l e only way out is through.












At 25 years old, a young medical student named Maithri G. decided to spend the summer of 2005 working at a hospital in Swaziland, a small and beautiful country in the south of Africa. Since then, he'll tell you, that his life has never been the same.

Maithri (pronounced 'my-three') has since returned to his home in  Melbourne, Australia where he is completing his studies to become a doctor.  We were lucky enough to catch up with him during a school holiday and he was kind enough to tell us about his experiences.

Inspiration Peak:
  What were some of your first impressions of Swaziland?

Maithri:  First of all, the country is spectacular. It used to be called the 'Switzerland' of Africa because it's so mountainous. There are hills and mountains on every side, and the drive up to the Good Shepherd Hospital is simply breathtaking.

Inspiration Peak: And the people?

 The people are so warm and welcoming. Their unfettered joy in the 'simple things' and transparent love for one another is something which in my opinion is exceedingly rare in western culture.

I remember on my very first walk down to the hospital, on my very first day, a man in a wheelchair called me over. He said: "Dokotelle, Dokotelle," which means 'doctor' in Si Swati, and he pointed to his leg and when he removed the bandage to show me what was wrong I saw a hole the size of a tennis ball that went from one side of his leg to the other - straight through the bone. There were maggots in the hole - and yet, he was barely complaining.

That first day, I realized that pretty much every patient I saw was HIV positive. The old women, the young children, everyone. Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world - 42%. I knew that going in. I knew that meant almost one in two people. But until I saw the faces of those 'one in two people' and heard the sound of their voices and realized how much they were like me, I didn't realize the implications of those numbers.

Inspiration Peak: What kind of work did you do while living in Swaziland?

Maithri: I worked mainly in the outpatient department. The hospital sees 60,000 patients a year and has only 6 doctors at any one time. I'd also go out with the home-based care team. It's made up of these wonderful nurses who go out into the community every day in a little truck to see the people who are just too sick or too poor to get to the hospital. This is often the case because people might have to walk over 40 kilometers (24.85 miles) to get to the Good Shepherd hospital. 

Inspiration Peak: What will you never forget?

A million and one things, but most especially the children. I will never forget the line at the clinic where children come for AIDS medicine. - literally hundreds of children, usually under the age of 10. It's absolutely heartbreaking, because they all have AIDS. Often they are orphans and they don't even have the money for bus fare to come to the hospital to get their medicine.

I will never forget my times at the care-points with the orphaned kids; the joy with which they would play even the most simple of games; their smiles and infectious laughter.

And I'll never forget the dedication of the men and women who give their lives to help the Swazi people. Their efforts are unsung and unrewarded, but they are in my opinion the true saints of this world. Doctors, nurses, volunteers, who are angels in disguise as human beings. I have never in my life felt as humble as I did amongst these giants of humanity posing as ordinary people.

Inspiration Peak: Many people feel that the hunger and war situation in Africa is hopeless. What would you say to them?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The problem we face in our world today is a maldistribution of wealth, as opposed to a shortage of resources. For instance, a meager one percent of the world's military expenditure would supply clean water for the entire world. What it does require is that human beings recognize their interconnectedness. As Thomas Merton said, "No man is an island unto himself... we are all part of the whole." 

My father often compares humanity to a spider's web. Touch the web at any point and the whole web vibrates. I believe it's those little acts of kindness - sponsoring one child, sending a few clothes, supplying a cup of food to a hungry person, multiplied by however many million people that populate this planet which will transform our world.

Inspiration Peak: What advice would you give someone who wants to help the children in Africa?

Maithri: Start with one child. Think about whether you could spare a dollar each day to provide food, clothing or schooling to a needy child. There's a wonderful organization called Young Heroes that provides food, clothing and shelter for 'double-orphans' (those who have lost both parents).

We also need to educate ourselves... and for this I recommend a powerful movie called Orphans of Nkandla where you can hear the childrens' stories in their own words. All proceeds from the sale of the movie go to the orphans.

Most importantly though, spread the word. Spread hope. Tell your friends and family that together we can make a difference.

Since returning to Australia, Maithri Goonetilleke has been involved in a project to build a 'care point' for orphans in the Moyeni area of Swaziland where they can come for shelter, food and schooling.

He's also part of a project to build a new neonatal ward for Swaziland babies and is working to raise funds for a much needed ambulance. (They are currently looking for a corporate sponsor.)

To learn more about Maithris' experiences in Swaziland you may want to read a touching short story he wrote called One For My Sister, recently published at Inspiration Peak.



Spread the word. Spread hope. Tell your friends and family that together we can make a difference." 

Maithri Goonetilleke

Genre Focus
Maithri's Favorites

Favorite Movi
  Remember The Titans
  Hotel Rwanda
  My Life
Favorite Books:
  Your Sacred Self
  Anam Cara
  The Prophet

Favorite Music:
  Whitney Houston
  Paul Simon
  Bebe Winans
Favorite Ice Cream:

Favorite Quote:
"If you can't feed one hundred people, feed one."  - Mother Teresa

Nam and Tanzile - on their way to the country for a weekend outing. Both girls are patients at the Good Shepherd hospital in Swaziland.