a small suitcase as well as his backpack yesterday. The suitcase is marked "Fragile" and "Handle with Care" and the airport and customs staff at both ends of his journey know that what it contains is far more important than any personal belongings.
Peter is heading for a developing country. He has been there before. He taught "make-do" medicine there for six months seven years ago. Now he goes back each year for three weeks of his annual leave. He pays his own air fare and takes his own food in his back pack. The small suitcase is packed tight with medical equipment. This time he is going to teach an eye surgery technique and train the local travelling nurses to do the follow up. He will be among friends and, this time, he will be sleeping in relative luxury. They are giving him a tiny room to himself at the local hospital. It will, they have assured him, be just big enough for him to "lie straight"!
The local people love Peter. He has been going there for eleven years now. When they know he is coming there is an influx of people from the surrounding areas, all wanting to see him. He works twenty hour days. The last week of his leave is spent sleeping in a place known only to him. He then comes back to Australia and resumes his life as a doctor here.
Most people are totally unaware of what Peter does with his leave. He never talks about it. I only know because he needed communication assistance the first time he went. Now he speaks a little of the local language but he still uses a communication board and a local interpreter.
What Peter does is valuable because he has always insisted that he is there to help the local people help themselves. He has always gone to teach something specific. He follows it up through local staff during the year and when he returns the following year. He asks for nothing from the local people apart from a commitment to follow through on what he has started.
The result has been a marked improvement in health standards in one small area of a very poor country. Neighbouring areas have taken up several ideas. Poverty is still rife but, with the improvement in health, things are slowly improving.
Our current Australian government has grandiose notions that it is our turn for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. They are trying to buy their way on by handing out "aid" to certain developing countries. The money is largely being wasted - and may not succeed in its objective anyway.
It would be better given to the Peters of this world to go and make a real difference.