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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Get the latest updates from our programs in the field internationally and here in the United States.  

  • Mobile Dental Success Story: Kristine's teeth

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 20, 2015

    Kristine’s teeth are brittle. They’re breaking off.

    Above a puffy-pink lower gum line, shards of what are left of Kristine’s teeth jut upward at off angles, glaringly interspersed by large gaps. She is missing many of her teeth, but not by the hands of a dentist.

    “I hate meth,” she said. “I hate what it did to me.”

    Mobile dental, Kristine shows teeth 3, Jan. 2015

    Kristine’s struggle with drugs has taken a toll, and her lonely gum line is the physiological representation of that. It’s also reminder of what else she’s lost. As she holds back tears, she laments, “I want my teeth back. I want my life back … I feel so ugly without my teeth.”

    In January, she visited a Medical Teams International mobile dental clinic at the Clackamas Service Center, a first step in putting her teeth, and life, back together. The program provides care to children and adults who cannot afford or don’t have access to dental health care.

    Mobile dental, Kristine and dentist 3, Jan. 2015
    Kristine meets her dentist who will be performing the extractions. She is giddy with excitement.

    At the clinic, dentists-in-training from Oregon Health & Science University performed extractions to clean up the damage. The work is necessary so Kristine can have a healthy mouth and eventually bridge the gaps left by tooth decay.

    Your donations to those in need have given Kristine hope. She is now able to receive much-needed oral health care. For years, Kristine has suffered from low self-esteem, which has only strengthened her reliance on drugs. She calls it her “nightmare.”

    Kristine suffers from mouth pain and can’t eat many types of food. She can’t smile without feeling inadequate.

    She recalled meeting a woman at the supermarket and sharing a joke with her. In the moment Kristine laughed, flashing a broad smile, before feeling overcome by embarrassment. Kristine felt the other woman was judging her for her teeth.

    Even though she has worked hard to kick her addiction, she is too ashamed to look for employment.

    Kristine said your help is a sign that God is working in her life and that she has purpose. And, hopefully soon, that purpose will be evident on Kristine’s smile after her teeth are fixed. She said Medical Teams and the mobile dental program do great work healing wounds — both psychological and physical.

    She even smiled. “I like to smile,” she said.

  • Guatemalan success story: Malnourished twins brought back from the brink

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 15, 2015

    In the small southern Guatemalan municipality of Chicaman, something was wrong with 19-year-old Santa Lucil Alvarado’s twin daughters.

    The twins, named Joselin and Mayra Rafael, were weak, sickly and not gaining weight.

    It’s a common problem for children in the tightly knit community, an affliction that touches many of the 350 families there — malnutrition. In rural areas of the jungle-lush country, severe poverty leads to a lack of food and an abundance of food insecurity. Hunger is a part of daily life.

    Santa Lucil’s husband works in Guatemala City as a security guard. Each month, he sends money back to his family. But his wages are insufficient to support the family. The girls don't receive enough milk or food. So, like many children in the region, they are constantly hungry.

    In Guatemala, the faces of hunger and poverty belong to rural and indigenous youngsters, like Joselin and Mayra Rafael. Santa Lucil tries her best, but like so many other young mothers in Chicaman, she was never properly educated on how to feed and nourish her children. 

    Due to her own lack of nutrition, her body is unable to produce sufficient breast milk for her girls. She instead feeds them a drink derived from cornflour.

    Guatemala twins
    Santa Lucil Alvarado sits with her twins, Joselin and Mayra Rafael, who were saved from the pain of malnutrition. 

    Since 2013, Medical Teams International and its partners have been working in the area to provide high-impact nutrition to families. In the case of little Joselin and Mayra Rafael, Medical Teams determined undeniably that the girls were suffering from malnutrition. Through the support of your donations, the twins’ mother, Santa Lucil, received the financial resources necessary to buy milk and a type of hearty hot cereal known as Incaparina, commonly used as a nutritional supplement.

    Soon, the girls were gaining weight; their lives had been enriched.

    Joselin and Mayra Rafael’s story is one example of what can be accomplished through coordinated teamwork. Thanks to you, MTI is able to provide dietary supplements, micronutrients and in some cases food to Guatemala’s most vulnerable citizens.

    Your donations are going a long way to improving their lives. In recent months, Joselin and Mayra Rafael have shown signs of recovery, gaining weight and growing in height.

  • Success story: Pope to arrive in typhoon-ravaged Philippines

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 13, 2015

    (This post has been updated)

    A year after devastation befell the Philippines in the form of a catastrophic category-5 typhoon, the archipelago nation had planned for a blessed moment.

    This month, Pope Francis made the first pastoral church trip to the Philippines since Pope John Paul visited the country in 1995. One of his destinations was Tacloban, the Southeastern Philippine city flattened by Super Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. There, he meet with typhoon survivors and performed mass near the airport.

    MTI - Philippines 2013 Sean Sheridan Photographs-51
    ​The city of Tacloban following the landfall of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

    Medical Teams volunteer Jay Sudario lives in Tacloban and said the city was abuzz with excitement and activity as Pope Francis arrived at the Tacloban airport, even as a new storm was brewing near the Philippines. “It was raining moderately,” Jay wrote in a message to MTI, “but the people here were so happy and feeling blessed.”

    The resilient residents of Tacloban had been planning for the papal visit for months. Not even a typhoon in early December — known as Typhoon Hagupit — could put a damper on their collective excitement. Not even the intense weather the pope encountered on the day of his visit could do that. “Lots of people here are prepared and so excited,” Jay said.

    It was a sign, not just that the hard-struck region wants to turn the page, but that it’s building the capacity to do so. Tacloban, in the Leyte province, is bouncing back – rebuilding and regaining confidence.

    Your generous donations helped make that possible in the Philippines.

    Emergency responders in Tacloban, like volunteer firefighter Mave Lim, say they’ve been putting into practice what Medical Teams International has taught them. He and many of the area's other first responders underwent preparedness training last year following Typhoon Haiyan, coordinated by MTI and conducted by paramedics from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

    "Before (Haiyan), we had prepared, and we thought we prepared well," Lim said. "But, unfortunately, we were overwhelmed."

    Tacloban Delta fire, Dec. 2014
    Firefighter Mave Lim, center, says emergency preparedness training conducted by MTI volunteers has made Philippine first responders more confident in their abilities.

    More than 7,300 lives were lost as a result of the typhoon, particularly after a storm surge unexpectedly flooded low-lying areas. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Thousands still are.

    But when Typhoon Hagupit was bearing down on the area in December, "we were much more prepared," Lim said.

    Like Lim, the area's other first responders said MTI's training, made possible through your gifts, empowered them to feel more confident in their abilities to act. Those skills were put to use to plan for the pope’s visit, Lim said. An unprecedented number of people converged on Tacloban for the historic event, despite the stormy weather.

    The pope’s visit comes at a time when the devastation wrought by Haiyan is still so visible throughout the city.

    Lim said his firehouse, known as Delta Volunteer, is using what it learned from MTI to reach out to other areas affected by disaster and to become more self-sufficient. The volunteer firefighters there even delivered relief packages of food to displaced families during the holiday season. For Lim, a gesture of that sort had to be made.

    Following the pope’s arrival — a celebratory day for millions of Filipinos — the message in the Philippines remains one of resiliency and resolve in an area that not so long ago was at the forefront of disaster.

  • Field photos: Patient triage success in Liberia

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 09, 2015
    Health workers in Liberia are reestablishing their credibility with patients during the Ebola epidemic, reopening previously closed facilities with the help of Medical Teams International.

    Since October, MTI has worked with clinics in Liberia to establish triage areas, where incoming patients are first evaluated for symptoms of Ebola. If there are questions about a patient's health status during triage -- perhaps the patient has an extremely high fever, or some other symptom -- the patient is sent to an isolation area where the patient is further tested. But if patients don't show any symptoms, they can enter the clinic's outpatient area confident that they won't be exposed to the disease. 

    Health workers, too, are now more confident in providing medical care to all patients without worrying about their own well-being.

    Many health clinics closed following the outbreak of Ebola. Health workers were afraid of being exposed to the disease, and some facilities stopped accepting patients who were thought might have it. This fostered resentment among community members, many of whom blamed clinic workers for the deaths of their loved ones.

    But with your generous donations, the clinics are open, and Liberia's most vulnerable can receive much-needed health care. Field staff with MTI continue to train health care providers on triage protocols, both to prevent the spread of Ebola and to keep health facilities operational.

    Check out these photos we received from MTI field staff in Liberia. They show the work MTI and its partners continue to provide to stem the tide of Ebola, while at the same time keeping patients healthy from other maladies.

  • Haiti Earthquake: Five Years Later

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 09, 2015

    On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti rumbled.

    As the Earth shook, the result of a magnitude-7 earthquake, roofs collapsed and cars careened off the road. More than 300,000 people died as a result of the massive quake, while others were grievously injured. Much of the country’s already insufficient infrastructure crumbled to the ground.

    Léogâne, a coastal town, was wiped out completely. In nearby Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, government buildings and churches caved inward, leaving few safe havens for citizens to turn. Following the quake, people were sleeping in the streets. Health centers were damaged, making it nearly impossible to provide medicine.

    Dead bodies were left in the streets, or under rubble.

    The needs were extreme. Families, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, were profoundly affected. But when help was needed the most, you answered the call. For the past five years, your generous donations have made Medical Team International’s work in Haiti possible.

    Five years after the earthquake, the country is moving beyond the crisis and has not only begun rebuilding the areas most affected by the disaster, but re-engaging other areas of the country that have typically been under developed, like Crochu. We see signs of hope as the country moves beyond disaster and continues to develop health services and infrastructure.

    Even out of the worst disasters there emerge success stories — stories like Chalumène Vernis’.

    On February 21, 2014, she delivered a beautiful baby girl in the locality of Crochu, where MTI has created a Safe Motherhood Project. Weeks before Chalumène gave birth, MTI worked with community members to develop an emergency evacuation plan for women who have complications during pregnancy.

    So when Chalumène began having difficulties with her birth — hours passed with no sign of the baby — community members executed a plan developed by MTI.

    By foot, they carried Chalumène for three hours on a handmade stretcher until they reached an area where ambulances were accessible. Chalumène was transported to a hospital, where she successfully gave birth to a healthy baby.

    Five years after the earthquake, Haiti remains a country gripped by crisis. But there are signs of improvement. There are mobile clinics in several locales that distribute medicine and other essential supplies that have gone to help mothers and babies.

    MTI staffer Joanne St. Louis, who is from Haiti, reflected on the last year, saying there's work ahead to help the people of her country.

    "There is still a lot to do. After the response to the emergency MTI transitioned to development work and went to Work in Crochu at the invitation of the ministry of health," she said. "This is a remote village with very limited resources, poor access to health care. MTI is working closely with the population and the ministry of health."

    This year, MTI will work to double its community health efforts by expanding services to a new region of Haiti. Simultaneously, MTI is working alongside the Bereca Hospital in northern Haiti to improve capacity, especially in maternity care.

    As we reflect on the five-year anniversary, take a moment to pray and remember the Haiti and the millions whose lives were changed when the Earth began rumbling beneath their feet.

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