Blog: Dr. Jim Morgan, Port-au-Prince, January 23, 2024

It was another proud day for our Lamp community.  

Yesterday I worked with our medical staff in Port-au-Prince at our newly refurbished, freshly painted, ancillary health center in a zone just outside Cité Soleil, an area called Klèsin (CLARE-seen).  

On our way to clinic, the normally ebullient and cheerful commute with our Lamp staff, a commute that often finds me laughing after just a few short blocks, one marked by nurses ribbing doctors for this or that, people scrunching together to see the latest Tik-Tok video, or bragging about their children and sharing photos on their phone – that commute was instead subdued, anxious even. As our driver pulled out into the street, I saw two young men on the sidewalk ahead of us look in our direction, then head into an alley. I was sure that they were going to jump on a motorcycle, and pull up alongside us to force a ransom. In my brain, truck drivers and taxi drivers became stooges for street gangs. Women selling clothing or vegetables or soap or phone chargers, or anything else, were surely spies for gangs, phoning them of our whereabouts.    

But such was not the case. Despite traffic patterns that make Grand Central Station at rush hour look calm and orderly, thanks to our driver Anglanès, a sturdy brick wall of a man with great street knowledge and some of the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen, and who has never had an accident with our van in his more than 10 years of navigating the daily commute, we arrived without any incident.  

I inspected our spruced-up spaces, and chatted with Damas, a community health worker whose smile never leaves his face for long, save times for serious talking. This was such a time. Damas thanked me for coming, and said that he was grateful that Henry and I had made it there, despite what he knows are particularly risky times for foreigners and nationals alike. He knew that the other staff were grateful too, and that they were aware of the risk. He said that they understood why we choose to continue with this work.

Too, Damas said that we needed to pay attention to outside friends, who would warn us if we needed to pack up and leave abruptly.  

Patients, already lined up to be seen, were from Cité Soleil, and another area known as “Maïs Gaté”, a very densely populated (think not quite, but approaching, Tokyo subway cars at rush hour) area not far away. Uniformly the patients were effusive in telling us how glad they were to have a place to go for care. And provide care we did. Three doctors working in sync, our nurse midwife seeing pregnant patients, nutrition counseling and treatment underway, and our pharmacy and labs running smoothly. One such woman, 69 years old with a bad heart condition, reported that it had been a year since she was able to access any care at all. I treated another very thin and ill appearing young man for

pneumonia, who told me that he had no money and nowhere else to go.  

With the hot sun just past its peak in the sky, Dr. Metellus came into my exam room to announce that we needed to leave, quickly. “The streets aren’t safe anymore today” he said. I finished with the patient I was seeing, and along with the others, helped to shutter our clinic in a matter of minutes.  

Riding in the van was a replay of our earlier trip. Anglanès, his eyes darting everywhere, his mind anticipating, his brow furrowed pensively, skillfully navigated the streets, always leaving space to maneuver the van, somehow avoiding traffic jams, and depositing each of us safely home. The day, a single day for me, but a way of life for our patients and staff, has left me on edge.  

“This place has blessed me” the young man with pneumonia, looking weak but bolstered, told me as he was leaving our site, a week’s supply of medication in hand and a cure for his malady in clear sight.

I know how he feels.  

And I hope that you do too. Despite these ongoing and often immense challenges, we continue to walk alongside, and we ourselves feel bolstered. We continue to ride in the van with, and somehow feel calmer through that community that rides beside us. We continue to care for, to talk with, to share cellphone photos with, to smile with those whom we see as our extended family, and gradually that vision of extended family becomes real.

Thanks as always, for joining us on this journey.

In friendship- 


adminBlog: Dr. Jim Morgan, Port-au-Prince, January 23, 2024
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Dear Friends –

I’m writing our Annual Spring Appeal letter from Port au Prince, Haiti, a place of 3 million people, most of whom are quite poor by any international standard.  In Cité Soleil, where Lamp for Haiti has its health center, a sprawling and dangerous ghetto, absent reliable clean water or electricity, the situation is even more stressed.

Consider some of these staggering facts: In the arena of healthcare, Haiti spends about 57 dollars per capita annually. In all the Americas the next lowest spending country, Nicaragua, commits over three times that amount per person, while the US rate is about $13,000 ( — 2019).  There are about 25 physicians per 100,000 persons in Haiti, compared to 278 in the US.  Infant mortality in Haiti is 59 per 100,000 live births, compared to the US rate of 5 per 100,000.

Gangs today control large swaths of the capital, and surrounding areas too. There were over 1,200 reported kidnappings in Haiti last year alone, more than twice that of the previous year.

Given these hard to fathom numbers, aren’t further efforts in Haiti just pouring the proverbial water on sand? Isn’t that country too far gone? Oughtn’t we work in another place?  It’s helpful to answer with a bit more data.  In the past twenty years in Haiti…

-Adolescent fertility rates are down over 30%, a cause for optimism since delayed childbearing beyond adolescence is associated with more years in school, higher future earnings, and more stable households.

-Life expectancy has risen by almost five years, to 63. Still low, but progress nevertheless.

-The infant mortality rate mentioned above is actually decreased by over 25%, as numbers of “attended” births by skilled personnel increased from about 25% to nearly 68% of all births in Haiti.

-Overall age adjusted mortality rate in Haiti is down by over 20%.

I have no doubt that this progress has regressed in the past two years, given the overall state of affairs in Haiti.  But progress can and has been made, even in places of extreme poverty.  And while I personally believe that prayer helps, even St Augustine said that God will provide the wind, but we must raise the sails. In this case, the sails are an organized and integrated health system, with well trained committed staff, outfitted with the right equipment and medications.

 To answer my own question, then, a resounding NO, we oughtn’t give up. Life is harsh, at times brutally challenging, in Haiti right now, most especially in Cité Soleil. But for 17 years Lamp for Haiti has not wavered. We remain committed to our mission to provide quality, well-discerned community development, based on the cornerstone of our work — effective healthcare. We will continue to treat the sick, to mend wounds, to feed the malnourished. We will continue to do so not just with kindness but with organized systems.

I hope that you’ll consider supporting our Spring drive this year.  Working together,  we’re  saving lives. On behalf of our Board, staff, and of course our patients, thanks for choosing to stay a part of Lamp for Haiti.

My best to you and your family at this beautiful time of year.

– Jim

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As we move through this year, we continue to explore the layers of Lamp for Haiti’s tagline: Healthcare, Partnership, Community.  For me, Community is really what it’s all about.

Our tagline is not just a series of three nouns, catchy terms akin to Xerox’s “work can work better”, or Guinness Beer’s “Guinness is good for you”. Those don’t really tell you much about their objectives, their values or aspirations. One only knows that those companies are trying to sell you something.

I like to think of our tagline as a continuum, a cyclical process whose momentum is keeping us rolling forward, in both historic and contemporary terms. It’s a process that started almost two decades ago,  with a few of us deciding that we would provide basic healthcare to a forgotten place.  After speaking about our work with friends, family and colleagues, we realized that we needed partners whom we could rely upon, and who felt in turn that we would be reliable too. Out of that partnering has come community.

Going back to those early days, we identified community almost solely in geographic terms; community referred to those residents living in Cité Soleil, in particular those in our Bwa Nèf zone, not far from Lamp Health Center. It was they whom we wanted to reach, and we did.  But our early success in delivering basic healthcare was revelatory, as we quickly and clearly saw the extreme lack of access to quality care for so many of our patients.  With intentionality, we expanded our healthcare services to include pediatrics, women’s health and adult medicine. We added needed equipment, labs, drugs and social outreach.  We began actively seeking out partners on another level -- individuals like you, who wanted to participate and assist in our work, as well other like-minded organizations working in Haiti.

Today, however, a much-expanded understanding of community is the outgrowth of such efforts. We have seen the impact of Lamp spread to encompass a broader geographic catchment area in and around Cité Soleil. (This is even more acutely the case as we have been forced to work at more mobile sites bordering Cité Soleil, given the frequent security troubles in the capital today.) Moreover, community is seen in Lamp’s staff in Haiti, whose families and neighbors are impacted by our economic impact related to their wages, as well as by the positive effects that gratifying employment brings. Community is seen when we talk with a parent of a sick child who has been treated at Lamp health center in the past, and now comes back to request (and expect) more of that same approach to quality care. Community was seen at our latest event in New Jersey, the Montclair Charity Ball, which introduced many new people to Lamp, people who had not previously heard of our work but who nonetheless were inspired as they learned about our work, and wanted to know about ways they might deepen an involvement and become a part of something bigger.

It’s clear to me that the cyclic momentum of our triad tagline will -- if we remain open to it -- continue to push us to think about and to implement new and better ways to deliver quality healthcare to as many as possible. It’s a positive momentum. It’s a great community. Thanks for being a part of it.

- Jim

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October 20, 2022 – Haiti Update

The situation in Haiti has become very grave.  For approximately three weeks now there has been a complete lack of fuel available due to the fact that a powerful gang controls the main fuel terminal at the docks in Port-au-Prince.  This follows a year and a half of fuel shortages, so that any stockpiles have been exhausted.   Lack of fuel means that food cannot be transported from the countryside to the city, it means that water cannot be trucked to the many communities that rely on this method of distribution.  It means that electricity has become a precious commodity since all of Haiti’s electricity is generated by fuel-burning plants. 

Aside from the fuel issue, the majority of Port-au-Prince is also controlled by various gangs that have greatly expanded their territories since the assassination of President Moise in July of last year.    The result is that the country, and especially Port-au-Prince, is in a state of lock-down.  Institutions of all sorts, including Lamp’s Health Center, are temporarily closed.  

For ordinary people it is a terrible time.  We will only discover the consequences to health and life when the fuel supply is restored. 

At Lamp, we are organized to take any opportunity to return to Bwa Nef (the portion of Cite Soleil where the Health Center is located) and to provide mobile clinics to the many groupings of people displaced by gang violence.  We are discussing our response to the resurgent cholera with several partners.  We are very well placed to take action as soon as it is possible, so that our presence will soon be very critical indeed.  

Hopefully, the fuel issue will soon be resolved, without bloodshed, so that we can resume our normal services and respond to the enormous need that has been created by this crisis.  The goal of Lamp’s work is to assist the most impoverished, so that we can only affirm that we are in the right place.  The situation in Haiti is dire, but turning away does not help anyone.  

adminOctober 20, 2022 – Haiti Update
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School Sponsorship Program

Ms. Samson is the indefatigable
head of the Enfant Jesus school
in Bwa Nèf. An educator with
a heart of gold.

The 2021-2022 school year has come and gone. Across Haiti, kids celebrate their achievements and look forward to next year. For most, school is a blessing – a safe place where order reigns, where efforts are rewarded. Parents are ever-eager to have their children attend – these school-going children are the hope of the family, and the kids know it. The attractions of education are heightened by the fact that so many cannot attend. The result for many will be illiteracy – an inability to read a newspaper, a government form, the instructions on a medicine bottle. An inability to determine the correct change for a purchase. The benefits are very real.

The Lamp began its school sponsorship program in 2010. Watching these successive groups of children navigate the challenges of school, their potential fully engaged, has been one of the great pleasures of my work at the Lamp. To date, the Lamp – through the very direct support of our education sponsors – has provided 57 children with a total of 208 years of schooling. Huge thanks to those sponsors! It is a small program but a very powerful one and we would like to make it grow.

The basics of the program are this: children are selected from local families by our Community Health Workers and assigned to specific sponsors. Sponsors receive a brief bio with photo, updates on the child’s progress, and occasional messages from the children. The children must succeed to continue but tutoring is provided for any that are falling behind. An annual sponsorship of $415 pays for tuition, uniforms and shoes, textbooks and school supplies for one child. There is a standardized state exam at the end of grade 9 and success in this exam – which earns a formal certificate – is the primary goal of our program. Sponsors may continue to support their charges but generally speaking, the sponsorship ends and a new young person from Bwa Nèf is chosen to enter school.

The program has value beyond price for the children and their families; it is also critical for its support of local schools – institutions that are vital to positive communal life.

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Reflection From Dr. Morgan On The Passing of Dr. Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer has died.  And while I certainly was not close to him — we met personally just a few times — his death feels extraordinarily reminiscent to me of that of John Lewis.  I felt personally inspired by their public lives.  Both men changed the trajectory of history, literally.  Lewis did so by standing up to injustices, and above all else, that’s what Farmer did too.   

Farmer was not one to mince words with those whom he thought should know better.  I remember one time at a conference, when he was asked a question about corruption in the developing world, he replied something along the lines of “so by corruption, could I use as an example the Enron Scandal?” (Enron was a huge U.S. corporation that went bankrupt in 2001, whose executives committed massive fraud, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs and the collapse of two major companies.)  Farmer would never let pass a comment that suggested poor countries had intrinsic character flaws which wealthier ones were immune from.  

On the other hand, he was immensely interested in people as persons.  Individual persons.  I recall having a conversation with him following a talk he’d given at Seton Hall Law School.  We were discussing a housecall patient whom I’d just visited, who’d had a stroke and was now completely bedbound.  Dr Farmer was curious about the man’s home, his wife, his heart, his psyche, his bedsores, his challenges.  I recall being bemused that, like a good infectious disease expert, he asked if the stroke was due to a mycotic aneurysm, a type of fungal infection, and not the typical intrinsic vascular disease.   The conversation moved to Haiti, and to Cite Soleil in particular.  He knew already of Lamp’s work, and reaffirmed its importance for the many marginalized who lived there.  He encouraged us to not give up despite the legions who would suggest this in one way or another.  

He also challenged me to not settle for a second rate system for people because they are poor, and often have no voice.  Dr Farmer’s point was that people living on the fringes should not have health care as good as you and me, they should have better care, because the deck was stacked against them already in so many ways, from nutrition to education to housing to access to healthcare.   

To not live one’s life in poverty, and to be impacted by Dr Farmer’s work, as many have been, is to be both inspired and directed.  The first requires a willful allowance on our part, letting his message of healthcare as justice soak in.  As to being directed, Farmer consistently pointed out the obvious in all kinds of disparate situations, so that one couldn’t help but notice that a root cause was there, sometimes hidden, often not.  But being the critic was never his goal; it was solving Gordian knots.  By his writing, by his organization, by his doctoring, he threw the gauntlet, challenging us to creatively solve problems that many thought unsolvable.  Farmer, like John Lewis, refused to accept the status quo when such acceptance led to disparity.  He wanted to be a balm for humankind, and he succeeded.  Let’s be both inspired by that thought, and directed to be a balm for humankind too.  

As always, thanks for being a part of Lamp for Haiti- 


adminReflection From Dr. Morgan On The Passing of Dr. Paul Farmer
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Earthquake Update

September 15, 2021

The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck southern Haiti on August 14 claimed approximately 2,200 lives.  It is now estimated that more than 135,000 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed.  Some 200,000 people lost access to safe drinking water, as wells collapsed and water sources were contaminated. The area was already experiencing substantial food insecurity before the quake and this has increased by at least 25%, with a total of perhaps 1 million people facing hunger, primarily due to the rapidly rising cost of food.  Persons needing medical assistance have been assisted and relief agencies, including the government and its partners, have redirected their focus to rebuilding homes and livelihoods.  The re-building phase will continue for many years.

The Lamp for Haiti Health Center is not in the crisis zone, but, as a health-focused agency, we stand ready to contribute to this tragic event in any way that we can.  We feel, however, that our most effective role is to work, ever more diligently, at what we do best.  That is, to continue to provide long term health services to the desperately impoverished residents of Cité Soleil, a shantytown on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.  The enormity of the crisis in the south will continue to affect all areas of Haitian life for years to come, and this effect will be felt especially strongly by those on the economic margins, such as those in the community we serve.  It can be noted that Cité Soleil is currently experiencing a large increase in population, due to the influx of people from the earthquake zone who have lost their homes.  The Lamp will, in other words, be contributing to the relief effort in this indirect fashion.

The Lamp is also undertaking a modest rebuilding effort in one affected village but we feel that we can best assist in the ongoing relief efforts by channeling any additional funds we receive for this emergency to those partner agencies, such as St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, that are on the front lines of the relief effort.  Our own Lamp for Haiti Health Center remains open in Port-au-Prince and we welcome your contributions to this critical work.

Healthcare, partnership, community.  We stand in solidarity with the people of the region, with our partner organizations, and with all those who find a place in their hearts for the less fortunate.

*** The Lamp welcomes your contributions to our ongoing programs for the underserved in Haiti ***

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Weaver Birds in Haiti

Jim Morgan, April 14, 2021

My Sunday flight to Haiti was canceled due to tornadoes in Florida, near where I was to make a connection. My luggage has been lost by the airline. My phone wouldn’t work, and internet is spotty. I couldn’t find potable water last night. 

But today is a new day. This morning I was waiting for our driver to pick me up to go and work along with our in-country staff at Lamp for Haiti. I could hear a lot of birds chirping overhead. I looked up and saw about 40 of them, building nests in the nearby Merenge tree.  Each was a beautiful golden yellow, finches I think, all working in seeming unison, and all singing their tunes in harmony.  The birds  would fly to a nearby palm, way up high and snatch off a piece of frond, then fly back to the nest, trailing what looked to be a too-long piece of greenery through the air. The first few rounds, I was sure that the bird had taken too much palm, and that should it survive the tree-to-tree flight, it would prove to be too much to handle, and the nesting material would drift to the ground. 

I watched the scene for about 30 minutes, engrossed in their diligence. Not once did I see a bird falter. Not one branch or palm leaf fell to the ground. Each strand, no matter its length, was carefully and skillfully weaved, and slowly the nests began to take shape. Moreover, I could swear the song of the birds seemed to almost be spurring one another on to stay focused on the task at hand. 

Like most proverbs, this Haitian aphorism starts from observations: Piti piti zwazo fe nich li (little by little the bird builds its nest).  True not only for our friends of the air, but for any worthwhile project. To me the important part is what’s not stated – the notion of persistence. Dogged pursuit of a result no matter the circumstances, no matter the fatigue. Using available resources. Community. Allowing oneself to be carried away by the collective energy as a part of a noble goal.

Today I was speaking with Miss Salita, one of our community health workers.  She told me that of all the health centers in Cité Soleil (there are about four other health centers in Cité Soleil), only one is consistently present – Lamp.

 And then she beamed, proud to be a part of this organizational fortitude.  

To put that into context, there are roughly 300,000 residents in Cité Soleil, living in grinding poverty, many in tin shacks with dirt floors. Malnutrition is a big problem –we currently have 100 children in the child nutrition program — as is access to even basic healthcare. Security in the capital has significantly worsened with rampant kidnappings and other violent crimes. Two days ago five priests, two nuns and a doctor were all kidnapped. 

And yet our staff continues to go to work. They put their own safety on the line in doing so, but they believe in the work and so they show up. When they do arrive, they are met with smiles of mothers who know that their children will receive the care that we would want for our own children.  They see patients with illnesses that are routine, but for whom getting them the correct treatment can be challenging.   They see severely undernourished children, they see malaria, and COVID-19 and diabetes and GI illness. And they treat them all. Consistently.

 Other centers are intermittently open, but close frequently due to local circumstances. To be sure, we have had to close from time to time, but far and away we remain the bulwark of healthcare in this zone. 

Because of the pandemic, it’s been over one year since I have traveled back to Haiti, and worked alongside our staff there.  Today showed me once again the mettle that is their constitution. It remains consistent, relentlessly pursuing a noble goal of providing much needed healthcare to some of the world’s poorest. 

…Zwazo fe nich li

Lamp for Haiti is about healthcare, it’s true. But it is also about community, and determination, and showing up, consistently seeking a solution in challenging circumstances. Thanks again for intentionally staying a part of this truly life saving work. 

In friendship to you, and still inspired by the work that’s being done in Cité Soleil —


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Reflection from Dr. Morgan on the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

Eleven years ago today, at 4:53 pm, the earth in Haiti shook for 30 seconds.

In its wake, over 200,000 people died.  

Thousands  were left amputees,  hundreds of thousands  homeless. 

All in the aftermath of a cataclysmic thirty seconds.


It seems so long ago — eleven years. World events  careen along , exhausting us. Political tensions,  global warming, floods, cyclones. In this pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly 2 million, it’s hard to make sense of the world. 

I find myself asking “Why is this happening now? Why me? Why us?”.

Last week  I came upon some notes from a retreat I’d taken about five years ago.  On one page I’d written “Ask the right question“.  That question ,  we’ve learned again and again as we continue our collective journey, is not the usually unanswerable “why me?”  but instead “How do I find I meaning in the current moment?”.

I believe that that important question is answered every day, all around me, but I need to keep my eyes open.  For example it’s answered when a high school student, Toby Baer, and his mother and father and brother and sister decide that they can do something to make the world better, and they organize a basketball tournament four years in a row to raise funds for Lamp.  It’s answered in an email I received recently from Dr Hyppolite, who told me that while there was a shooting in the zone of our health center one day earlier, the staff is back to work today, unshaken and resolute.  It was answered when we provided emergency care to the homeless and injured following the 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake, and it continues to be answered each day when we see, and are moved by  a mother’s warm embrace of her baby, made well because of treatment they’ve received at Lamp. 

We all yearn for meaning in our lives. I am convinced that it’s all around us. Tragic events will continue to befall our world, but when we ask the right question and see such creative and courageous and loving responses, we’ll be strengthened anew.  

Today I’ll invite you to set your alarm on your cellphone for 4:53pm, the exact time at which the earth shook so violently eleven years ago.  Let’s  reflect on that tragic event , but not stop there. Let’s look for meaning in our world and today and let’s  work in some concrete way to reflect that meaning to those around us.

In friendship- 


adminReflection from Dr. Morgan on the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti
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The Meaning of Community by James Morgan

In a recent NY Times article1, columnist David Brooks wrote about the importance of grassroots projects and strong community bonds . On reading it I immediately thought of the Lamp community, among whose members  are residents of Cite Soleil, our intrepid medical staff, as well as the many supporters like you who believe in our mission of working — and being — with and for those on the margin.

In particular Brooks writes  that the “neighborhood is the unit of change.” That is, communities grow  when local people act locally. Affluent communities can raise taxes or issue bonds, and build  places like a vibrant community  health center. But poor areas, which arguably need such places even more, don’t have that option , and thus the  need for  outside assistance. Lamp for Haiti is an example of such a transformative place. We have become a vital link to health and an integral part of the Bwa Nef  section of Cite Soleil . And we have done so not because we gave handouts, but because we have intentionally walked with the poor, and collectively we have grown stronger.

Brooks comments further about  a deep skepticism that permeates communities when locals feel “betrayed again and again by outsiders…” who don’t carry through on pledges to stay involved. Like any strong mature relationship, residents are not looking for handouts. Rather they’re seeking  committed partnerships.

In Cite Soleil, a very poor sprawling slum on the fringe of Haiti’s capital, there are many reminders of groups’ — governmental and otherwise – having left behind some brick and mortar structure, with no plan or funding for its future use, or even its maintenance.  In many cases these ghost remnants make matters worse. Not only are they decrepit eyesores, but they also serve as reminders of the social distrust Brooks writes about.  It’s as if he had   been interviewing area residents in 2005, the year we began our work in Haiti. We faced that same deep skepticism for several years before we would become an intrinsic part of that community.

If, as Brooks asserts, part of the answer to the puzzle of community development lies in  understanding that the “neighborhood is the unit of change”, I would contend further that we need a broader vision of who our neighbors really are.  Are they just those who live close to where I live?  Though Cite Soleil residents live far away, Lamp’s supporters clearly don’t see geography as a limiting factor when considering that question. For almost 15 years Lamp for Haiti has successfully worked   to empower residents in one of the poorest corners of the globe,  helping  foster health and pride in that community.  We don’t give handouts, but we do accompany. Lamp has never wavered in our commitment. We have been there in the wake of an earthquake, monsoons, gang wars, political unrest, and now a global pandemic.  Neighborliness requires consistency — acting in a way that demonstrates a long term commitment in authentic partnership with local people. But it also requires resources, a  hand up when my neighbor is in need.

Thank you for your caring commitment to this important project. Your willingness to stay engaged during this difficult time is a (not surprising ) testament to the generous spirit, so pervasive in the Lamp community.

James Morgan, MD
Co-Founder and Chair of the Board


adminThe Meaning of Community by James Morgan
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