On Thursday Feb. 22 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mary Lightfine visited West Chester University as part of Civility Day to chronicle her experiences touching lives around the world. Lightfine’s keynote address narrated her experiences working as a volunteer in some of the most troubling of 76 countries including war-torn Somalia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Lightfine received the Nobel Peace Prize in work with the Doctors Without Boundaries organization. She also wrote an autobiography titled “Nurses, Nomads and Warlords” which recounts her encounters. She began her presentation talking about leaving her job, where she worked as an emergency room nurse for 16 years. She relocated herself to wartime Somalia, working as a volunteer nurse at a local clinic. Working with six doctors amongst 700 patients, Lightfine spent time in her new location changing lives. Lightfine worked restoring structure to a battered society by offering medicine and care. “As soon as I [started] I was shot at. In Somalia, they opened fire on our vehicle because they wanted to steal the vehicle and the guy next to me got hit. I thought I was going to die.”
She assisted villagers by helping the community as a whole in addition to individuals with supplies, leadership and knowledge helping to combat diseases such as the Guinea Worm. “I loved helping people,” Lightfine said. “Many people said thank you, and that was enough.”
However, it was not always gratitude and appreciation.
Lightfine stressed understanding culture in a worldly sense including African and Afghani attire along with chuckling stories of culture clash.When being searched in Sri Lanka by military, the troops seized tampons from Mary’s luggage. Thinking quickly, Mary told the officers they were a nursing tool if someone was to be shot; they would fill the hole, stop the bleeding and could be pulled out with the string.
Lightfine is president and founder of Volunteers Without Boundaries, a non-profit organization that gives non-licensed volunteers a chance to get hands-on practice in real life situations.
The program is an opportunity to help future nurses and doctors experience real situations before committing to medical school. Lightfine’s website www.volunteerswithoutboundaries.com, exhibits real life stories, frequently asked questions, and contact information.
Lightfine is renowned for her brilliant presentations and impact especially from nursing and pre-med students of hundreds of schools and universities. “It keeps me going,” Lightfine said. “The more you talk to people, the more lives you touch, the more you want to keep doing it.”
Outside volunteering, Lightfine came with wisdom from atrocities she has seen around the world. Living in the Sudan amongst genocide, Mary stressed that students and governments can get involved in Darfur.
“We need to force our government and other governments to stop this,” Lightfine said. “You as our future leaders can be inspired.