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Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • A breath of life for a South Sudanese baby

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 08, 2016


    The following story comes from two volunteer doctors, Dr. Catrina Funk and Dr. Jeff Whittall, who provided training and saw patients at a South Sudan hospital as part of a partnership with World Vision International.

    South Sudan, Clinic 2, March 2015

    The inside of a clinic in South Sudan. Your support provides training and supplies to save the lives of vulnerable mothers and children in a country with among the highest birth-related death rates in the world.

    Through your generosity, volunteer doctors and newly trained health care workers converged to save a baby's life in a country where newborns die at an alarming rate.

    Late last year, Medical Teams International deployed two volunteer doctors to South Sudan. The mission: to train and work alongside hospital staff in an established project with World Vision, the Washington-based nonprofit, located in this newly independent and conflict-ravaged country.

    Medical Teams International and World Vision are partnering to save the lives of mothers and babies by improving the quality of emergency obstetric and newborn care at Kuajok Hospital in Warrap State, South Sudan.  

    It was there that medical professionals came across Amou, a young mother who had been in labor at home for 30 hours. For the recently widowed mother of three, whose previous deliveries had gone smoothly, something was terribly wrong. With the assistance of her family, she arrived at a local hospital in desperate need of assistance.   

    As the hospital midwife examined Amou, the problem became more obvious. The baby’s head was titled in the pelvis. As she scanned the mother's belly with a simple device called a Doppler, the midwife noticed the fetal heart tones were very worrisome.

    It was clear that Amou required an emergency C-section for her baby to survive. The obstetric and anesthesia teams gathered in record time to receive Amou as she was brought to the tiny operating room for a C-section.  

    Medical Teams International volunteers, Dr. Catrina Funk, OB-GYN, and Dr. Jeff Whittall, a pediatrician, arrived at the hospital just a week earlier and had provided in-depth theoretical and hands-on training of 17 hospital staff in emergency obstetric and newborn care.

    Health workers anticipated a severely distressed baby. They were correct. As the baby was lifted out through the incision, it lay limp, motionless, not breathing, with a very slow heartbeat. The baby was barely alive.

    Quickly, following the clamping of the umbilical cord, the newly trained health workers took the baby to a resuscitation room that had just been set up with the guidance the volunteer pediatrician for this very purpose. Working together, they suctioned the airway for the baby and began drying and stimulating it, just like they had learned in class.

    They breathed life back into the baby.

    Soon the heart rate began to increase. After a few minutes, the baby began to breathe on its own. 

    Within half an hour, the baby was crying loudly.

    The newly trained health workers of Kuajok Hospital had successfully brought the baby back from the brink of death. As the MTI volunteers remarked, it was one of those amazing cases that underscores why training in newborn resuscitation is so important.
    The skills require minimal technology but have a dramatic impact. Those skills had been successfully taught and firmly grasped by the hospital staff so that now they are confident to continue the life-saving emergency procedures on their own in this region of the world.

    The following day, Amou expressed her gratitude. The Medical Teams International volunteers, serving in partnership with World Vision, reminded her that it was the local hospital staff, with their new skills, who helped save her and the life of her baby — a baby Amou named Akech.

    Your generous gifts make this partnership possible. You are providing life-saving care to mothers and children around the world. Thank you for your compassion.  

  • 16 Reasons We are Grateful for You!

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 04, 2016
    1. You sent critical medical care and supplies to Syrian refugees
    syrian-refugee-relief-agency
     2. You responded to the devastating Nepal earthquake within 48 hours
    nepal-earthquake-2015-relief
     3. You stopped the spread of Ebola in Liberia
    ebola-liberia-relief-organization
     4. You shipped lifesaving medical supplies to clinics in need
    syrian-refugee-relief-greece-aid
     5. You gave babies a healthy start to life
    healthy-babies-cambodia
     6. You fought chronic malnutrition in children under five living in rural villages
    guatemala-disease-prevention
     7. You gave your neighbors a new start at life with desperately needed dental care
    help-local-northwest
     8. You provided mothers with supplies that could literally mean the difference between life or death during childbirth
    haiti-relief-organization
     9. You supplied South Sudanese refugee families with urgently needed medicines
    south-sudan-relief-organization
     10. You aided the people of Myanmar after deadly flooding
    flooding-myanmar-disaster-response
     11. You put faith in action.
    humanitarian-aid-africa
     12. You gave local children who have had no dental care a reason to smile
    dental-vans-dental-care
     13. You trained first responders in Cambodia in Emergency Medical Services
    first-responder-training-cambodia
     14. You helped fight disease in Uganda.
    uganda-africa-relief-agency
     15. Your compassion
    international-humanitarian-relief-guatemala
     16. You demonstrated the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty
    syrian-war-refugees

    Happy 2016!

  • Tears of relief in a refugee camp

    by Greta Jarvis | Dec 31, 2015

    Sanna’s head throbbed. All she wanted was to embrace her children and prepare them a good meal. Her heart was broken, held hostage to debilitating pain and dizzying anguish.

    After her beloved cousins were killed in Syria, Sanaa and her children fled to a refugee settlement in Lebanon. Although they had escaped the violence and bombs tormenting her native country, their hardships had only just begun. Traumatizing memories of her family’s murder ravaged her mind, barbarous nightmares and flashbacks taking a toll both physically and emotionally. Sanaa experienced paralyzing headaches and relentless heart palpitations.

    Sanaa-Syrian-refugee
    Sanaa's only wish is a bright future for her children. Without treatment, her illness made it hard prepare meals or even be around other people.

    She winces as she recounted how her illness enslaved her: “As I look at my poor children, my heart aches. I would often get severe headaches and could not hear them or even prepare their food. When I get high blood pressure, I cannot stand having anyone nearby. The head pain is so severe; I have to send the children outside. This upsets me because it is my duty to provide for them.”

    The desperate mother saw her life, her dreams, and her family in shambles. She mourned the loss of her happy life in Syria. In Syria, her children attended school. They learned to read, and they played outside with their friends. Here in the refugee camp, Sanaa’s only desire is a brighter future for her children. Today, she does not even have 75¢ to buy them a piece of fruit for a treat.

    Your prayers and donations offer Sanaa a breath of relief in the midst of a dark, difficult reality.

    Sanaa-family-Syria-refugee
    Sanaa and her family enjoy a meal together. Thanks to you, she is able to keep her family fed and healthy.

    Thanks to your support, doctors from Medical Teams International diagnosed Sanaa with hypertension and provided her the medications she needs. Tears of gratitude and relief gather in her eyes, as Sanaa serves her children a humble meal in her tent. She shares: “When they give me my medication, I feel much better. They are great doctors, and I thank them from my heart.”

    Thousands of mothers, families and children--especially refugees--experience similar struggles every day. Our brothers and sisters are living amidst death, sorrow, and poverty. With your help, lifesaving care can reach those in need around the world.

    You can make a difference:

    1. Please pray for comfort and relief for those in need, especially in refugee camps.
    2. Share Sanna’s story with your friends and loved ones on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
    3. Donate before midnight on Dec. 31st, and your gift will be DOUBLED!
  • Reflections: Helping Syrians Refugees in Serbia

    by Emily Crowe | Dec 29, 2015


    Originally appeared on "Seasons and Sojourners" Blog. Read it here.

    Reitzug-Road-Less-Traveled-blog

    By Dr. Henry Reitzug

    Sayid, in limited English, speaks for both of them, “Tsank you,” he says with a slight bow. The “th” gives him trouble, just as it did me when I was an immigrant in America many years ago.Carrying their possessions on their backs, Syrian refugees Sayid and Nabilah are spent as they reach the Humedica aid station. Nabilah sheds her pack and bedroll attached to it, collapsing onto the blanket-covered bench in front of the clinic. The last hill of the three mile trek from the border exceeded her limit. Rivulets of perspiration course down her temples onto her flushed cheeks. She pulls off her gloves, and cradling the cup of hot tea I hand her, allows it to warm her hands. Tired eyes express her gratitude.

    Photo-by-Reitzug-Road-Less-Traveled-Syrian-refugeesIn truncated phrases Sayid speaks of their home in Aleppo, destroyed by bombs at the beginning of the war. After moving in with relatives they were bombed out again. When they survived yet another attack on their neighborhood, they had no place else to go. As he describes the destruction of his beloved ancient city, his eyes cloud over. Images of bombed out Berlin, Dresden, Coventry, and so many others in World War II come to my mind. The stories of destruction and the horrors of war, even told in shreds of sentences, are so familiar, and still so senseless.

    Read more >>


    Dr. Henry, a pediatrician, began serving with Medical Teams International during the Kosovo War in 1999. Since then, he's served on four continents and impacted many lives. His upcoming book, Seasons and Sojourners, shares his insights and experiences. We're honored to share his experiences here-- volunteers like Henry make such an incredible impact on vulnerable lives around the world. Read his other posts here.

    Please note that Dr. Henry's posts and opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of Medical Teams International. Please get in touch with us at info@medicalteams.org if you have any questions or comments.

  • Reflections: Volunteering with Syrian Refugees

    by Emily Crowe | Dec 25, 2015


    Originally appeared on "Seasons and Sojourners" Blog. Read it here.

    By Dr. Henry Reitzug

    It is 7 am, three days before Christmas in many parts of the world, but not here. Already two dozen heavily bundled Syrian refugees are huddled on blanket-covered benches in front of the Humedica aid station. Dads, moms, and children are munching bananas and mandarin oranges handed out by volunteers, while fighting off the icy fog’s chill with chai tea. The volunteers working with German-based Humedica greeted the refugees as they began coming up the hill from the border an hour earlier. After arriving by train at the Macedonian-Serbian border at midnight, some of the families had to spend the night outside at the packed reception center. At first light they began the three kilometer trek up the winding road to Miratovac village.

    With a mixture of gratitude and guilt for having slept in a warm sleeping bag on a soft futon – indoors – I help unpack our bins of medicine in the small store-front clinic, part of the Humedica aid station, and prepare to treat patients. As a Medical Teams International volunteer augmenting Humedica’s refugee relief effort, I arrived in Serbia four days ago.

    Syrian-child-in-SerbiaTwo men with toothaches, another with a headache since leaving Turkey four days ago, a few runny noses, an upset stomach, and a kind young dad with four little girls wait for our attention. The youngest of the four girls, a one year-old, is blind. Her two year-old sister Mayd, sporting a runny nose and a cough, bravely allows me to examine her. Her right ear is flaming red infected, but she does not fuss. With Amoxicillin and Paracetimol in hand, the dad places his hand over his heart and thanks me in the genteel Arab way as he departs.

    Warmed up, topped up, and medically treated, the families leave to trudge the last 500 meters to waiting buses taking them to Presevo’s one stop registration center ten kilometers up the road. There, comfortable buses wait to take them across Serbia to the Croatian border. More registrations, more hikes across no-man’s land at borders, more buses, and more trains are in store for them as they make their way to the hoped for land of milk and honey. Every kilometer takes them further from the comfort of ancestral homes, but also the conflict of senseless war.

    Frostbitten-toes-Syrian-refugeeFrom Turkey to Germany, Europe has become a refugee board game. As they hopscotch from one country to another, for most the goal is to reach Germany or Sweden. If you are not Syrian, Iraqi, or Afghani, however, you cannot pass Go or collect the proverbial $200. Two Moroccans tried to access Serbia illegally yesterday; their game ended with a Go-To-Jail card. For those deemed legitimate asylum seekers, the game starts with a hazardous boat trip from Turkey to one of the Greek islands. With the hucksters who run the boats fleecing the fleeing, the desperate game ends prematurely for one out of every 50 players. Desperate to escape, new players come by the thousands. Nearly a million so far.

    There are good cards and bad cards along the way. If you land on the road to Hungary, you miss a turn, maybe even get trapped dealing with unfriendly police. If your train arrives after 10 pm at the border of Macedonia and Serbia, you miss the last bus from Miratovac to the Presevo registration center. If the border reception tents are full, it might be your fate to stay outside in freezing weather. Worn out shoes, or worse, worn out feet, will also slow your progress. Ditto if you get ill. They are frequently drawn cards.

    Refugee-family-SerbiaBut there are good cards too. An exhausted Syrian woman collapsed on the bench in front of the clinic and pulled off her disintegrating boots to look at her purple feet. While the feet looked like she might need to exit the game, she was in luck. After re-warming her nearly frost-bitten feet, the Humedica volunteers cheerfully outfitted her with wool socks and new boots from the storeroom of donated items. With two warm cups of chai warming her insides, she was made road-worthy again. A baby sitting on a mother’s lap next to her received clean diapers, a new hat and mittens from the baby room. A man whose woefully inadequate jacket left him shivering received a new winter jacket. These travelers drew the Christmas card. With at least as much gratitude as most children display on Christmas day,shukraan’s – thank you’s – were offered with hand over the heart and a bow of the head. And then the race to the goal resumed. For most it is Germany.

    By the time the muezzin’s recorded chant sounded through the tinny loudspeakers calling the local Muslim Albanian population to noon prayer, we had seen an additional 25 patients, with hundreds more receiving sustenance of some type.

    While we were running out of bananas, Leann, an English lady who had come to Miratovic with her dog to “help the refugees” was hard boiling one thousand eggs for the next wave of players. While the eggs were still hot, they began to arrive. After visiting the food tent and getting a cup of chai, many came to the clinic, particularly the pregnant women. Teresa, our nurse from Oregon had brought her fetal Doppler. Hearing the baby’s heart invariably brought smiles.

    With the sun burning off the icy fog, a warm winter day had developed by 1 pm. Perspiring in her heavy fur collared winter coat, Genan Asaad, collapsed as she crested the hill in front of our aid station. The three kilometer walk had been strenuous for her 52 year-old body afflicted with high blood pressure. By the time she was carried into the clinic, her exhaustion, the daunting task of an additional 2,000 km ahead of her, and, most of all, the weight of the loss of home and country fully impacted her. No longer numb to the bottomless anguish of her life, the dam burst and the tears flowed. And flowed! With her daughters hugging her, and Teresa and I comforting her, tears became contagious.

    But they were also cathartic. Privileged to be part of the intimacy of a grief too much, I was amazed as Genan recovered. Having spent her tears, she enjoyed one more hug from each daughter, one more comforting squeeze of the shoulder from each of us, wiped her tears, reined the emotions back in for another day, and resolutely got up. With “God bless you’s” and “As-salamu Alaykum’s” to send her off, she passed the test of this watershed moment, assuring her survivor status.

    And so it goes for half the population of Syria and a good many from Iraq and Afghanistan, afflicted with a grief too much, fleeing one home and seeking another.


    Dr. Henry, a pediatrician, began serving with Medical Teams International during the Kosovo War in 1999. Since then, he's served on four continents and impacted many lives. His upcoming book, Seasons and Sojourners, shares his insights and experiences. We're honored to share his experiences here-- volunteers like Henry make such an incredible impact on vulnerable lives around the world. Read his other posts here.

    Please note that Dr. Henry's posts and opinions are his own and do not reflect the views of Medical Teams International. Please get in touch with us atinfo@medicalteams.org if you have any questions or comments.