Back on Malaria Meds…and then some

Well we are off on another medical brigade, this time to Guatemala.

I’m really excited for this trip, my second with MedWish. Simply love this incredible organization.

A total of 42 of us will be traveling to several remote mountain communities to see an expected 1500-2000 patients. We have been told that the people in these villages speak a Mayan dialectic and they are so remote that medical teams never make it to them. I’m not surprised since it will take us 4.5 hours in four wheel drive vehicles traveling over rough “not quite roads” to get to them.

So….In addition to the malaria meds we’ve packed lots of meds for motion and altitude sickness.

Should be fun…totally my kind of trip!

Not Every Trip Requires Maleria Pills…Sometimes a Bottle of Suncreen Will Do

Bright and early tomorrow morning we are going SANS KIDS to sunny Aruba. Nothing “mission-ey” about this trip…this time it’s nothing but princess pampering…thanks to my awesome hubby!

1075255_10201518280901049_2059171626_n

A few weeks ago I was whining to my better half that even though I was traveling A LOT this summer I wasn’t exactly getting to relax on any of these trips. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE going on mission based trips, they are intensely satisfying for me but sometimes I really just want to relax…on the beach…with a frozen drink and a people magazine.

Don’t judge.

Or judge, I’m still going.

So anyway, I’m whining to my husband and he decides (because again, he’s freakin awesome) that he is going to book a surprise get away for the weekend between my Ethiopian Brigade and my Guatemalan Brigade (oh yeah I’m going to Guatemala on August 4th-I’ll tell you about that next week).

The idea was to surprise me…not tell me where I was going until we got to the airport or something like that. Sweet right?

Well it’s the thought that counts because…

I found out where we were going as soon as he booked the flights.

Yep, the flight popped up almost immediately on my iphone thanks to my super-d-duper United App. Oh well. I guess I was just surprised a little early.

We are spending three precious nights away in an oceanfront Tara Suite at the ADULTS ONLY Bucuti and Tara Resort.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts are serene and peaceful, perfect for honeymooners and couples looking to relax, rejuvenate and get away from it all.

YES PLEASE!

Bucuti & Tara is a smaller “boutique-y” hotel on Eagle Beach. I haven’t been to Aruba before and I don’t know much about the island or the resort but it all looks pretty darned perfect. (After  a week in an Ethiopian guest house, never mind the week sleeping on the floor in a Kazah orphanage I’m pretty sure no matter what this is going to feel luxurious.)
Bucuti&Tara_NewEntrance-Concierge

Gaze out at the sparkling blue ocean as the waves lap against the white-sand shore. Feel the warm trade winds gently sweep over you as you sip champagne under the starry sky on your private balcony or terrace.

Ummm yeah,  you had me at adult only…

We have an early morning flight and if the travel gods are merciful we should be on the beach in time for a late lunch, RIGHT HERE.

Bucuti's Sand Bar

I.CAN.NOT.WAIT!

Not sure if I’ll update while we are there…you know with my rigorous schedule of eating, drinking and sunscreen application…but maybe you can catch a glimpse of me here!

If you don’t spot me, I promise to give you a full review when we get back.

Face of Hunger

One of the most devastating results of the poverty in Korah is the lack of adequate and nutritious food. Quite simply people starve here.

Some very lucky families are part of a feeding program whereby they receive one very simple meal each day. It is not much…you and I would not want to eat it. But they are hungry and for most this meal is all they will eat in a day.

But as I said these are the lucky families. Many, MANY more have no reliable source of food. For those not in a feeding program food is often found by searching through trash in a city dump. They look for something, anything to eat. In this environment a packet of sugar discarded by a local hotel might qualify as dinner.

Occasionally after the lucky families in the feeding program have eaten there are leftovers…literally scraps in a plastic bucket. On those days, when something is left to spare, the food is shared with the “street kids”. Kids who often wait in the alley outside the feeding center… peering through holes in a metal fence… hoping there will be “extra” food that day.

Its one of the most difficult things I had to witness in Korah. The frantic grabbing into the bowl of scraps as each child vies to get his share…it’s a sickening sight.

The photo you see below captured a group of Korah street kids fighting over that days scraps. Yes they FIGHT over scraps of food…they CRY because the hunger gnaws at them…and sometimes (God forgive us) they STARVE to death.

This photo makes me uncomfortable. IT SHOULD. I thought twice about posting it but I feel I must bear witness to this too…because it is really happening…and we should all know and care that it is.

1071183_10200242425969608_345747617_o

Ending world hunger is possible – so why hasn’t it been done?

Hunger is both a cause and a symptom of poverty. Damaged bodies and brains are a moral scandal and a tragic waste of economic potential. That hunger exists at all shows the urgency of redistributing income and assets to achieve a fairer world. Providing the additional calories needed by the 13% of the world’s population facing hunger would require just 1% of the current global food supply. That that redistribution has not already taken place is truly something to be ashamed of. -Duncan Green, The Guardian

 

Read the full article here

Reflections from a Princess

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Reentry after a trip like my last is always an interesting if not difficult process. You simply can’t un-see things…the unjust realities of poverty are hard to understate once intimately experienced and they are nearly impossible to reconcile with “first world” life.

Worse yet it can be demoralizing to think about how little is actually impacted in a week-long effort. What really changed? Not much. Certainly not as much as you would like.

I think a lot of people come back and talk about the impact made…the lives they changed in the place they visited or they talk about how their lives were forever changed. So many return raw, emotional and overwhelmed. I get it-I’ve been there myself. But lately Ive come to the conclusion that most of us simply romanticize the experience.1070107_10200257489866196_1132773090_n

Yes it is sad to witness poverty and certainly any person with an ounce of compassion would feel something after a trip to a place like Korah but in the end most people don’t rearrange their lives, make real and substantial changes in the way they live after a trip like this.

For the vast majority of people (like me) their lives return to a pre trip rhythm rather quickly.

I struggle with that bit of reality. I wish it was different for me. I wish I could find the strength to throw out my first world existence in exchange for a life that amounted to meaningful change for the poor and orphaned. People who have chosen this path inspire me.

But in the end like most others returning from service I too will return to my comfortable life. I will bitch about the food at a 5 star restaurant because it’s not quite hot enough, even though I’ve seen people eat from a trash dump. I will buy shoes, one in every color, even though I’ve washed the feet of those who have none. I will complain about waiting in a doctor’s office, even though I’ve seen mothers with children tied to their backs walk for miles to see us.

I am not proud of this…I’m just trying to keep it real. As much as I care and have a desire to do more, I know in my heart I will only sacrifice within limits.

Some people will use this to criticize. Some will negate my small effort because in their judgement I have not sacrificed enough. Some will begrudge my return to my comfortable life. It bothers me …partly because it pokes at the guilt I already feel ….and partly because it is so outrageously hypocritical of them to require more of me than they give themselves.

At the beginning of this trip I took some grief from a few who took exception to me referring to myself as a “Princess Missionary”. They suggested that “PM” demeaned the effort and took away from the seriousness of our work. Maybe they are right. I don’t claim to be perfect.

But when I refer to myself as a Princess Missionary I am intending to be self-effacing and ironic. I don’t pretend to be one of the saintly few who really do reorganize their lives to serve others. I am fully appreciative of the fact that I will return to my comfortable “princess” life at the end of each trip. And frankly that’s true for most everyone who serves on short-term missions. They may not call themselves “Princess” but they do almost invariably return to the relative luxury of their first world lives.

At the end of the day I have to get good with my own conscience and ignore those who would condemn due to ignorance, self-righteousness, envy or spite. I have to accept that my normal life and my service life are riddled with incongruity and work though the guilt that comes with that. And I have to fight the demoralizing sense of futility I feel as I leave a place not much different from before I came.

Because I believe we have to do something…I have to try…even if all I can offer is an imperfect effort.

What we did in Ethiopia…

  • In total we saw more than 400 patients for conditions ranging from simple earaches to severe meningitis. Medical conditions treated included; mumps, pneumonia, fungal infections, herpes (face) infection, a buckle fracture, lacerations, wound care and secondary wound infections as well as complications to leprosy, TB, Typhoid and Aids.

ImageImage

  • We visited two orphanages where we treated the kids as well as those from the countryside who waited outside the gate when they heard a medical team was in the area. We returned to one orphanage to provide follow up care to several patients including one child with a fractured arm who the day before we had to make an improvised splint and sling out of wire and a tank top shirt. He got a real splint when we came back!

ImageImageImageImage

  • We turned a church into a make shift emergency department and then practiced “midnight medicine” using flashlights as our primary source of light.

ImageImageImage

  • We provided 1,000 meals to the Korah community.

Image

  • We held multiple clinics at the Kore Great Hope Clinic, went on house calls for home bound patients and in one little boy’s case performed a life saving surgical procedure. Each day patients would line up outside the orange metal wall surrounding the clinic hoping to get through the gates to see a doctor.

ImageImageImage

Image

  • We taught the nurses at Kore Clinic how to do laceration repairs. Once again with the power out we conducted a suturing class by flashlight and candle light. We used bananas as our “patients”. A couple of days later they practiced injecting lidocaine…into the arms of yours truly:) Apparently we were out of bananas.

ImageImageImageImageImage

  • Teaching continued at the Alert Hospital where we did a full day of clinical teaching including a difficult airway clinic where we used a live sheep to practice intubation skills. (BTW The sheep was fine…)

ImageImageImageImageImage

  • We supplied both Alert Hospital’s ED and the Kore Clinic with much needed supplies, equipment and drugs but more importantly we established relationships that will allow us to continue to support the health needs in Korah.

ImageImage

Image

  • We conducted a hygiene clinic and passed out hundreds of hygiene kits including tooth brushes, soap and shampoo. We also supplied backpacks and an 8 month supply of vitamins for the kids going into the new Out of the Ashes boarding school program. At the Kore Clinic we washed the hands and faces of each beautiful child before they saw the doctor! (A treat in a place where access to water is limited and most are able to bathe only a couple of times each month.)

ImageImageImageImage

  • We dealt with a lot of HEARTBREAKING social issues, especially financial need and access to tests, medications and follow up care. We provide a fund that allowed our patients to obtain the drugs and tests they needed and we made countless trips to local pharmacies to buy the medications they needed. SOMETIMES THERE WAS NOTHING WE COULD DO.

Image

  • We hauled more than 1,000 pounds of supplies across 8,000 miles. We spent A LOT of time on a crowed plane or driving in a crowed van. And we ate what we could, where we could (sometimes there were utensils and sometimes we just hoped the purell worked!). Everybody got sick.

ImageImageImageImageImage

  • We made friends, took in everything we could about this great place, fell in love with Ethiopia and its beautiful people, sponsored two great kids to go to school and basically had the experience of our lives!

ImageImage

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage