Friday, April 01, 2005

Someone to look up to

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.03.31
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PNAME: City Editorial
PAGE: B4
BYLINE: Leah Mooney
SOURCE: Citizen Special
ILLUSTRATION: Photo: Malcolm Taylor, The Ottawa Citizen / Leah Mooney wonfirst prize in the Grades 9-to-12 category of the fifth annual Canadian Biography of the Year essay contest.
NOTE: The Winning Essay

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Someone to look up to

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Genuine, unpretentious acts of compassion occur daily, consistently going unrecognized and unrecompensed. However, on occasion, certain individuals' actions insinuate a tone of altruism, so rarely heard within today's culture that the populace is unable to experience anything less than awe.

Americo Rodrigues, following 10 years as a general practitioner in Toronto, accomplished such a feat. Seizing a rare opportunity, Rodrigues undertook the arduous mission of travelling to Afghanistan through winding, rutted trails into the nondescript village of Mala-Manmad-Khil. The battle awaiting him was not one of violence and destruction, guns and ammunition, but one of serenity and healing, stethoscopes and tongue depressors. He saw more than 100 patients daily, and although providing only minor services, his work was received with immeasurable gratitude. However, adjustments to a culture in which patients were seen by seniority, leaving the youngest and most ailing patients untreated, were extremely heart-rending. The greatest challenge came in the form of five-year-old Djamshid Djan.

Carried to the clinic on his brother's back, the fear-stricken, emaciated Djan had a cardiac anomaly. Unable to operate locally, Rodrigues organized his transportation to the nearest city where doctors further investigated his case. Djan was granted life-saving surgery in Canada, which he recently and successfully received, renewing not only the life of Djan himself, but reviving a sense of hope within his village.

The strength and selflessness of Captain Americo Rodrigues are traits all Canadians strive to emulate. Using his talents to this degree clearly demonstrates an individual worthy of praise.

Leah Mooney is a Grade 12 student at Colonel By Secondary School in Gloucester. This essay won first prize in the Grades 9-to-12 category of the fifth annual Canadian Biography of the Year essay contest, organized by the A&E Television Networks.

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