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Volunteers without borders
24 September 2004
by Jody Ferres

Lightfine shared her story Tuesday night at the St. Ambrose University, Davenport, about her work with the Nobel Prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders.

"I was an ER nurse for 16 years and read this article about Somalia. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going there and I’m helping them,’ " she said.

Three weeks later, she found herself in the middle of the impoverished country.

Lightfine has been one of thousands of volunteers with Doctors Without Borders. The program, which began in 1971 by a group of French doctors, was the first non-governmental organization both to provide emergency medical assistance and publicly bear witness to the difficulty of the populations they served. In more than 30 years, the program has been in more than 80 countries and treated thousands of people.

“It didn’t matter if their governments said we couldn’t go there, we went anyway,” she said.

Although the organization participates in humanitarian efforts to those countries in need, Lightfine said there are some things about it that she is unsure of, such as clothing people in Sudan.

“When we (U.S.) came and opened schools, we forbade the children to come naked,” she said. “After we gave them clothing, the adults wanted it and had to buy something they didn’t need. We do have negative impact on cultures because of the ideas that we bring.”

Marcia Chambers Regrut of Bettendorf knows exactly the kind of experience people like Lightfine have when volunteering. Regrut spent a month in Rwanda in 1988 building a church.

In the last five years Lightfine has continued her humanitarian work, going to Afghanistan with the International Medical Corps. Last year, she started Volunteers Without Borders, a program geared toward college students who want to volunteer but may lack the medical background needed for programs similar to Doctors Without Borders.

“She’s so inspiring,” said Linda Heaton of Bettendorf. “It’s so unreal the things she went through, yet still found inspiration from all the people she met.”

Lightfine’s involvement with the organization is part of what brought her to St. Ambrose. The Campus Activity Board selected her out of the thousands of choices because of her appeal to not only the medical field but those who are interested in social issues.

"She did a great job talking about not only justice but injustice," said Veronica Riepe, director of campus activities. “Her service work really goes with St. Ambrose’s mission statement.