Why? Why Togo? Why now? Why me?

In the 5th grade, my niece Claire Zielinski presented this composition, and won that year’s Oratorical Competition, St. Lawrence School, Shelton, CT

How would you feel if you had no medicine for the chicken pox or the flu? That is how kids in Africa feel. My Aunt Lizz saved some of those people’s lives. People like us! Kids, adults and even babies. People in Africa are suffering from many kinds of diseases. My Aunt, Elizabeth Simonetti, travelled to Africa to help people like that.

My Aunt Lizz has always wanted to help people. When she lived in Georgia, she taught Sunday school to four yearolds at her church. She also worked in a soup kitchen near her home in West Orange, New Jersey. But she wanted to do more. So she decided to go to Africa.

She works for company in New Jersey called. Hoffmann-La Roche. It is a Swiss company that makes drugs. They gave her a year off with pay to do this volunteer work. This is called a sabbatical.

Before she could go to Africa, she had to go through training for two months in Rome. She worked with the Canossian sisters and other people that were traveling to Africa.

After the training, she flew to Togo. Togo is a small nation on the west coast of Africa. It is a land of rain forests and plains. Togo is very poor. The average person makes only $900 per year. The people don’t have running water so they get water from a well. The well water is dirty so it makes them sick. The common diseases of Togo are tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, hepatitis, yellow fever and parasites. My Aunt Lizz wanted to help treat those diseases.

The diseases are so bad that even healthy people can get sick. When my Aunt first got to Togo, she got very sick. She spent a week in the hospital before she felt good enough to go to work. When she felt better, she began to organize the pharmacy and helped the doctors treat the patients. She helped teach boys and girls and their mothers how to use medicines properly. She taught them how to take them, when to take them, and why they were taking them.

People in Togo believe in Voodoo, which means they think if they give something to the gods, the gods will make them better. Voodoo does not work. The people who believed in it, spent so much time praying to their god that when they did go to the doctor, they were too sick to cure. The doctors try to save them, but sometimes it is too late.

One of my Aunt Lizz’s special memories was of a 15 year old boy she met. She took him to the library every day. The boy had never been to a library before. She got him a library card and let him take out books. I think she touched that boy’s life because it opened up a whole new world to the boy.

Aunt Lizz touched my life because she is an inspiration to me. When I think of the name “Elizabeth Simonetti,” I don’t just think of a woman or an aunt; I think of a hero. I want to be just like her when I grow up!