2013/09/30

Our First Medical Clinic



As promised I am back again!  First and foremost I have to congratulate the Schiff family on their beautiful new daughter Audrina Vyolit Schiff.   They have been a huge support to me, and I would not be here without them.  I know that God is blessing all of us with another Schiff, so I just want everyone to pray for them and express my congratulations and well wishes! As I said last week, this post is going to be all about the first MEDLIFE mobile medical clinic in Tanzania.  Next week I will write about my first weeks back in the classroom after our August holiday, teaching again, and organizing the first ever field trip in the history of Stella Maris.  It was exciting and quite a bit different than St. Joseph field trips… 

Many people have asked how in the world, or what in the world could possibly drag me out of the classroom?  It’s what Medlife does, represents and how they do it.  Check them out online www.medlifeweb.org. I promise it’s worth your time, the website is really slick and the movies are short and informative.  Or if you just want to watch a video of our first clinic in Kilimanjaro (it’s about a minute long) check out our movie here: http://vimeo.com/74751469
 
MEDLIFE stands for Medicine, Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere.  Working on those three pillars is what truly excites me.  I have grown to understand now more than ever through my work in Africa and in the United States that the only way out of poverty for a family or a country is through developing all three sectors: Medicine, Education and Development.  The idea of bringing development projects to impoverished communities is truly new and exciting. 

Right now we are working on and budgeting for a project to finish a classroom for a school of more than 700 children.  One of their classrooms that has 90+ is a fifth grade classroom that the children are learning in without a proper floor, walls or windows.  As well as another bathroom project that will fix their toilets so their children do not have to run out into a field to go to the bathroom.  In education we are working on many things, but currently I am writing curriculum for a program that combines personal values and goals with personal health for children to young adults.  By incorporating a greater value for one’s self and clearly defined personal objectives, we hope to instill our students with a greater value for their personal health.  This will also be our platform for adult education classes in gaining the right to vote, land title, business classes and many more topics.  These are all the reasons I was brought on board for MEDLIFE: to design a new program, bring their services to Africa and open Medlife to new volunteers and provide them with a program to educate and empower others.  

In our first clinic in Tanzania I worked with fourteen University students from the United States and Canada to serve and educate more than 1,300 people.  What do I mean by serve and what is the mobile clinic?    Well what we do is: I meet with community leaders, the priests, pastors, Imam and local political representative (CCM party) and ask about their needs.  When we identify a community as being underserved (without adequate healthcare) then we look for some structure for us to create a mobile clinic.  The structures can be anything from an abandoned dispensary (Kikavu) to an outdoor kindergarten classroom (Kimashuku).  The reason why we don’t use medical facilities is because the communities that we serve in have no dispensary or access to medical facilities, which is why they are of such a high need.  Some of these people have to travel 20 or 30 kilometers by foot just to find a public hospital that still does not provide free healthcare.  Therefore these communities oftentimes have people dying simply because they are too poor to pay for basic treatments.  After we identify and coordinate with the community, we wait for our students to arrive.
With the program fees that the university or high school students pay to Medlife we hire local, in this case Tanzanian, doctors and nurses to treat their people.  It is amazing how quickly and easily I was able to recruit friends and find more medical professionals who wanted to help.  The Tanzanian doctors and nurses recognize that their medical system cannot meet the needs of everyone simply due to lack of doctors and resources, so they truly love the opportunity just to help more. Together with the students we leave early in the morning from Stella Maris Lodge, ride in a bus for about an hour to some of the poorest communities in the Kilimanjaro region.  There we set up tents, projectors (for education seminars), our pharmacy and doctors’ offices.  At our clinics we have had anywhere from two to four doctors and always at least three nurses, but one day will hope to have what Peru and Ecuador have: two doctors, three nurses, gynecologist and a dentist at every clinic.  Together side by side and hand in hand we work to educate and treat our patients.  

What typically happens is a patient arrives, they go through registration and have their vitals taken by a nurse with the help of our students.  Then the patients have to “pay” us by listening to some short educational talks.  They listen to one of our nurses talk to them about Breast Cancer (how to check yourself), Cervical Cancer (warning signs and risk factors as well as tests), nutrition (what foods are most important in their local diet) and tooth brushing.  This is their payment to us, and also our investment in them.  We hope the education will empower them to take care of their own health and reduce the illnesses most prevalent in impoverished communities.  This is our effort to make sure that our impact in a community extends beyond clinic days.  The focus on women’s health is especially valuable, because mothers are vital to a family everywhere, but here in Tanzania are almost always exclusively responsible for the needs of the whole family, caring for the children and even farming.  After the education lesson, they wait to be seen by a doctor.  This cannot be overstated how valuable this is.  In one of the communities we have been working in, Kikavu, the village leader Mtundu said “some of these grandmothers and grandfathers haven’t ever seen a doctor”.  The doctor will examine the patients, run tests if necessary and then provide free medicine to the patients, which is not limited to vitamins, over-the-counter medicines and ibuprofen like many NGO medical clinics. 

We treat malaria, amoebiasis, various forms of worms, heart conditions, and anything else presented to us, just like a hospital.  Most of all we strive to go further and will not shy away from recommending ongoing treatments or tests if we suspect more serious illnesses.  IF we find someone with cancer or suspect someone of cancer, not only do we arrange for follow up and connect them with professionals, we will offer to pay for their treatment, and what percentage we pay is dependent on their situation.  This I find most valuable because by going through social workers and community leaders we find out how much someone can contribute or if they can contribute.  Then we require some investment by them in their own health and then make sure that they receive the proper treatment.  A common phrase thrown around in this work is “giving hand ups not hand outs” which is a direction aid work has been moving and one I strongly support.  Again look on our website for stories of everything from heart surgery to prosthetic limbs that Medlife has provided for our patients all over the world.

One special part of our program is that we use local doctors and nurses to educate our students from abroad.  People are often afraid of outsiders, let alone medical professionals in impoverished countries like Tanzania.  By using local professionals with our volunteers we don’t need to worry as much about cultural issues, language issues or confusion because our lessons and treatments are approved and given by local medical professionals.   Even still the role the student-volunteers play is vital.  They set up the clinics on the spot in the morning, observe and learn about tropical medicine, facilitate and assist in lessons, educate children on tooth brushing and help the medical team with every step.  The students provide so much energy and passion that the whole clinic is dependent on them.  Through culturally sensitive care we strengthen bonds in the communities and restore positive realationships.  It is amazing but one of the community leaders even mentioned how he was reluctant to believe that we would follow through because they have been burned by countless NGOs in the past who failed in their projects, but we had restored his faith, at least in Medlife.

Besides all the service work, which was definitely the highlight of the trip we also found time to: go on coffee tours, play soccer with children, visit a school for an oral hygiene lesson, swim under a waterfall, watch the Lion King in a makeshift outdoor theatre, discuss and learn about Tanzania’s current state in our three areas of Medicine, Education and development, have a guest speaker from the United Nations, go on safari to the Tarangire, go on a rainforest walk, shop for souvenirs and develop friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.  So why on earth could I leave teaching, well because I’m not.  I’m learning, leading, teaching and giving young people an opportunity to serve in Africa and all over the world through Medlife.  
Next week I will write all about being back in the classroom, share a story about a recent volunteer I hosted and tell all about our first field trip to Nyumba ya Mungu.  

Lots of love,
Terry


2013/09/22

I'm Back Again!



Where has Mr. Terry/Mr. Mulligan been for the past few months?  Well he has been busy!  I would like to start off by blaming someone else, Mr. Adam Archer.  Never have I relied on someone so much without realizing it.  We split the work of the school, hotel and guests while remaining such great friends for nearly a year that I had no idea how much he was doing until I had to fill his shoes.  There is no replacement for a friend, but most of all the constant inspiration and motivation we provided for one another.  He is someone who doesn’t just sit back or talk about a problem but actually had the courage to try to fix a problem.  He is someone who seizes opportunities to be caring and loving for these children who need him.  Even now, there is no one person who checks in through messages and emails more than Adam Archer.  After spending the last two years, forfeiting his salary and life back home, he still would like nothing more than to still be here working to help these children and carry this project further.  That was not God’s plan for Adam though and I was blessed that He brought Adam and I together in Tanzania to do this work.

Well so what have I been doing?  Well besides my normal responsibilities, I had to add Adam’s daily contributions with running the volunteer program for our two schools for a couple dozen volunteers, act as the concierge/representative during the very busy high season, sign new clients/companies to guarantee business and continue to teach, support our school staff through transitions while beginning to work for MEDLIFE as the country Director and Mobile School Director.  I must admit that the blog seemed like a burden to me which I regret now because I wish I would have shared about the amazing things I have been lucky enough to be a part of.  Also because I would never want my students and friends back home to think I forgot about them.  I just got busy with all the stories I should have shared: Emanuela’ eyes, Lidia and Marietha’s home, Inno’s sister, Clementina’s school, Sylvano’s broken arm, Jamal’s mother, Emanuel’s teeth, Stivin’s worms, Diana’s malaria and many stories of children in need at Stella Maris over the past few months.  Each one strengthening the bond that I have built with this community, that allowed me to then effectively establish MEDLIFE in dozens of new communities. I have learned that leading by example, telling the truth no matter what (even if it is telling someone you can’t help them), remaining positive and starting days with a smile will build trust in those around you that when they need you, they can trust you.  For the past two years and a few months, I have just tried to be there for everyone at our school and I can honestly say I still love being there for those who need me just as much as I have from the first day.  This was never more important than working with the church and community leaders to remove a child from a home where (parents of my children at St. Joseph please take care in reading further) she was being abused physically and mentally.  They verbally and physically hurt her in ways that I have only previously read about but through a partnership of community leaders, trust and respect for one another we were able to help one child.  And if there is a silver lining to the story as well, the family was even removed from their community by their neighbors.  But for about a month I struggled through one of the most trying times of my life, worked really hard and when it seemed impossible, stuck it out because I knew that I had an opportunity to help someone.  The leaders came to me when they reached impasses and asked for my advice which to me was the greatest reminder of why we partnered with this community from the beginning.  Because at the end of the day we all want to do what’s right for those who need us.

Life is a learning process and my work which is dedicated to serving the poor, disadvantaged, orphaned or sick is something that has a huge learning curve.  Not only is it a constant education, but it is also not easy.  In fact I said to one of my MEDLIFE volunteers that my greatest successes personally were also the times that I have been tested the most emotionally.  If you surround yourself with friends, loved ones and people that truly believe in the value of an individual’s life than you will be ok.  I have realized that I can’t do anything alone, never have, and never will because I always have had Him to protect me and guide my work.  Now I even have a career that will allow me to continue to care for those around me and help others to lead lives of service or include service in their lives.  Although this career will eventually lead me out of a school in the traditional capacity of a teacher, I have accomplished one of my greater personal goals of being involved in the care of more people.  To direct aid to communities that are underserved and provide services and education to those who need it most to empower them to make changes in their own lives.  In our very first Mobile Medical Clinic we served and educated (on preventative medicine health initiatives) more than 1,300 people in three different communities.  All it did was make me hungrier to serve more people.

So for now I continue to teach English every day at Stella Maris and then write curriculum for our Mobile Schools program that combines preventative medicine education with lessons based around ideals of individuality, love for one’s self and encouraging hopes and dreams.  Just this weekend I had a meeting with one of the largest street children aid organizations to discuss what issues we need to cover.  Together with the guidance of local school leaders, teachers, social workers, NGOs and education secretary’ we are working on a program that will be used to positively influence the personal health and well-being of children, young adults and adults.  It is certainly an exciting time…

I realize now that a lot of what I am not sharing with everyone at home is exactly what everyone wants to hear about.  For example, my meeting next week with a major volunteer organization/business will hopefully secure our third major contract next Thursday and keep us well on our way to guaranteeing business yearly for our hotel which in turn will keep our school open.  I will keep you all updated on that as well as the funny and happy stories that remind us all of why these children are so important to all of us.  So my promise is to write again, because my parents told me to.  They are the reason I am here, the reason I care so much.  People always ask me how I got into this work, but I have realized there is only one answer, it is because of my parents.  They made it a part of our family’s identity.  So I should probably keep on listening to them because it has gotten me this far, and their next request was to write about the first Medical Clinic and what it was like to serve 1,300 people over four days.  At least I already have my next post…  Until next time.

A whole lot of love for all of you,
Terry Mulligan


P.S. Sorry for writing so much I and me, but I didn’t know how else to write about the last three months concisely.  Pole sana!  Also please keep our friends in Kenya in your prayers. 

2013/04/27

Back Home


I am officially back home, back online and back to work.  It was tough to think of how to start up my blog again.  How can I summarize everything that has happened and as a result, now will happen?  In short my trip home was great and the future is very bright.  It was incredible to see my family, friends, my students and my church.  It refreshed me, motivated me and left me feeling confident.  Confident knowing that everything and everyone are fine at home.  That is exactly what I hoped for and now motivates me to work hard in Tanzania as well as comfort me with the knowledge that this place still needs me more. 

 Another big reason for my coming home was to see the work being done by Medlife in Peru.  I went down to Lima to see Dr. Nick Ellis (the CEO and founder) and Angie (Medlife employee, future dentist and Nick’s wife) who I had met months before in Tanzania.  Nick had seen me in the hotel, at the school and watched what I was attempting to manage during those days and after a few discussions decided that he would like me to help them with their work.  My experience, ability and our discussions on my understanding of how to effectively manage this project fit right with their needs here in Tanzania as well as with their larger goals.  We spent months communicating and building to this trip and it was certainly more than I could have asked for.

What I saw was an international office of Peruvian employees and American Volunteers working cohesively, up-tempo and enthusiastically talking about their work.  They were working in teams focusing on different areas; tourism, recruiting new chapters from Universities, scheduling service trips, creating new media for websites/facebook/youtube and even interviewing their volunteers for the next year.  All of the American volunteers are previous Medlife service trip attendees who were so inspired that they committed a year to volunteer, live in country and use their skills to grow Medlife and help more people.  It was so great to see so many well intentioned young people who took time after college to grow individually and serve others.  It definitely made me jealous to see the incredible community atmosphere they created with one another and how they could feed off each other’s energy.  

                Undoubtedly the best part of the trip was seeing Pamplona, the slums of northern Peru where Medlife does a lot of their work.  It was inspiring to see their development and infrastructure projects, staircases, future kindergarten that is in construction, meeting the people they serve and just getting an opportunity to feel a connection with another community.  I do not enjoy seeing these things or seeing people struggle.  It does not make me feel good to know that halfway around the world from Tanzania there is another country struggling to meet the needs of their poor.  I do love seeing the evidence of our love for one another, the sacrifices that others will make to serve the poor and listening to people talk about their dreams for a community.  Pamplona taught me more about the different faces of poverty.  The truth is, I cannot compare Peru to Tanzania.  I cannot say which is more or less of any adjective that is attributed to impoverished communities, they are just different, but they both need help.  Their problems are very similar.  The communities are trapped in perpetual cycles of poverty.  

Nick put it best when he related poverty to the game of Chutes and Ladders.  There is a road out of poverty but is long, with many turns, many hazards and few shortcuts.  Along the way there are places to pull yourself up (the Ladders) and pitfalls that can happen at any moment and bring you right down to the beginning of your journey (the Chutes).  The way to navigate this road is to avoid the chutes and climb the ladders.  In impoverished communities the chutes are medical problems.  Medical problems, illnesses and deaths can bring down an entire family.  One mother that came to a clinic was diagnosed with cancer, Medlife helped her begin her cancer treatment, but she recently passed away.  This meant their oldest daughter who is still in high school had to drop out of school to care for her family.  Now the family must try to continue on without their mother.  The children must be raised by another child (a teenager) and hopefully make it through school, with one child already forced to drop out.  These are the worst types of chutes because it is a whole family that is affected.  The ladders are provided by education.  Education is the one opportunity that exists in all countries that allows even the poorest child to succeed.  If someone is successful in school, goes to high school, goes to college and gets a great job then they can break the cycle of poverty and reach the finish line.  It is only through playing the game the right way, having the opportunity for a good education and getting medical care when they need it that our poor neighbors and friends can find a way out.  This is why I am glad to say I will be working together with Medlife to bring their medical work (Mobile Clinics) to Tanzania.  Additionally we will be working on creating a new volunteer opportunity, working in schools all over the world (Peru, Ecuador, Tanzania and India) so young people can have the opportunity to serve in education and benefit schools in a new and meaningful way.  

                Finally, I want to share a story from Peru.  The most personally moving experience and interaction I had came at a local kindergarten.  They brought me to a kindergarten to show me what their schools were like in Pamplona and meet some children.  Of course I immediately got right down to the floor, played with the children and did my best to communicate.  There was one child, a little boy named Jordan who I will always remember when I think of Pamplona.  As I got down next to the children and greeted them in my very poor Spanish, one boy made that same effort.  A little four year old boy, Jordan, got out of his chair, stood up next to me without saying a word, put his arms around me and buried his head into my chest.  It reminded me of my children in Tanzania, of Catherine when she was a first grader and all the little ones who seek me out when they are hurt, crying, feeling silly or just want a hug.  It was that moment that I felt connected, motivated and inspired for these people.  Jordan’s desire for a connection and his love was pure.  He deserves the opportunity to not get sick and to attend school every day to pull himself up out of the poverty that surrounds him.  Which is why I am proud to say that I will continue to provide that ladder at Stella Maris by teaching and working with the Mailisita Foundation, but I will also keep my eyes on the future and my heart open for more children like Jordan that will be helped by Medlife.

2013/04/10

Back in the Americas


As almost all of you know, I am actually currently away from my work in Tanzania.  I came back stateside for two important reasons.  Although I always miss my friends, family, students, and home parish I came back to see and support my younger brother at his first ever bodybuilding competition.  He competed in the Illinois Mr. Natural in the novice division and I am so proud to say that not only did he do well, he won!  He has always worked hard in the gym, but what is most impressive is his dedication of all the months to sticking to such a strict diet.  In his first competition he defeated older contestants and personally I don’t think it was even close J.  The hard work definitely paid off and with our whole family, many friends and some of his clients from his gym supporting him, he definitely made us all proud.  



It has been a wonderful week reuniting with friends and family.  Although I keep in close touch with many people it is definitely great to speak in person.  I had the incredible pleasure of seeing my students from St. Joseph and play a lively game of kickball!  It was so great to see them, see how they have grown, and also know that they are healthy and happy.  They were excited, rowdy and I would not want it any other way.  It is hard not to see them in person and be able to communicate easily with them, but I am blessed to know their parents, and I know they are all doing great.

Additionally what has made this time at home easier than years past are the friendships I have in Tanzania.  Undoubtedly the hardest part of leaving Tanzania, is leaving my children.  Our school is on a break for a month, so I would not see them all everyday but it is still difficult knowing I can’t walk through the village and see my children.  Of course this becomes hardest with Catherine.  She insisted on riding with me to the airport and spent the entire ride crying and holding my neck.  I hate leaving her and I hate to hurt her.  It was a difficult goodbye for us but I know we are blessed to cry over loving and caring for one another.  The bright side was spending time this week skyping with Teddy (the Stella Maris Manager) and Catherine to make the distance feel a little smaller.  We have been sending messages back and forth which has made the whole process a little easier.  I am already homesick though and can’t wait to get back to see my family.

The other reason for me traveling home was to travel to Peru.  Through my work in Tanzania I had the opportunity to meet the founder of Medlife, Nick Ellis.  Medlife is a non-for-profit that serves the poor and disadvantaged in Peru and Ecuador.  They have mobile medical clinics where they diagnose illnesses and provide free medical care for many people that would be without this opportunity.  They also work in education by building schools, classrooms, computer labs and many other projects.  The way they fund all of this incredible work is through university student volunteers (more than 1,000 volunteers last year).  Most of their volunteers are from American universities who donate their time to help the less fortunate.  This NGO appeals to me for so many reasons.  They are doing wonderful work for people who deserve it, but also inspiring young men and women to serve and give of themselves.  I am happy to say that they will be helping them with their work in Tanzania this year and I will be helping them coordinate their efforts.  Additionally we are going to be working together to start offering “mobile schools” and encourage teaching majors to do similar work as their aspiring doctoral student peers.  More details will come of this as we work on this idea in the coming days.  

As a result I need to see the work, meet their staff and see first-hand how they operate to help Medlife start their work in Tanzania.  I am currently sitting in Lima, Peru on my first afternoon about to embark on this next adventure God has planned for me, but I could not be happier.  Soon, I will be able to continue to work for Stella Maris and teach my children that I love so much when we resume school in May, but I will also be able to help more.  The work and the love of our children has inspired me to try to do more and seek out more opportunities to take a larger and more active role in caring for the less fortunate.  It is an addiction, but it’s one that I hope spreads.  Tomorrow I will be heading out to the slums and schools of Peru to see the projects that Medlife has already accomplished as well as get to know the staff, the work and most importantly the people.    

If you want to learn more check out their website here:
http://www.medlifeweb.org/