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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Syrian Refugees: Ready to Move On

    by Sarah Austria | Mar 21, 2016

    The children, ages 4, 6, and 11, scrambled and stumbled on the grueling trek through the mountains of Turkey with their parents, Syrian refugees Omar and Amina. 

    The children complained - it was an almost impossible journey for them, and arduous for the rest of the group. They were a long way from home and far from the end of their travels.

    Once on the Turkish coast, refugees put their fates in the hands of smugglers to carry them by boat to the shores of Greece

    Like so many Syrian refugees fleeing the turmoil of their country, Omar and Amina were forced to spend their entire savings in the hopes of finding safety in Europe. The family left their home outside Damascus to travel to Lebanon. From there they were able to fly to Istanbul, where their journey became increasingly difficult. The exhausting hike through the mountains to the Turkish coast was followed by a boat trip to Greece.

    Omar and Amina’s story is an all too common one. The Syrian conflict has reached the five-year mark.  4.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, and another 6.6 million have been displaced within Syria.  

    Like so many Syrian refugees fleeing the turmoil of their country, Omar and Amina were forced to spend their entire savings in the hopes of finding safety in Europe.

    As of March 1.9 million Syrian refugees have registered in Turkey.  Many of them, like Omar and Amina’s family, have decided to push on to seek more permanent homes in Europe. Since January 1, 2015 over 1 million people have traveled from Turkey to Greece by land and sea. 

    Once on the Turkish coast, refugees put their fates in the hands of smugglers to carry them by boat to the shores of Greece. It’s a dangerous crossing - overloaded inflatables, dinghies or other boats that often aren’t seaworthy. Last year alone 3,771 people drowned or went missing trying to reach safety in Europe. Those that arrive safely in Greece are met with ongoing challenges.

    Greece_Syrian_refugees_Omar_Amina_children
    Fleeing violence, this family was exhausted upon arriving in Greece. Thanks to you, Omar & Amina's children were able to get much-needed rest and medical supplies before continuing on their dangerous journey to find safety.

    Thankfully, Omar and Amina’s family made the crossing to Greece safely. There the children improved a bit and began to play.  The trip had, however, taken a toll on the family. They were tired, hungry, dehydrated - and in need of medical care and supplies. Thanks to your support Omar and Amina and thousands of other refugee families in Greece are receiving the medical care and supplies they need before moving on to find a new home. They are hopeful, though unsure where their journey will end.

    The sacrifices made by Syrian refugees demonstrate the severity of their situation - and the strength of their dreams. 


    Medical Teams International provides critical tools for the immediate health and medical needs of the Syrian refugees in Greece. Your support improves the health and living conditions for thousands living in Greece. Please help: Pray for those affected by the war in Syria; Share Omar and Amina’s story on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or donate to continue Medical Teams International’s work around the world.

  • Healthy Women, Healthy World: Reflections from Cambodia

    by Emily Crowe | Mar 18, 2016

    Healthy Women Healthy World is Medical Teams International's new initiative that seeks to mobilize women to be champions for health issues that impact women and their children. Throughout the year, members are given the opportunity to gather and learn about the global health issues women and children are facing-- engaging locally, at home, and abroad. Several members from the team traveled to Cambodia, meeting local staff and families and getting a first-hand look at the impact of Medical Teams International's work.


    Cambodia_Healthy_Women_Healthy_World_children-

    "I think the most impactful moment of the trip for me was meeting the village volunteers. Seeing their dedication to teaching better health practices to their fellow community members and understanding the difference that something so simple can make in saving lives renewed my commitment to supporting MTI's mission."

    -Kristi

    "This trip was a serious life-changing experience for me. To see how devastating a war that took place when I was in my 20’s has affected three generations of an entire country is for all these years is shocking. While it may not be a noticeable in the larger cities, the countryside is nearly 100 years behind in terms of machinery, technology, health, sanitation and education. And at the same time, the beautiful Cambodian are ever so gracious and grateful, for the little that is actually being done for them. I was humbled by this experience in a very deep and powerful way. Everyone should have more knowledge of this beautiful country and its peoples."

    -Kathy

    I am so impressed with the Medical Teams staff and volunteers working in Cambodia. A majority of them have been affected in one way or another by the turmoil that Cambodia has endured over the last 40 years yet they are not defeated. They are dedicated to improving the health of the Cambodian people. It was a privilege to see these amazing people in action.

    -Annie

    I was moved by seeing the work we do. It's really an honor to work with these dear people in our world who are poor and don't have even the basics of health care. It is obvious to me that in our core as human beings anywhere in the world, we all hope and pray for the same thing; for our children and families to live their lives to the fullest extent, to reach their God-given potential. What we do is helping in this basic desire. I am so blessed.

    -Diana

    Cambodia_Healthy_Women_Healthy_World_community_training

    I am so impressed by the MTI staff and the villagers they impact. To share knowledge and help with their health to make the world a little better.

    -Linda


    GET INVOLVED: Want to learn more about the global health issues that impact women and their children? Want to be part of a group of women that are passionate about making a difference? Learn more here!

  • Syrian Refugees: The Sun Will Rise

    by Katie Carroll | Mar 15, 2016

    Originally posted on the Resilire Blog by Roger and Rebecca Sandberg about Roger's time with Medical Teams International working with Syrian refugees.

    "My dreams and hopes are gone for now, but my family is together. We are safe--that is all that matters."

    The book Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, by Andrew Zolli gives readers a framework for how to support systems and people in the ever-changing landscape of our disrupted age and volatile planet. Zolli defines resilience as “the capacity of a system, enterprise, or person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances."

     

    Sandberg_Syrian_refugees

    The war in Syria has, in fact, dramatically changed the circumstances of millions of people’s lives. This is not unlike so many other geographic locations where change has occurred due to man-made or natural disasters. And yet, the people impacted keep going. In Sudan and South Sudan, for instance, people who have lived through multiple conflicts over many decades still plant gardens and try to establish churches and schools. In Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, families and communities slept in the streets and together carried rubble. Orphaned street-children in Nepal resumed math class under a tree in Kathmandu after their school building was damaged in an earthquake. An Iraqi nun who fled her village and found safety when ISIS attacked immediately began serving the sick and the hungry in the courtyard of a church. I visited several refugee settlements recently in Lebanon. I witnessed yet again the incredible resilience of people, young and old, whom against incredible odds find resilience through community, acceptance, and hope.

    Many Syrian refugees who fled Syria three and four years ago still carry their house-keys in their pockets. This is a constant reminder of hope: hope to return home, hope for their children, and hope for peace.

    In Lebanon the vast majority of the one million Syrian refugees live in makeshift tented shelters made of billboard canvas. These shelters are clustered together on private farmland in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. In these situations, families, from the same towns, and sometimes even the same neighborhoods, band together. While life as a refugee in Lebanon looks and feels very little like Syria, familiarity can be found within community.

    Acceptance and hope --two sides to the same coin-- are the other two attributes I often encounter among those displaced in conflict. Among most, there is an acceptance that an external event such as war, an earthquake, or a typhoon, has created a great loss, and there also is a hope that things may someday return to how they once were. This acceptance is not defeatism, but rather an understanding that life has been turned upside down, and yet must continue. Six years ago, I sat with a man on a street in Haiti. It was ten days after the earthquake had flattened his home and his community. He stared at the pile of rubble and said, “After the earthquake we did not see how life would go on. We did not see how life could go on. But I realized that the sun rose this morning, and it will rise again tomorrow.”

    In Lebanon, I met a young woman called Reem, a 22-year-old Syrian refugee living in a settlement. I sat on the floor of her family’s tented shelter. The outside was made of old billboard material and the inside was sparse but welcoming. We talked for a long time. Their hospitality was beautiful. I asked Reem about her hopes and dreams. She told me about her dream of getting a degree in computer engineering. She had been one semester away from finishing when three years prior the violence became too dangerous for her family and they fled. As she spoke to me, Reem’s face radiated a brave countenance.

    Acceptance and hope --two sides to the same coin-- are the other two attributes I often encounter among those displaced in conflict.

    “My dreams and hopes are gone for now,” she said, “but my family is together. We are safe--that is all that matters.”

    Every day Reem picks and sells potatoes from the muddy field near the tented camp. Many Syrian refugees who fled Syria three and four years ago still carry their house-keys in their pockets. This is a constant reminder of hope: hope to return home, hope for their children, and hope for peace. Amidst dramatically changed circumstances, Reem’s family and many others are resilient and hopeful.

    As Zolli continued to unpack his definition of resilience he made a strong connection between faith and resilience. He writes, “It should come as no surprise that people of faith report greater degrees of resilience.” I have seen this to be true. Scripture gives us a hope for peace. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

    “The sun will rise again tomorrow.”


    Roger Sandberg is director of Emergency Relief and Global Security for Medical Teams International (MTI). For 14 years, he has led emergency relief operations for International NGO’s such as Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, Medair, and Medical Teams International. Roger served as South Sudan Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo Country Director, Haiti Country Director, and most recently has been part of the Syrian and Iraqi crisis. Roger earned his bachelor's degree from Wheaton College and an MBA from Rollins College. Rebecca Sandberg also earned her bachelor's at Wheaton College, and is the founder and adviser at Re:New, a non-profit that seeks to create space for refugee women to thrive.

  • Happy International Women's Day!

    by Emily Crowe | Mar 08, 2016

    It's International Women's Day 2016. We want to celebrate by taking a moment to reflect on some of the incredible women we've had the honor of serving.

    Thanks to the support of people like you, countless women were saved from dangerous birth complications; girls were given tools to protect them from preventable diseases like malaria, helping them grow up healthy and strong; female community leaders were given training to serve as advocates for community health; and so many women's lives were kept safe through the services and supplies you provide. Meet a few of these women:

    dolores_MTI_International_Womens_Day 
    Dolores

    Dolores was twelve years old when she first became pregnant. Her childhood in a small Guatemalan village suddenly came to an end. Not even a teenager-- she was now a mother. Your support empowered Dolores to help community and gave her what she always wanted -- an education. Read her story.

    Rasha_MTI_International_Womens_Day
    Rasha

    Meet Rasha. She is a 22-year old Syrian refugee living in a refugee settlement in Lebanon. But, she's also a mother. And a niece. And someone who, despite everything, is using her time and skills to volunteer with Medical Teams International and help other refugees survive life in the camp. Find out how.

     Rebecca_MTI_International_Womens_Day
    Rebecca

    Rebecca is a South Sudanese refugee. Her husband, a soldier, recently died in the conflict. As civilians in her town were being murdered, Rebecca and her terrified children fled from their home to a refugee camp in Uganda. Read her story.

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    Luy Kim

    Even though she was eight months pregnant, Luy Kim had never set foot into her local health center. Despite having a cyst on her Fallopian tube, the 25-year-old Cambodian woman resisted receiving any prenatal care. She told local health workers that she preferred to give birth at home on the ground. That's how she gave birth to her first child, a daughter. Find out how education gave her the power of a safe pregnancy.

     Marcela_MTI_International_Womens_day
    Marcela

    In a small, indigenous village Guatemala, Marcela gave birth to a healthy boy, Elias. The birth had been normal... but her placenta still had not been expelled. Marcella is a mother counselor herself and had attended MTI trainings. She knew that, after 30 minutes, placenta trapped inside the uterus can lead to dangerous complications: internal bleeding, infection... even death. Find out what happened.

     


    Help even more women and be a part of International Women's Day! Share these stories-- or your own story-- on FacebookInstagram or Twitter, and use #IWD2016.
  • A little boy in the mountains: Jotsuna

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 07, 2016


    Nepal, Jotsana and mom, Feb. 2016

    Thirteen-month-old Jotsuna is held by his mother in rural Nepal.

    Imagine this scenario: Up in the remote Himalayan foothills of Nepal, a 13-month-old baby begins losing weight. His mother worries, but she doesn't know what to do. Food resources are scarce in this part of Nepal.

    The baby's situation is a common one in this rugged country recently ravaged by a deadly natural disaster.

    The baby is named Jotsuna and he lives in the tiny village of Nalang, in the mountainous hinterlands a day's travel outside Nepal's capital of Kathmandu. The area was at the epicenter of the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country last year. Places like Nalang were reduced to rubble. Thousands lost their lives. Those who survived have worked to rebuild not only their homes but also their sources of food and clean water.

    Mothers and children have a difficult time staying healthy amid such arduous conditions.

    That was precisely Jotsuna's situation. His mother had trouble feeding the baby boy, so he simply wasn't growing. With a weakened immune system, Jotsuna would be at risk of contracting serious illnesses. Malnutrition at such an early age can lead to permanent stunting and cognitive delays. 

    But your generous donations know no boundaries and can reach even the most remote locations. Because of your support, health workers quickly identified Jotsuna's malnutrition. They determined that little Jotsuna wasn't getting enough nutrients from nursing, so they taught his mother the best, most efficient ways of feeding her son.

    They also provided Jotsuna with a nutrient-rich food supplement made out of whole grains and legumes. Soon, Jotsuna was gaining weight and health.

    Weekly follow-ups have shown that Jotsuna's condition has improved significantly. The foundation is being laid for him to grow up big and strong.


    Your support is reaching the farthest reaches of the world to touch the lives of vulnerable people who lack sustenance and health care. You can continue your support in various ways. Consider praying for mothers and babies in Nepal. Or make a donation, which will be used to help babies like Jotsuna.