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In Midst of Holiday Season, Seattle Medical Professionals Volunteer to Serve Congolese Refugees

by Angela Pratt | Dec 05, 2013

(PORTLAND, ORE., December 7, 2012) – Seattle physician Dr. Mary Owen and nurse practitioner Ann Marie O’Neill will depart this Saturday, December 8th to join Medical Teams International in its response to the growing Congolese refugee crisis.

Fleeing ongoing conflict and increased rebel activity in their country, thousands of Congolese people are crossing the DR Congo/Uganda border, many in need of immediate medical attention. Medical Teams International, in collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Health, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the UNHCR, has established a healthcare outpost at the refugee reception camp in Kisoro to address the overwhelming medical needs of many of the Congolese people entering SW Uganda.

Having lost both her mother and husband in the past year, Dr. Owen was personally motivated to help others struggling with extreme loss and grief. “When I was called yesterday to leave tomorrow and spend the advent season helping the newly arrived refugees, I felt I had been given a gift,” said Dr. Owen. “If I can help any of these refugees who lost family members because of the conflict and are themselves physically and emotionally suffering, I will feel honored, humbled and blessed. I don't speak the language, but I can look and touch with deep caring and empathy, and hopefully help fill a small part of the hollow loneliness of loss."

Dr. Owen and Ms. O’Neill will serve for 2 weeks in Kisoro. This will be Ms. O’Neill’s second trip to Uganda with the organization and Dr. Owen’s ninth trip having previously volunteered in Nicaragua, Indonesia, Uganda and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“Dr. Owen and Ann Marie are tremendous examples of the compassion and generosity shown by the thousands of volunteers Medical Teams International mobilizes each year,” said Jeff Pinneo, CEO of Medical Teams International. “With less than 48 hours-notice, these two expert medical professionals agreed to sacrifice their personal time, even more precious during this Christmas season, to help care for suffering refugees. We are incredibly grateful for their gift of service.”

The organization has allocated funds to provide emergency resources to address this crisis including medicines, medical supplies and additional staff, and will continue to deploy volunteer medical teams as needed.