Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • To tell the tooth: A first time dental visit

    by Tyler Graf | Mar 30, 2016

    Mobile Dental, Amelia, March 2016
    Third grader Amelia awaits her first visit to the dentist aboard Medical Teams International's Mobile Dental Clinic

    The 9-year-old girl eased into a reclining position on the dental chair and awaited the volunteer hygienist in the other room of the Mobile Dental clinic. As she did so, she acknowledged, "This is my first time to the dentist."

    A recurring and worsening condition brought the girl to the clinic.

    She's was feeling pain in the back of her mouth, and the girl's mother thought she may have a cavity. The girl's family has struggled to find a dentist and to navigate the complicated and expensive world of dental insurance. They don't have the financial resources to buy dental insurance outright.

    Through a smile, third grader Amelia tells the truth: She's a little nervous about seeing the dentist. Despite the nerves, she's also optimistic. Seeing the dentist is important, she said, because it means the health of her teeth will improve. And that means no more pain.

    Amelia is like Thousands of other children in Oregon who rarely if ever see a dentist, often because they lack adequate insurance, other times simply because they can't access a dentist. Around 117,000 children in Oregon lack insurance, according to Oregon Health and Science University. Dental professionals consider the gap in dental services among children to be the nation's hidden health care epidemic.

    Amelia came to Medical Teams International's Mobile Dental clinic because she started feeling sharp pains in a tooth several months ago. The pain eventually disappeared, Amelia said, but that's when the girl's mother discovered the root cause was a cavity.

    The volunteer dentist who treated Amelia said the pain went away because the cavity became so bad that it killed the nerves in the tooth. As the dentist inspected the rest of Amelia's teeth, he discovered other cavities of varying degrees of seriousness.

    Because of your life-altering gifts and the support of Medical Team's volunteer dental professionals, Amelia received two fillings. The volunteer dentist referred her to another dentist who could perform the rest of the work. Because of your donations, Amelia was able to see the dentist for the first time.

    Through it all, Amelia was totally at ease. She chatted about her favorite class -- math, because it was the most useful in real life, she said. And she mentioned that she tries to brush her teeth everyday. And that's a habit she'll continue, she said, now that's she's seen the dentist.

    And the truth for Amelia is that seeing the dentist was completely worth it.

  • So weak, "even the wind could blow him down."

    by Emily Crowe | Mar 24, 2016

    March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. Even today - over a century after the disease's discovery - nearly 1.5 million people die each year from infection. 95% of cases occur in developing countries, and the disease is most dangerous for people with compromised immune systems - putting the vulnerable at greatest risk. We are taking today to honor those fighting this disease. Take a moment to meet one refugee in Uganda whose life you saved:

    "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." -Philippians 4:13

    From the moment Emmanuel began speaking, we were struck by his kind and grateful spirit. Speaking about God - and life - his enthusiasm is contagious. Then, we learned more about his story - and were completely blown away. Meet Emmanuel - and learn how are helping him overcome a season of unimaginable hardship.

    Back home, Emmanuel had built a good life: a home, a family. Then the fighting began. There was so much violence. Before they could flee, his wife and three children were killed. It was heartbreaking-- so much death, all for no conceivable reason. How could his family, his innocent children, be taken so suddenly? Emmanuel knew there was no way he could survive. Fleeing for his life, he left his home - what was left of it - to begin a new life in Uganda.


    Starting over in the refugee settlement in Uganda, Emmanuel began his new life as a refugee. Here, many of his neighbors had stories similar to his: homes and livelihoods lost, families destroyed, invisible scars from war. He built a home and began working for a neighbor to earn extra money and make ends meet. It was difficult to begin again, but - away from the violence and in his new home - at least now he knew things were getting better.

    Then, he started feeling sick. With each passing day, he felt weaker and weaker. Soon, it became impossible to work. Soon, he couldn't even afford his home. He was so worried-- if he didn't get better, what would he do?

    Thanks to you, this time, Emmanuel wasn't alone.

    Peter, his neighbor, was a Peer Educator trained by Medical Teams International. He noticed Emmanuel's deteriorating health and spoke up - he knew something had to be done. Luckily, he also knew where to find help.

    Thanks to you, Emmanuel wasn't alone.

    Quickly, Peter brought in Emmanuel to the Medical Teams International operated health center for testing. Here, our staff discovered what was causing Emmanuel's suffering: he'd been infected with HIV, as well as tuberculosis - a deadly combination that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. As his health declined, he'd also become malnourished. Plagued by illnesses that are all-too-common in the refugee settlement and unable to support himself, his body had literally been wasting away.

    Emmanuel told our staff that he was so weak, it felt like "even the wind could blow him down." [tweet this]Thankfully, you were there to make sure Emmanuel received the life-saving care he needed. He immediately began receiving treatment, and - slowly - he began regaining his strength. After so much heartache and loss, you helped this father - who'd already battled unimaginable heartache - reach a safe place to find relief.

    After so much heartache and loss, you helped this father - who'd already battled unimaginable heartache - have a safe place to find relief.


    Today, Emmanuel is doing much better. He can support himself again and is rebuilding a new life in Uganda. Most importantly, he exudes a thankful energy for the opportunity to be alive. Speaking about God, and his life - the life you brought back from imminent death - Emmanuel exudes a gratefulness that made us feel so blessed and joyful to be alive. Thank you for protecting Emmanuel's precious life - and so many others.


  • 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.

    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. 

  • 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.


    "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."


    "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."


    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.


    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.



    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.


  • Syrian Refugees: The Sun Will Rise

    by User Not Found | 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."



    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.