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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • 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.

  • 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 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.


    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 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.

    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.


    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.


  • 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.

  • Before, after the Syrian war: Moussa

    by Emily Crowe | Mar 04, 2016

    Before the fighting began, Moussa and his family were doing well. He was an established businessman who had worked hard to build a comfortable, safe home for his children. But after the war broke out, most of it was taken away to support the violence that was killing so many of his countrymen. Overnight, everything he'd worked so hard to secure was taken away.

    The civil war in Syria threatened to take not only his home, but his family. They had no choice—they could no longer survive in Syria. But the journey would be long and hard for Moussa. Used to the comfortable life of a businessman with a home, cars, and access to healthcare, his body was certainly not prepared to suddenly become a homeless refugee. 

    With his three daughters, Moussa joined a group of families and began their hike across Turkey, through the mountains, towards a new, safe beginning. For dozens of miles Moussa trudged, his back tightening in pain the entire time. Eventually, the pain traveled down to Moussa’s leg. It went numb. Still, he limped.

    Finally arriving at the Turkish coast, the first part of their journey was finally complete. Moussa’s back and leg ached. His 52-year-old body was not prepared to endure this kind of trek. But at least his daughters were closer to safety.

    But, now, they faced a new kind of danger: to reach Greece, they had to cross the sea in a tiny rubber boat bound for Chios. It was terrifying– too many children, infants and families had been lost to these waters. Each seat on the rubber boat cost $1,000—an exorbitant fee for a journey that could end his precious daughters’ lives.

    But they had no choice. They had to take the boat or give up and return to a home that no longer existed.

    Luckily, Moussa had managed to save a little money to help them start over and endure the journey. He could pay. But the fee depleted what little money he brought for the journey. He and most of his family were able to make it across the sea to Chios.

    But his family’s journey is not over. His daughters have gone their separate ways, searching for a safe, new place to begin their lives. Moussa remains in the settlement in Greece, suffering from awful back pain. Thankfully, your support ensures he has access to supplies he needs to stay healthy and avoid preventable diseases—a very real risk in the overcrowded, under-equipped camps.

    One day, Moussa hopes he will be reunited with his children. Separated by the violence and hardships in their native country, we pray that Moussa’s family will stay healthy and safe on their journey, and that—one day—they will be reunited again.