Medical Missions: Clinics

Access to health care in industrialized nations is always readily available, so we usually think little about it. However, for many people around the world, basic medical services are often unattainable. So BandS participates in clinics that provide medical, dental, and optical services for those who would normally go untreated. To this end, we recruit volunteers who generously give a week or two of their time. We work long days, in all kinds of conditions, but the camaraderie of the team and the gratitude of the people make it all worthwhile.

 

Donations also play an important role in conducting clinics. Medical supplies are always needed, and we sometimes rent facilities or hire local translators. But often, we partner with other non-profit groups who are already established in-country. Travel, food, and lodging are covered by the volunteers themselves, but these are usually very reasonable compared to what normal arrangements would cost. The living and working conditions on each trip can vary greatly, so we match volunteers with trips that fit their experience.

 

Some clinics operate out of hospitals with modern facilities and good accommodations. However, most of our trips involve participation in clinics that go out into the countryside. These mobile clinics may set up in small towns that have public buildings with concrete floors and electricity. They may also go to very remote villages where the shelters have dirt floors and electricity comes from a portable generator. Some clinics operate from a central base, traveling each morning to a different destination, and returning the same night. While others roam about, spending a day or two in each village, with volunteers staying in the local area. It is also possible to spend an entire trip at one clinic because the demand in that area is so great.

 

Living conditions on each trip can also differ greatly. On some, the accommodations are quite good, with running water, electricity and good building integrity. (We use the term building integrity to refer to the structure's ability to prevent insects and small reptiles from entering.) In remote areas, the accommodations can be significantly more primitive. But for many people, the satisfaction of helping those in the most dire situations will more than make up for the hardships. At BandS, we like to start our new volunteers out on easier trips, and with experience, let them take on more demanding conditions.

 

Because all clinics are in under-served areas, the one thing they have in common is the wide variety of afflictions encountered. This is excellent experience for those just beginning in health care professions. And for seasoned professionals, it is an interesting change from their everyday situations. Medical team will see typical ailments, such as diabetes, hypertension and viral infections. But because most clinics are in rural, tropical environments, you'll also encounter malnutrition, parasites, malaria, gangrenous infections, and a host of other maladies.

 

Dentists are always in great demand, but without advanced facilities, they spend most of their time doing extractions, treating infections and dealing with the occasional tumor. Eye care professionals conduct basic exams; and there is usually a high demand for prescription and reading glasses. And for pharmacists, the job may not be dramatically different, but the change in clientele makes it interesting. There is also a need for non-medical volunteers to help with various logistics, such as setting up, processing patients, and caring for kids whose parents are being treated. No matter what the task, the one thing all volunteers experience is the deep gratitude expressed by those who may not completely understand why a total stranger would make such a sacrifice to help them.

Disaster Relief

Many different organizations provide disaster relief, and at BandS, we also feel the need to contribute. Disasters are continually happening all around the world, and we never even hear about many of the smaller ones. But when you're a medical missionary working in an area where one has recently occurred, providing medical care gives way to providing basic necessities so survivors can reestablish their lives. When a massive disaster hits, like the tsunami of 2004, the need is so tremendous that everyone should pitch in.

Development Projects

Because so many people around the world live in an impoverished condition, BandS participates in special development projects whenever possible. Sometimes, because of our experience in a country, we're asked by another non-profit group to help in a joint venture. This may include responsibilities of project management, as well as the contribution of funds. There are other instances when we are visiting a country and a need presents itself and we just can't turn away from it. When that happens, we contribute as best we can.

 

Because of our medical experience, we tend to take on projects that will enhance the health care services of a country. Children are also another favorite cause, so we develop orphanages to help those who have no one else. In the past, we have worked with the Caris Foundation to establish an orphanage in China, and we have provided dormitories for students who were orphaned by a massive mudslide in the Philippines.

Medical Missions:
Surgery

BandS Ministries provides free surgical procedures to many under-served people around the world. Our dedication to this effort can best be explained by relating two different incidents. The first involves a young boy in Central America who was born with a cleft palate so severe that he couldn't speak plainly enough to be understood. Unable to afford treatment, he was fortunate to receive surgery at a medical missionary hospital. As soon as the anesthetic wore off, his mother heard him speak normally for the first time. She was overcome with gratitude and joy.

 

The second scenario involves an older lady living on a remote island in Indonesia. She had developed cataracts on each eye. Without the benefit of surgery, she would have to live out the rest of her life blind and completely dependent on her family. But she too was fortunate. After being taken on a difficult journey over dangerous roads, she arrived at a hospital where she received free cataract surgery from doctors flown in from another island. For about the cost of an Apple IPod, she had been given the gift of sight.

 

When BandS participates in clinics that are based in hospitals, we like to take surgeons along. Some of their patients are discovered at mobile clinics and require treatment that cannot be addressed in the field. Others are prearranged before the trip. Cases can include anything from an appendectomy to an amputation. There are also trips where we don't have direct access to hospitals. So when we come across severe problems that require surgery, we try to hire local surgeons to treat the patient at the closest available facility.

 

Surgery is an area where we rely most heavily on the generosity of our donors because of the costs involved. Not only do their contributions pay for local doctors in emergency situations, but they also allow us to conduct selective surgical programs. These involve surgeries for crippling conditions that can easily be repaired by modern methods. Some of the operations may correct birth defects, such as cleft lips and palates, spina-bifida, or congenital heart disease. Some may also repair conditions brought on by aging, such as cataracts and hernias. Using local doctors in these programs has proved to be very cost effective, but be assured that we maintain strict oversight over all programs. And the cost of each operation is insignificant compared to the life-changing result it has on those involved.