Last Build Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2012 18:39:15 UTCCopyright: Copyright 2015
Sat, 18 Feb 2012 13:14:25 UTC
Visitors see and hear survivors on videos giving terrifying testimony about what it was like to see friends turn against friends and neighbors kill neighbors. Many survived only by hiding in garbage piles, in neighbors' basements or under the dead.
This day began with tears and ended with laughter — not to mention some fine shopping.
We began the day by visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a modern museum with audio guides in various languages that explain about Rwanda before, during and after the genocide.
Visitors see and hear survivors on videos giving terrifying testimony about what it was like to see friends turn against friends and neighbors kill neighbors. Many survived only by hiding in garbage piles, in neighbors’ basements or under the dead.
I’ll never forget the room with dozens of skulls with gaping holes caused by machete blows and hundreds of bones of victims; and the room holding victims’ bloodstained clothes. Hundreds of pictures of victims reminded us that the more than 800,000 victims were people, not just numbers.
A room dedicated to child victims featured large individual pictures of children, some as young as 15 months old. The display tells what the children liked to do in life and how they died. Outside, thousands of victims are buried in memory gardens.
We left the museum and went to church, then to lunch and finally shopping. I was delighted to purchase everything from Rwandan tea to baskets, wood carvings and nativity sets. Of course, I had to do some major repacking back at the hotel before we checked out.
The trip was worthwhile, but I’m looking forward to going back to Harrisburg until early April. Then, I’m off again on my next mission: Bolivia!
Thu, 12 Apr 2012 18:38:56 UTC
Our Volunteers in Medical Missions team had an intense last day of clinics, finishing up with 999 patients served since we started. We saw special people today: -- an 87-year-old lady in a fedora hat who personified Bolivian mountain women. -- a two-week-old baby sleeping in a rainbow colored blanket on his mother´s back. -- a lady in...
Our Volunteers in Medical Missions team had an intense last day of clinics, finishing up with 999 patients served since we started.
We saw special people today:
-- an 87-year-old lady in a fedora hat who personified Bolivian mountain women.
-- a two-week-old baby sleeping in a rainbow colored blanket on his mother´s back.
-- a lady in a wheelchair patiently waiting her turn.
-- a couple in their 80s who only spoke Quechron but loved each other so much.
In some ways, it´s assembly line medicine. Patients come to me, the triage nurse, and my translator (who is from Peru) to register on a paper slightly bigger than a 3 by 5 index card.
We find out what their physical complaints are, then I do a quick assessment, sometimes finding unexpected complaints such as cardiac irregularities. I also check weight of children and blood pressure of adults. Patients then head to another station for vitamins, deworming medicine which they take right there and toothbrushes.
Next, they go to the doctors (today we had five) and or or to my friend, Glenda, who is testing vision and distributing glasses. Finally, they head to our little pharmacy to get prescribed medicines.
By the end of the day, we had 167 pairs of glasses left out of the 1,037 we started out with from reading glasses, sunglasses and Bag of Hope glasses (bifocals, regular prescription glasses and more in bags of hope because we hope something works for people.)
I plan a new phase to this mission work -- a hearing aid program I plan to name ¨NOW HEAR THIS.¨
We had dozens of people needing hearing aids. We could collect donated hearing aids, get a hearing aid specialist to clean and service them and get us batteries and bring them along for those who can´t hear. People back home have been so generous with glasses that I think they will be generous with hearing aids too.
As this mission winds down, I am excited about one more thing before we leave -- shopping at the markets tomorrow.
I will see you good folks in a few days. Hope all is well at home.
Wed, 11 Apr 2012 18:38:24 UTC
As of the close of clinic today, we have taken care of 813 patients, including 210 today.
MOLLE MOLLE, BOLIVIA -- Our mission is winding down -- and so are we! As of the close of clinic today, we have taken care of 813 patients, including 210 today. We could take care of another 200 tomorrow.
It´s easy to see 813 as a big number. It´s more important to think of 813 men, women and children who have needs just like the rest of us. As triage nurse, I see every person that comes to clinic for a quick evaluation. I get basic information and check blood pressures and weight. Sometimes, I find cardiac irregularities, sometimes I learn odd but important facts to pass on to the doctors.
Although I don´t speak much Spanish, I do understand it fairly well.
One woman walked to clinic, arriving at 5:30 a.m.! She stood at the church door waiting for us so she would be seen. One man, 94, was so thrilled when I gave him a new white T-shirt he acted as if he had just won the lottery.
The jump ropes are going over great. I only have five left for tomorrow of the original 59 Anya Fox gave me to bring. We are going through toothbrushes and toothpaste like crazy and our glasses inventory took a nosedive too.
Clinics are chaotic, with dozens of people talking loudly, several dogs wondering among us at will and children darting every which way. Bolivian children are incredibly cute! The dogs are something else -- I have never seen any country anywhere with so many stray dogs everywhere.
My friend, Glenda, and I skipped lunch -- we can only take so much carb-heavy Bolivian food -- and instead took a walk. We stopped at a little roadside stand we dubbed our Bolivian bistro and bought four bananas which we consumed with gusto with the gorgeous Andres Mountains as a backdrop. We have such a good time together on these trips!
We left clinic at 6 p.m. and came back to the church/pastor´s home. Glenda and I didn´t go out with the team for dinner. We both needed some peace and quiet.
Instead, we had some pizza with the pastor´s wife and daughter, then I did my writing and we got our showers. I am hosting a team tea party in an hour -- I host one every night -- but should get to bed at a decent hour for a change.
Hope all of you are well. I miss you but will be home in a few more days.
Mon, 09 Apr 2012 18:37:52 UTC
What a full day this was -- and my patient chair stayed warm from an endless stream of patients sitting there.
TARATA, BOLIVIA -- What a full day this was -- and my patient chair stayed warm from an endless stream of patients sitting there.
We were up by 6 a.m. and walked to the church. I had the triage station set up by 6:50 a.m. After a quick breakfast, we got to work.
This week, the people in this Bolivian town have come to know about my friend, Anya Fox from Susquehanna Twp. Anya has adopted my medical missions as her bat mitzvah project and is doing a "Healthy Teeth and Healthy Hearts" project.
She collected hundreds of toothbrushes for me to give out for the people here to have better teeth '' and 59 jump ropes so people exercise for healthier hearts. A few days before I left for this mission, Anya and her mother came to my house for a few hours of work helping me get those items and glasses ready for the mission.
Now, I am giving her toothbrushes out -- and teaching the kids how to jump rope. They just love it! I have shown them Anya´s picture, which they seem delighted to see.
Today I, a Catholic, gave out the items from Anya, a Jew, in a Protestant church to poor people of all faiths. I think I felt God smile at the ecumenical nature of it all!
We got back to Cochabamba by the time it turned dark, then ate dinner and reorganized medical supplies and more. Glenda started out with 1,037 pairs of glasses and is down to 723!
We also had a team tea party with Earl Grey tea and homemade cookies that Glenda and I brought along. Life is good in Bolivia.
I hope all of you are well and had a blessed Easter. Know that I am thinking of you and miss you.
Sun, 08 Apr 2012 18:37:10 UTC
To my surprise, I had a deeply spiritual and meaningful Easter here, even though it's nothing like the Easters back home.
TARATA, BOLIVIA -- Happy Easter in Bolivia! To my surprise, I had a deeply spiritual and meaningful Easter here, even though it's nothing like the Easters back home.
Glenda and I got up at 6 a.m. and headed to the ancient and beautiful Catholic church for Mass. Although it was in Spanish, I followed it perfectly well. The customs are different here. People come out of the pews and hold hands in the middle of the church for the Our Father. They have a wonderful sign of peace. The music was beautiful and familiar too.
Then we went to the Protestant church, where we conducted a couple hours of clinic before stopping for Easter service there and Mass. Again, it was a wonderful service. We were warmly welcomed -- and hugged and kissed by dozens of church members. After lunch, we got back to work for a busy afternoon of clinics. (The meals here are good but so heavy on the carbs -- rice and potatoes at every meal!)
After dinner at church, we had a quiet night in the hotel.
Sat, 07 Apr 2012 18:36:12 UTC
Our mission began today in this colonial town in the mountains. By the way, the Andes mountains here are just gorgeous!
TARATA, BOLIVIA -- Our mission began today in this colonial town in the mountains. By the way, the Andes mountains here are just gorgeous! We drove more than an hour to get here -- the same town we worked in last year on our mission to Bolivia -- and found ourselves back in the 1800s. All the buildings here were built in the early 1800s, two-story stucco buildings that look every bit as old as they are.
The big town square is rather delightful with all kinds of interesting trees and plants.
We are working out of a church on a side street. I work as triage nurse, meaning I see every patient that comes to clinic. I have TWO translators, one speaking Quechua (which the people speak here in the highlands) and the other Spanish. The first guy, a wonderful local man I worked with last year, translates Quechua to Spanish. The second translates from Spanish to English. I translate English to medical terms!
The men remind me of cowboys. The women are mostly short, very plump and all have long braids to their waists.
Our doctors examine patients and prescribe medicine. Our pharmacy staff fills the prescriptions. Glenda and Joy run the glasses clinic.
Fabulous things happened today even though we only had 144 patients!
We gave a hearing aid to a hard of hearing man -- and he had the biggest smile when he could finally hear. He and his wife have been married 59 years!
I met a little mute girl with a cute but sad face. When I gave her a teddy bear, she hugged it tightly and gave me a big smile, speaking volumes without saying a word.
I gave my other teddy bear to a child with Down Syndrome and she, too, hugged it and smiled.
Dozens of people who couldn´t see well left with better vision after Glenda fitted them with glasses. Many of the matches came from our so-called bag of hope, which are bags of prescription glasses. We call it that because we just hope people can find a match!
We ate our meals at the church and are staying in a rather quaint hotel that we walked to from the town square.
Fri, 06 Apr 2012 18:35:35 UTC
Good Friday finds us in Cochabamba, Bolivia after an all night flight to Santa Cruz, where we deplaned and went through immigration and customs.
Good Friday finds us in Cochabamba, Bolivia after an all night flight to Santa Cruz, where we deplaned and went through immigration and customs.
Medical missionaries carry a lot of medical supplies and drugs -- prescriptions for everything from pain relief to antibiotics. To our dismay, the customs people kept two suitcases of our drugs. I managed to get my 636 pairs of glasses through -- for the glasses clinics we do -- and the toothbrushes and toothpaste.
We went to the home of our host, a wonderful pastor, and got to work preparing for our medical clinics which start tomorrow. My dear friend and fellow missionary, Glenda Condrey, and I spent close to eight hours combining the glasses we bought, organizing them according to strength and packing them. A few other missionaries brought us glasses too so we finished with an amazing 1,037 pairs of glasses!!
The rest of the team prepared the medicines. We all took a break by late afternoon to go to the Jesus statue, a 112-foot statue of Jesus that dominates the landscape of this city, the third biggest city in Bolivia. The place was packed with people who made a pilgrimage here on the day Christians around the world remember how Jesus died for our sins.
It was totally different than my usual Good Friday, which I would spent in church if I was home. But I led the mostly Protestant team in the Stations of the Cross tonight and it was a very meaningful and holy experience for all of us.
Thu, 05 Apr 2012 18:34:40 UTC
My second medical mission to Bolivia got off to a good start today when I flew from Harrisburg International Airport to Atlanta, then on to Miami (I slept on all flights!)
My second medical mission to Bolivia -- and my 28th international medical mission thus far -- got off to a good start today when I flew from Harrisburg International Airport to Atlanta, then on to Miami (I slept on all flights!)
In Miami, I met the other eight members of the Volunteers in Medical Missions team. I already knew most of them from previous mission trips. We had a bit of a production checking into the Aero Sur Airline for our trip to Santa Cruz but got it done, had dinner together and got ready to board our plane for our 1 p.m. flight.
Will wonders never cease? I got a whole row to myself, so stretched out and slept on the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. flight.
Fri, 17 Feb 2012 17:11:57 UTC
Although there aren’t lions there anymore and we didn’t see any elephants, we saw some fine elands, giraffes, hippos, antelopes, warthogs, zebras and water buffalo.
Today, we drove two hours from Kigali to this area of eastern Rwanda against the Tanzanian border for a safari in Akagera National Park.
The day, which got off to a rainy start, brightened toward the end of our two-hour ride here. The six-hour safari — my fourth African safari — wasn’t as exciting as past safaris because the national park is so big and the animals are spread out everywhere.
Although there aren’t lions there anymore and we didn’t see any elephants, we saw some fine elands, giraffes, hippos, antelopes, warthogs, zebras and water buffalo. We also saw a lot of beautiful birds.
Fri, 17 Feb 2012 13:10:11 UTC
The crowds were so eager -- even pushy -- that my triage station was shut down three times before noon just to restore order. Eventually, we ran out of medicine.
Mission accomplished on all fronts today.
We finished our clinics, serving more than 600 people on this mission. Hopefully, people who saw our doctors and got our medicine are feeling better; people who got our glasses are seeing better; and people who got our message of Christianity and love are finding God.
The crowds were so eager — even pushy — that my triage station was shut down three times before noon just to restore order. Eventually, we ran out of medicine.
This morning, a truckload of just-made furniture — four beds, four mattresses and five chairs — arrived at the clinic for us to take to my widow friend, a woman with a long name that begins with Mary.
Later in the day, I met Mary. We hugged in joy. I told her we are both widows, adding that God blessed me and I wanted to share some blessings with her.
She was so thrilled to get the furniture. Tonight, she will sleep in a bed for the first time instead of on the dirt floor. If only I could get plumbing, electricity, flooring and plaster for her house.
We drove back to Kigali tonight, had dinner and are ready to sleep.
Thu, 16 Feb 2012 13:07:58 UTC
What a hectic but rewarding day -- I had 269 patients in triage with hundreds more wanting to be seen.
What a hectic but rewarding day — I had 269 patients in triage with hundreds more wanting to be seen.
It breaks my heart when we turn people away! One AIDS patient told me he walked far to get here, then slept on the ground outside our clinic all night in order to be seen at the clinic. We saw him.
“Snakes in the belly” was the most common complaint today, along with neck pain (no wonder with the way these folks carry heavy burdens on their heads!) headaches and sleeping sickness.
Besides taking care of patients, I conducted a brief jump rope clinic! I jumped rope for the first time in years as I taught both children and adults the joys of jumping.
A lovely girl from Susquehanna Twp. is helping me with my mission trips this year for her bat mitzvah project. She gave me toothbrushes for healthy teeth and jump ropes for healthy hearts. The jump ropes were a huge hit.
Pastor Ben helped me with another special project.
I bring $500 of my “good deed fund” on each mission, then use it to help someone with great needs. Today, Pastor Ben took me to a tiny home of a widow and her children. The place had no electricity, no running water and no furniture beyond one small table.
The widow wasn’t home because she was on her daily hike to bring water home. I left a teapot, some dishes and cookies on her table.
Tonight after clinic ended and dinner was done, Pastor Ben took me to a little carpentry shop at the end of an alley. There, I found a couple of men making furniture by hand.
Using a translator, I wheeled and dealed, eventually reaching agreement that the guys would make four beds and five chairs and get four mattresses for my widow — by morning! I’m hopeful it will happen.
I also hope to take a shower tonight, before the hotel turns the water off.
Wed, 15 Feb 2012 13:05:29 UTC
The success of any mission depends on the translators as well as the medical team working at the clinic.
The success of any mission depends on the translators as well as the medical team working at the clinic. I am blessed with a fabulous translator, a friendly young man named Jean Paul, for my work as our triage nurse.
My job was to check in and quickly access each of the 121 patients we had today, then send the patients to one of our four doctor stations and or to our glasses station. We also gave out toothbrushes at the glasses station.
Although the people here lead hard lives — life expectancy is under 50 years old — they aren’t starving. I saw some interesting cases today:
-Several patients with possible African sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease that causes major daytime sleepiness.
-A woman with hiccups for 10 years.
-A baby whom I believe has cerebral palsy.
-A baby with some kind of abdominal tumor.
-Patients with HIV, AIDS and a variety of male and female problems.
Others needed glasses, making me happy that I brought close to 400 pairs of glasses, thanks to the generosity of Chambers Hill United Methodist Church and other church groups. Jean Paul and I grinned when many patients complained of “snakes” or “serpents in the belly.” That translates into intestinal worms, which we take care of at our de-worming station.
Tue, 14 Feb 2012 13:03:04 UTC
The team -- and some of our Rwandan friends -- were delighted with tea and cookies.
I couldn’t ignore Valentine’s Day, could I? The heart-shaped cookies I baked back in Harrisburg, wrapped in bubble wrap inside a cookie tin and brought over in my luggage made it intact. The team — and some of our Rwandan friends — were delighted with tea and cookies.
Then it was on to more serious matters, dealing with the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide which left thousands of orphans. We visited about 600 children today in an orphanage.
Although we didn’t speak the same language — Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda, a bit of French and limited English — we understood each other well. Children speak the language of smiles, hugs and even high fives.
Today, I got in touch with my inner child. We played with the orphans, who looked to be 9 and under. A couple of us — including me — even participated with them in relay races, running as fast as we could through a field, then passing a stick on to the next person. Two of our guys lead the kids in a tug of war that involved holding hands.
We also introduced the orphans to that Pennsylvania favorite, “the chicken dance!” (I had brought along a greeting card that played that catchy tune. Soon we had a bunch of kids doing the chicken dance as enthusiastically as I’ve ever seen it done at a wedding!)
One little girl held my hand the whole visit, looking at me with her big brown eyes and smiling shyly. We really bonded although we didn’t say a word.
As I looked at the sea of orphans, I reflected on the genocide which cost Rwanda about 20 percent of its population.
Rwanda has two main ethnic groups, the majority Hutu who traditionally were crop-growers and the minority Tutsis, traditionally herdsmen. These groups were once a peaceful nation sharing language and culture.
Trouble came in 1994, the genocide was sparked by the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, after his plane was shot down above Kigali airport. After that, military and militia groups began rounding up and killing Tutsis.
Between April and June 1994, militias and military Hutus slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. Neighbors killed their neighbors, friends and even family members. We were told that 99 percent of the families here were affected by the genocide.
We are here working with “Reach the Children of Rwanda International,” an organization created by the Rev. Benjamin Musuhukye. Pastor Ben, himself a genocide survivor, got the idea for the organization one morning as he rode his bicycle to the high school where he taught.
“Hundreds of young children stood by the roadside as cars, trucks and bicycles passed by,” he said. “These children looked hungry, drunk, tired and seemed hopeless. Their eyes were inviting. I could not stop looking at them. Tears of guilt and anguish filled my heart as I helplessly passed them.”
After he prayed, “God planted in me a passion to serve him through those children,” he said.
Ben proudly showed us property the organization purchased and shared his dream of building a dormitory, classrooms and a chapel there. I think it will happen!
Mon, 13 Feb 2012 13:00:20 UTC
We enjoyed a gorgeous drive from Kigali to Musanze, seeing terraced hills along the way, small farms, volcanoes, rugged mountains, interesting trees and hundreds of acres of tea fields.
Rwanda lives up to its nickname, the “Land of Thousand Hills.” We enjoyed a gorgeous drive from Kigali to Musanze, seeing terraced hills along the way, small farms, volcanoes, rugged mountains, interesting trees and hundreds of acres of tea fields. I especially liked watching people pick tea leaves.
Carrots seem to be the national vegetable, long, fat and brilliantly orange ones which are taken to market in 5-feet-high wire baskets.
Feet seem to be the main form of transportation. We didn’t see anyone riding horses, although there are vans and trucks. Mostly, people here walk miles taking their produce to market — and they literally use their heads to do so. We saw hundreds of people walks with baskets of everything from tomatoes to sacks of potatoes on their heads. How they do this without dropping anything is beyond me.
This is my seventh mission to Africa — and the first one in which I’m cold. The high elevation of the mountains of northern Rwanda makes temperatures range from the low 50s to the upper 60s.
We are staying in a nice hotel but the lights are very dim, maybe 40 watts. When I stepped into the shower tonight and turned on the water, I learned that the hotel turns the water off at night. Oh, well, a morning shower will wake me up.
Sun, 12 Feb 2012 13:44:32 UTC
Reporter Mary Klaus paints a vivid picture of Rwanda in the aftermath of genocide during a trip to assist a clinic.
There’s more to Rwanda than the horrific genocide of nearly a million people in 1994.
Located in central Africa just two degrees south of the equator and measuring about the size of Maryland, Rwanda is a beautiful country of rolling hills, volcanoes, lakes and rivers.
I’m working here as a clinical nurse with Volunteers in Medical Missions, a Christian medical mission group based in Seneca, S.C. The 13 of us hope to do good things this week as we work in a small medical clinic in northern Rwanda near the border of the Republic of Congo.
We flew from the United States to Amsterdam to Kigali, Rwanda’s hilly and beautiful capital city. We stayed overnight here, then loaded our medical supplies and luggage into a small bus to head north.
Wed, 23 Nov 2011 21:43:23 UTC
2011-11-23T21:45:06ZSometimes during World Surgical Foundation missions, I get involved in more than surgery. That is what happened today, our fourth day or surgery here in San Pedro Sula. This afternoon in the pediatric wards, I met a wonderful little boy who broke my heart. Jose, 12, has advanced leukemia that has not responded to chemotherapy. His... Sometimes during World Surgical Foundation missions, I get involved in more than surgery. That is what happened today, our fourth day or surgery here in San Pedro Sula. This afternoon in the pediatric wards, I met a wonderful little boy who broke my heart. Jose, 12, has advanced leukemia that has not responded to chemotherapy. His doctor told me that he has a bad prognosis. She said that the only thing that helped him at all was alternative medicine for a few months, but even that is not helping anymore. Since I have lost track of little Nelly (the baby who got an MRI that showed she could not be operated on) I have chosen Jose to help with the good deed fund I brought along. A lovely lady named Leyla, who is with the Ayunda group of generous Hondurans who help to host us, took me up the pediatric wards today. We talked to the nurse there asking who had the greatest need and she sent us to a corner where we found Jose. He had the saddest brown eyes I have ever seen! I sat beside him and he snuggled up to me, put an arm around me and began to cry. Through Leyla´´s translating, I learned that his mother abandoned Jose when he was 5. His dad, who was there too, is so poor that they have lost their home. All they have is each other. I found out some immediate needs, then went shopping with Leyla in the Honduras version of a Walmart. I bought the dad some shirts and Jose shirts, shorts, toys, juice and chocolate, which he said he likes. I gave the rest of the good deed fund to Leyla to get a gift certificate for the Honduran Home Depot sort of place, because the Dad said he plans to build a house for them. We delivered the gifts to Jose and his dad, who were thrilled. Later in the day, I stopped by again and Jose was smiling and playing UNO with another patient. To my delight, Jose was laughing as they played. Oh, the power of playing Uno and of having someone care for you. If only I could make him well! Our surgical mission is winding down but we did about 20 operations again today. I am mostly in the room where we remove gallbladders. Rooms near us have pediatric cases. Up the hall are several operating rooms run by the Hondurans and we have had a couple c-section births each day. Today, I found myself thinking of the importance of nurses to the surgical scene. Generally, surgical nurses fall in three categories. Scrub nurses, such as Deloris Luechtford (who works at West Shore Surgical Center in Hampden Twp. back home), wear sterile gowns, gloves and masks as they stand near the surgeons giving them instruments and more. Dr. Paul Kunkel (a Camp Hill general surgeon) says that scrub nurses can make or break the surgeon´´s day. "A good scrub nurse watches the operation, anticipates what the surgeon needs and has it ready before the surgeon asks for it," Kunkel said. Circulating nurses, as the name implies, circulate or move about getting what the surgical team needs. It is my favorite op[...]