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Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

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  • World Humanitarian Day 2017

    by Emily Crowe | Aug 19, 2017

    Every day, countless humanitarians—staff, volunteers, leaders—work to build a better future for people all around the world. Today, August 19th, is World Humanitarian day: a day to honor those who use their lives to serve those in need, and to rally together for those who need it most.

    One place where humanitarians risk the most, and have the greatest impact is on the frontlines in war-torn Syria.

    Children at one of the Syrian refugee settlements we serve in Lebanon.

    You’ve seen the heartbreaking images, and likely heard reports of clinics being targeted. Over 13 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, and fewer than 40% of clinics are still functional. Doctors and nurses are risking their lives to help Syrians trapped in the violence. But, even when medical professionals are able to access patients, many don’t have the supplies or equipment to treat those in need.

    We are working hard to get supplies to the frontlines. Alongside our partner, International Blue Crescent, we deliver regular shipments of medical supplies into Syria. The clinics serve 23,000 Syrians trapped in one of the worst-hit areas, treating cases like burns, war trauma, infections, and helping safely deliver babies. Regular shipments of customized products help make sure clinics always have the supplies they need and can react quickly during an emergency.

    A shipment of medical supplies is unpacked and prepared for delivery to clinics in some of the worst-hit regions in Syria.

    Because of these shipments, humanitarian doctors are able to save lives in Syria. And it’s because of the hard work of our local humanitarian volunteers that these shipments are possible: Each week, 250 volunteers serve in our Oregon and Washington Distribution Centers to pack medical supplies for shipment around the world.

    So today, on World Humanitarian Day, let’s remember and pray for humanitarians who commit their time, energy, and resources to help others in need.

  • What can the total solar eclipse teach us about refugees?

    by Joe DiCarlo | Aug 18, 2017

    Here in Oregon, as we prepare for the total solar eclipse on Monday, a friend told me she is planning to go to the Oregon coast from Portland to get the best view possible. I wrote her saying I’ve faced the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein supporters in Iraq, and Al Shabaab in Somalia, but she was much braver than me to be fighting the crowds on the Oregon coast on eclipse day.

    In Lebanon, its citizens have also endured an influx of one million people. We call them Syrian refugees.

    On a more serious note, I couldn’t help but make this comparison…

    In Oregon, we consider the anticipated influx of one million people, a 25% increase to the state’s population, to be a mixed blessing. We call them tourists and visitors.

    In Lebanon, its citizens have also endured an influx of one million people. We call them Syrian refugees.

    Syrian children play at one of the refugee settlements we serve in Lebanon. The average time a person remains a refugee is 17 years.

    In Oregon, although we expect some inconveniences, we talk about the boom to business and the local economy. Travel Oregon advises hotels, car rental companies, camping areas, bars and restaurants, and other businesses to expect huge crowds ready to spend their money to see the total eclipse – a once in a lifetime event. We are preparing for increased traffic and an increased need for public services. Portable toilets, water, and first aid stations are in place. The state’s welcome centers are staffed and our emergency systems are ready. Oregon state officials are saying, “We are ready.” The welcome mat has been laid out.

    In Lebanon, the country is overwhelmed. The Syrian refugees are not coming to view a once in a lifetime event like an eclipse. They are fleeing Syria to save their lives from the ravages of a prolonged war, and they are in need of all basic, human services - housing, food, medical care, sanitation, medicines, and education. The welcome is muted at best.

    Both staff and volunteers help provide medical care and frequent check-ups for refugees. Hundreds of refugees volunteer as Medical Teams International-trained health volunteers.

    Medical Teams International breaks down barriers to health for the Syrian refugees by working in informal refugee settlements in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, providing health promotion programs and ensuring the Syrian refugees have access to medical care and life-saving medicines.

    Sadly, the average stay of a refugee worldwide is 17 years. In Lebanon, there is no end in sight.

    For Oregon, the good news is the one million visitors will leave to go back home.

    Pray for refugees worldwide and for Lebanon in particular, and consider giving to Medical Teams International so we can continue showing radical love to Syrian refugees.

  • Power of Prayer: A Mobile Dental Story

    by Tyler Graf | Aug 09, 2017

    A year ago, Josh felt he had two options in life: end up dead or in jail.

    A heroin addict for 12 years, Josh was going nowhere fast. Having severed ties with his family, his life was reduced to selling and using drugs and fighting. Once he ended up in jail, he knew he’d reached a turning point.

    But what kind of turning point? Was death lurking far behind? Or was something brighter on the horizon?

    Josh [right] and Jesse read from the Bible together outside a Mobile Dental Clinic in downtown Portland. "I've come a long way," Josh shared. He's so grateful for resources like the Mobile Dental that support his transition to a better life.

    His own family had lost faith in him. He couldn’t shake the memory of his father saying he’d accepted Josh would die on the streets. So in jail, Josh turned to prayer. It was the power of prayer that took away the craving for drugs and made him feel whole. He felt free.

    Sadly, it didn’t last. Upon his release from jail, it didn’t take long for Josh to find trouble with the law again. He began running with his old crew, and when police stopped him one day they found drugs in his possession.

    Being exposed to positive influences has given Josh a new outlook on life. He now knows that there are resources—and caring people who share Christ’s love—that will support him.

    Thankfully, the probation officer didn’t immediately send Josh back to jail. Instead, he was given the option to enter a faith-based diversion program called Teen Challenge.

    Josh calls the diversion program the best thing that ever happened to him. He says he sees things clearly now. Through Teen Challenge, Josh is surrounded by peers who keep each other accountable. Through them, he finds strength.

    "God has changed my life.... He's come into my life and given me purpose." Josh [left] and Jesse wait inside the Mobile Dental van. They help keep each other accountable.

    “I have come a long way,” he says. “Six months ago, I was selling heroin and meth. I wasn’t doing anything good.”

    Josh came to the Mobile Dental Program’s Night Strike clinic under the Burnside Bridge because of a broken molar. It caused him pain every time he ate.

    With nowhere else to turn, he came to the clinic with his buddy Jesse, who’s also in the diversion program. Before being treated, they spent time reading from Jesse’s Bible.

    Josh says he appreciates the Mobile Dental team and the people who make the clinic possible, calling it an incredible resource. Being exposed to positive influences has given Josh a new outlook on life. He now knows that there are resources—and caring people who share Christ’s love—that will support him.

    “God has changed my life,” Josh says. “He’s come into my life and given me purpose.”

  • American Veteran: "This is my dental plan."

    by Tyler Graf | Aug 02, 2017

    With a gruff confidence that belies his sweet nature, Wade zips through Night Strike on his scooter like a hummingbird.

    He knows a lot of the people who show up to Night Strike, a community gathering for homeless people held under the Burnside Bridge. Social service organizations and church groups show up each week to provide food and services to more than 100 people. Our Mobile Dental Clinics regularly attend to provide free dental care.

    "This is my dental plan. Without it, I'd have lost four teeth."

    Wade used to be homeless himself. The Navy veteran spent 21 years on the streets or living in a van. Now he has a place of his own, works and receives disability payments from the government.

    A veteran, Wade used to be homeless himself. He still can't afford dental care. “This is literally the only place guys like me can come,” Wade said. He's grateful the clinic can provide care for him and for others in even greater need.

    But there’s one service he still relies on: the Mobile Dental Clinic.

    “This is my dental plan,” Wade says. “Without it, I’d have lost four teeth.”

    Financially, Wade is stuck in a Catch 22. His monthly income is above the VA’s income threshold to receive dental benefits. Still, his income isn’t enough that he can afford to pay for insurance out of pocket.

    A lot of these people are veterans like him. They are hurting. A little kindness goes a long way in restoring confidence and faith in oneself.

    Over the years, Wade has had several problems with his teeth. They became brittle and chipped easily. “This is literally the only place guys like me can come,” Wade said.

    Wade said he was thankful that Mobile Dental comes to Night Strike regularly because the needs among the homeless population are so great. A lot of these people, Wade said, are veterans like him. They are hurting. A little kindness goes a long way in restoring confidence and faith in oneself.

    Wade doesn’t lack confidence anymore. Through a big grin, he said he’s ready for the next chapter in his life – traveling through Europe.

  • Sending medicines when hospitals are gone.

    by Emily Crowe | Jul 27, 2017

    You’ve seen the destruction on the news. Millions of Syrians–entire cities full of children, parents, and grandparents–are caught in heartbreaking conflict. It’s not only their homes that are gone–more than half of Syria’s hospitals have been damaged or destroyed. The injured are left without medicines or supplies, and many who flee to safer places face impossibly expensive or nonexistent medical care.

    That’s why we must act to heal them.

    People in some of the worst-hit parts of Syria are now receiving medical supplies, thanks to a partnership with International Blue Crescent. Each delivery brings medicines and supplies to the injured and sick who might otherwise go without–children battling illness, pregnant women who need a safe place to deliver, elderly people who need medicine.

    A shipment of medical supplies arrives in Syria through our partner, International Blue Crescent (IBC). Right now, we have more shipments on their way to Syria and Lebanon.

    In Lebanon, our teams are training Syrian refugees as Community Health Workers. Equipped with the right knowledge and tools, women like Rasha serve as advocates for their neighbors, families, and friends. This means more people stay healthy, and passionate volunteers get medical training that can be used for years to come. For a child facing stress-induced diabetes, this training can save his or her life.

    Amal and Abir, mother (left) and daughter. Abir became withdrawn and tired after arriving in the refugee settlement. Soon diagnosed with stress-induced diabetes, our teams check in on her regularly and provide alternatives to insulin, which is too expensive for many refugees to purchase.

    The violence and heartache can feel overwhelming. But there is hope. As dedicated volunteers pack donated medical supplies, fearless international partners like IBC reach dangerous places, and generous donors support this important work, lives are being saved.