they divide us. There is a vernacular, a mood, a sense, a feeling—and energy, if you will—that is free of borders and national boundaries, that is separate from issues of class or caste, that is immune from bias, with malice toward none, with charity for all. To witness this humanity is know humility, because there is beauty to humankind—a majesty on behalf of all mankind—that is too abstract to articulate and too profound to portray, fully and accurately, with pictures or words.

What can the public do to advance life support training?

Join this cause. Promote life support training within your own community. Partner with us, or profit from our advice and counsel, by doing everything you can to make this issue the necessity it should be; the necessity it must be, because no community should not have the skills to save a life. No community should go without these skills, not when the technology is available—and the information is so readily accessible—to save so many. No community should lose its youngest members, and no community should have to endure the loss of its wisest elders, because no one knows how to perform CPR.

And finally, what lessons about health and wellness can or should we study, based on your experiences in Nairobi?

People want to empower themselves by taking control of their health. That concept is no more exclusive to Nairobi than it is, say, to communities that exist near the embankments of the Nile. The urge to know more—the celebration of knowledge as a gift of infinite rewards—represents the natural impulse to advance both individually and collectively. As I say, there is a sort of universal language that allows us to communicate with ease. We can intuit this idea—we can feel its presence—when we are among longtime friends and when we acquaint ourselves with soon-to-be new friends. Start, then, by embracing what we have in common not just with residents in or near Nairobi, but with humanity as a whole.

Second, it takes a great deal of coordination and support to deliver the medical care and instruction a community has a right to receive. We must encourage more people to volunteer to better their respective communities, so we can save far more than a million lives.

Third, we must always be thankful for the aid we enjoy and the assistance it is our pleasure to provide. Spotlight a donor’s philanthropy, because every donation is a tangible symbol of the services we (or any organization) has the privilege to deliver.

Life support training is a skill that is portable and of the utmost importance: It works—it saves lives—without regard to race, religion, gender, nationality, or creed. It is not something that lessens with the passage of time. Nor is it something that time passes by, because of radical leaps in technology or medicine. It is something that will always be crucial, if and when the time comes to use it.

Mackenzie Thompson manages marketing and mission fulfillment initiatives with the Disque Foundation and the Save a Life Initiative. Contact Mackenzie at [email protected]



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