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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • Greece update: At end of long journey, dental needs dire

    by Tyler Graf | Jun 20, 2016

    The following story comes from Frank Tyler, Medical Teams International's health adviser, who was in Greece this month with a team of volunteer dentists providing care and assessing the needs of the refugee population.

    June 20th is World Refugee Day, when we recognize the stark rate of displacement around the world. There are currently 65.3 million people who've been forcibly displaced, the most in modern history. A common thread runs through many of their stories -- one of uncertainty. And when medical emergencies occur, they only add to the uncertainty.


    At a near-capacity refugee settlement near the historic Greek city of Thessaloniki, a 7-year-old boy's teeth hurt. 

    His name is Mohamood, and he's already suffered at the hands of forces outside his control. His family are members of the Yazidi ethnic minority of Iraq. They fled conflict and persecution in 2014 along with fellow Yazidis when dangerous insurgents encroached on their homeland. With limited food and water, they made their way to Mt. Sinjar, considered a sacred place among the Yazidis.

    Even with so little at their disposal, the family held out hope -- hope that they would survive.

    Greece, Dental Syrian refugee boy Mohammed, June 2016

    Mohamood, 7, lies in a dental chair prior to receiving care from Dr. Bill Melby (Center) and Kathi Karnosh. Also pictured is Mohamood's father, Dahal (left).

    They were on the mountain for 10 days before the situation improved and they could slip down the mountainside to the Iraq-Turkey border. Unable to return home out of fear that they'd be killed, the family of nine -- Mohamood, his 43-year-old father Dahal, his mother and seven siblings -- decided to mount an escape to Europe under less than favorable conditions.  

    With that simple act, Mohamood -- whose short life has been consumed by conflict and stress -- saw that there are people in the world who care about him.
    Like more than one hundred thousand other migrants, the family found smugglers in Turkey and boarded a small dinghy bound for Greece. They ended up in Thessaloniki, one of two pre-registration hubs that provide child-friendly spaces. But at the settlement, they live without the ability to work or seek access to other countries.

    They are stuck.

    Life as a refugee is hard, and eventually it takes its toll on the body.

    The settlement food, often laden with sugar and other ingredients that degrade teeth, is not suitable for oral hygiene. Many refugees stop maintaining their teeth altogether. And because of that, their teeth begin to deteriorate. 

    When that began happening to Mohamood, he started feeling pain. The pain grew unbearable.
    But because of your generous support, volunteer dentists are in Greece providing care to some of the world's most vulnerable people -- people who have lost everything and often feel helpless. When the dentists treated Mohamood, they found three deep cavities. They filled the cavities, and with that, Mohamood's pain disappeared.

    With that simple act, Mohamood -- whose short life has been consumed by conflict and stress -- saw that there are people in the world who care about him.

    Children like Mohamood are suffering and feel a desperate need to escape. Through the groundwork laid by Medical Teams' incredible supporters, this dental team has been able to demonstrate a deep and lasting love for those in need.


  • Food Carts in Cambodia: Nutrition on the Go

    by Sarah Austria | Jun 16, 2016

    Every day, Chort sees happy, smiling faces from her food cart. But these aren’t just any food cart customers - these are the faces of hungry children looking for a nourishing meal to start their day. These are children whose parents struggle to provide a nutrient-rich breakfast- children who might otherwise go hungry.

    Chort is a 59-year-old housewife and mother living in Oddar Meanchey, a rural province in northwestern Cambodia. She is one of the first operators of Medical Teams International’s food cart program - an initiative launched in 2015 to battle childhood malnutrition in rural Cambodia.


    Many parents in the rural provinces of Cambodia must work hard to care for their families. Often, husbands and fathers have to travel-within Cambodia or abroad-to find work. In addition to caring for the family, some mothers must also work full days in order to survive. Busy mothers want to feed their children nutritious meals - but time and resources are scarce.

    Thanks to you, there is now a fast, healthy option for these families. The need is great- many of Cambodia’s rural communities suffer high rates of malnutrition. Roughly 32 percent of children in Cambodia have stunted growth; more than half are anemic. Nutritional deficiencies put children at an increased risk of serious illness and disease. Medical Teams International’s Food Cart Program operates in more than a dozen communities within Cambodia.

    Busy mothers want to feed their children nutritious meals - but time and resources are scarce.

    The last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, Oddar Meanchey lags behind other provinces in development. Without other options, hard-working mothers often turn to convenience foods to feed their children. Unfortunately, convenient often means unhealthy - many children in Chort’s village weren’t getting enough vitamin and nutrient-rich foods essential for healthy growth.

    Chort heard about the food cart project through a community awareness campaign in her village- she seemed like a good fit. Once identified as a potential food vendor, she and her husband attended a five-day training session conducted by Medical Teams International.

    She learned how to cook nutritious snacks and meals; most importantly, Borbor, a rice porridge of fish or pork with herbs and other fresh ingredients - a perfect food for young children. Building her skills as an entrepreneur, she also received training on hygiene and business management of the food cart. Afterwards, Chort signed an agreement with Medical Teams International and received her fully-stocked food cart. She was open for business.

    Now, in addition to selling her delicious and nourishing Borbor, Chort provides mothers with information on childhood nutrition. A taped, pro-nutrition message sounds from the speakers on her food cart. After months of selling Borbor and other homemade snacks, her daily sales have increased and she’s excited to see it keep growing.

    “I will continue selling nutritious, healthy food with my food cart, and advise mothers and caretakers of children on the benefits (of) ...good hygiene,” she said.

    This is more than just a business venture for the busy wife and mother. It’s a way of helping the children in her community have access to fresh, healthy food - her food cart is keeping her community strong.

    Thanks to you, Chort knows how to provide nutritious porridge and homemade snacks to hungry children in rural Cambodia. Along with satisfying growing bodies, your support grows healthy communities.

  • 15th Annual Field of Dreams Event Raises $1.6M

    by Hannah Beighle | Jun 09, 2016

    On June 4th, 2016, nearly 800 guests and 150 volunteers gathered at Safeco Field for the Field of Dreams dinner and auction to celebrate and support Medical Teams International's mission to impact and bring healing to vulnerable families and communities across the globe. The evening brought an outpouring of support from Medical Teams supporters and donors, raising $1.6 million for life-saving relief efforts that will bring healthcare to millions of afflicted people around the world. See highlights of the night captured on camera.


    The event gave guests an in-depth look at the mission of  Medical Teams International while inspiring them to make a difference. The dynamic evening featured auctioneer John Curley, a football toss by Jim Zorn, and a number of prominent Seattle Seahawks and Sounders players hand-delivering desserts to guests. One special guest was Ron Post, who founded Medical Teams International in 1979 after bringing medical supplies and volunteers to the Thai border to support Cambodian refugees.

    We loved returning to one of our FAVORITE fundraisers... The personal face they brought to us last night was very powerful. We were the lucky ones."

    The event not only touched the lives of those across the globe supported by the funds raised, but also made a lasting impact on the generous guests who attended the event.


    A note written by two guests read, "We loved returning to one of our FAVORITE fundraisers. MTI is a world-class group of servants going to the deepest needs of our broken world. The personal face they brought to us last night was very powerful. We were the lucky ones."

    On behalf of all we serve: We are so thankful for everyone who made this event a success: not only to our donors and volunteers, but also our co-chairs Lindsey and Steven Hauschka, Howard Wright and Kate Janeway, honorary chairs Steve and Sharon Raible, and our sponsors, including special sponsors Alaska Airlines and Regence Blue Shield.

  • Welcome to our new President & CEO!

    by Emily Crowe | Jun 06, 2016

    We are excited to announce that Martha Newsome has been appointed the new President and CEO of Medical Teams International! Martha will join the team on September 1st, 2016 as Medical Teams' fourth president.

    A BIT ABOUT MARTHA NEWSOME... Martha's passion has taken her from the front line realities in the field of local community health - where her heart and passion remain - to senior leadership roles where she brings an incredible ability to strategize and execute life-changing initiatives.

    Martha has spent the last 30 years addressing international health needs including her current position leading World Vision International’s Global Sustainable Health team which includes their global programs in food, health and nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene and represents global teams of over 3000 employees. We are confident she will lead our organization to have an even greater impact on the lives of people around the world in great need.

    “The mission of Medical Teams International resonates with my own lifelong sense of personal calling to bring healing and wholeness to a hurting world. I am eager to join the staff, board, and you in this important mission and to lead Medical Teams forward in the vision, direction, and expanded role that God has planned for this incredible organization!” 

    -Martha Newsome

    FROM MARK DODSON, BOARD CHAIR OF MEDICAL TEAMS INTERNATIONAL “We are thrilled to have Martha as our next CEO. Martha has a wonderful, joyful spirit rooted in her sincere faith. She has dedicated her life to serving the health needs of others, and has become an authoritative global leader in sustainable health solutions. We are blessed to have her join us.”

    Learn more about Martha >>
  • Saving Loeui's son

    by User Not Found | Jun 03, 2016

    Loeui was afraid. Her four-month-old son, Kolsokchen, was sick. She had seen so many other children in the village become sick-- what if he died, too?

    "I was afraid the child would die and pass away."

    Life in their Cambodian village was hard. Many husbands traveled across the border to find work in Thailand. Without adequate resources, mothers struggled to prepare enough food and keep their children healthy. Many of the children were malnourished-- making them easy targets for illness.

    Loeui_Cambodia_healthy_women_medical_teams_internationalLoeui’s son was one of these children. Sick with a fever and a terrible cough, she knew she had to do something. “I was afraid the child would die and pass away,” she said.

    Worried, Loeui decided to take him to the local health clinic. It was so expensive-- but she was afraid he wouldn’t survive without it. She was anxious for her son all the while he was in the clinic.

    Thankfully, Kolsokchen survived. But Loeui was still afraid-- What if another bad illness came along to threaten her cherished son’s life again? Loeui didn’t know how to stop him from getting sick again-- and what if he didn’t recover next time, or what if she couldn’t afford it?

    Finally, Loeui has the tools she needs to keep her son healthy.

    Then, Loeui got something priceless. Medical Teams International volunteers were starting education sessions for moms just like her-- sessions that would teach her about how to protect Kolsokchen from further illness. These dedicated volunteers went through the village, urging local mothers to attend a Medical Teams International-run mothers support group that would teach them important practices and tools to keep their children healthy, monitor their children’s growth, and cook nutritious community meals. Loeui and Kolsokchen have attended several sessions-- and she is already seeing progress in her now 1-year-old son! Finally, Loeui has the tools she needs to keep her son healthy.

    These mother and infant health educational sessions are only possible thanks to the donation, time, and prayers of all those who support our mission-- you are truly demonstrating the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty around the world. Thank you!