Witnessing PATH’s mission in action

Morgan Burdick sits down with children.

PATH Journeys traveler Morgan Burdick greets children in Phnom Penh. In January 2008, Journeys took 12 supporters to Cambodia and Thailand for a firsthand look at PATH’s work. Photo: Mary Kay Burdick.

Fifteen-year-old Morgan Burdick is already a savvy world traveler. Now, after joining PATH for a trip to Asia, she can add global health witness to her list.

In January 2008, the high school freshman from Mercer Island, Washington, spent two weeks at PATH project sites in Thailand and Cambodia on the inaugural PATH Journeys trip. With her mother, Mary Kay, a longtime PATH volunteer and supporter, Morgan saw up close how our work is touching communities, families, and even teenagers who share her same concerns and hopes.

Like the rural community that now has access to clean water. Or the father who proudly displayed PATH vaccination cards to show that all of his children have been immunized. Or the high school students who, inside their open-air school, are learning about condom use and protection from HIV.

Morgan was familiar with PATH’s mission before traveling to Asia, "but it’s so different to actually see it," she says.

“There’s nothing that can substitute actually visiting with the people about the projects and seeing how it impacts their lives,” adds Mary Kay.

PATH staff joined Morgan, Mary Kay, and other travelers, guiding them through villages where PATH is making a difference. In Thailand, Morgan spoke with fellow teenagers who are learning about reproductive health through PATH’s innovative TeenPath project. In Cambodia, Mary Kay met a woman who struggles to care for her son, disabled by Japanese encephalitis.

The travelers talked with migrant workers from Cambodia who left home to seek higher wages in Thailand—and heard about PATH programs that support the families left behind. They saw how Cambodian pharmacies are improving diagnosis and treatment for people with critical diseases with help from PATH. Many of these efforts have received support through crucial flexible funds from individual donors.

“The work that we saw is so fundamental to basic human health that it’s somewhat shocking that it’s not already been taken care of,” says Mary Kay. “We saw vaccine programs that are dealing with diseases that should have been eradicated a long time ago. I’m thankful that the PATH staff are there, working and continuing to press on the health care system to get those vaccines implemented.”

Morgan says witnessing people’s essential needs in Asia brings her own life into perspective. It also helps her explain how saving a life can be as basic as teaching other young people about safe sex—giving people everywhere the tools to be healthy and witness the world for themselves.