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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Get the latest updates from our programs in the field internationally and here in the United States.  

  • Thank You: Typhoon Yolanda

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 31, 2014

    Thank you.

    Your compassionate and generous response to Typhoon Yolanda helped provide direct medical care to more than 20,000 people affected by the disaster.

    Because of you, Medical Teams International was able to quickly respond, shipping urgently needed medicines and medical supplies to clinics and hospitals in the Philippines – enough to care for 10,000 people for 3 months! And thanks to you, our volunteer teams of medical professionals were able to be on the ground within days of the disaster, helping to restore the health of communities devastated by the typhoon.

    Your support made a difference in the lives of so many – a baby with acute pneumonia was restored to health by life-saving medicines, an 86-year old man crippled by arthritis received urgent medical care after days of being trapped in his storm damaged home, and a young girl whose leg had been severely injured by flying sheet metal was rescued by our team and airlifted to a hospital in Tacloban to receive the surgery she so desperately needed. Your gifts made all this and more possible.

    Here, nearly 10 weeks after the storm, I’m pleased to report that the country’s capacity to provide adequate medical care is being restored. Our 15th and final medical team will return this week and we will continue to provide support to local partners engaged in a variety of rebuilding efforts in the coming months. On behalf of our staff and volunteers, thank you for joining us in our commitment to rise, mobilize and make a difference in the lives of people affected by this historic and devastating typhoon. Your support is a huge blessing to those we serve, and we are so grateful to have you on the team.

    Watch: Our Medical Teams on the ground in the Philippines:

    MTI President & CEO Jeff Pinneo visited the field shortly after the typhoon. He and volunteers on the ground reported the destruction, the need, and the care we are providing.



    A note from one of our partners in the Philippines to MTI CEO & President, Jeff Pinneo:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you very much for your kind words but I must say that compared to the valiant efforts of your team, our contribution appear paltry. To come half way across the globe to assist our people in their greatest hour of need is nothing short of admirable. To see all the outpour of generosity from the global community inspires me and convince me that despite all the calamity, the people of this country are truly blessed with good friends and neighbors. For being spared the catastrophe, it is our duty and responsibility to help our countrymen, yet those of you who are not obliged are here. It is us who should be showing the appreciation and not the other way around. So, in behalf of the people affected by Typhoon Yolanda, Thank You! and God Bless you all!

    With greatest appreciation,
    Andrew B. Co

  • Typhoon Volunteer Reflections

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 28, 2014
    Michelle LaVina is a nurse from Oregon and a Medical Teams International volunteer. She was a member of one of the more than 15 volunteer teams sent to provide care to the people of the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. Michelle, whose family is from the Philippines, was eager to help make a difference in the lives of so many suffering people; she recently sat down with us to share her reflections on her experience.


    What did you find most challenging about this volunteer experience?
    This trip was a personal and special trip for me. My father was born in Tacloban and my grandparents are from Leyte. While I have been to the Philippines several times before, I had never been to Leyte. I honestly never thought I would have an opportunity to go. I found it to be a very emotional trip at times.

    Moments that take me back are the first sights of the destruction from the air and driving through the villages seeing the destruction during the first days of my deployment, which was 3 weeks after the typhoon. Seeing the lines of people waiting patiently for hours to sit in front of me for a few moments was overwhelming at times. I found it hard to complain about anything, I rarely stopped to eat anything during the day because the lines were so long and the people were so patient.

    Was there one particular person or persons you cared for in the Philippines that stands out?
    I worked with a young family; the mother had 3 young children, one who was an infant. She was in a town that had not seen medical care since the typhoon and stood in line with all her children for hours. When she finally reached me I could see she was doing the best she could to maintain normalcy for her children. She appeared overwhelmed by the situation but her strength to improve her situation was evident by her warm smile and attention to her children. I treated them all for skin infections and rashes, cough and cold symptoms. I spent some time talking to her and was truly in awe of her strength as she was blind. Despite this handicap she was courageously moving forward in raising her children to give them the best she could.

    There were many stories of people that just needed a hand to hold and someone to talk to about their trauma. I spent lots of time talking to people about how to deal with their post-trauma stress.

    The saddest stories are those who had medical problems that I could not help. Those people that I knew did not have access to the special surgery or medical treatment that they needed. Those are the people that remain in my thoughts and prayers.

    What do you think people might be surprised to know about the people you met or the country itself?
    It is no surprise to anyone that the Philippines are largely a Christian country. What most impressed me was their faith. In most villages the only building left standing was the church. Many people I talked with said they fled to the church to ride out the storm. In many villages the churches were also destroyed leaving only the sanctuary standing.

    On Sundays the churches were filled with people attending mass. In most cases the
    roofs and walls were gone, all we could see were people filling up the church and
    spilling out the sides where walls should have been. Everywhere I went we met
    people who were struggling but not without their strong faith that God would see them through this disaster. The believed they would be better than before and they will ‘rise up’. This term ‘rise up’ (‘Tindog’ in the language of Leyte,‘Bangon’ in the language of Manila) was posted all over the island, from large banners in Tacloban to hand-made signs on the sides of the road. The Filipinos are proud people, they will ‘rise up’ and their faith will see them through.

  • Dental Team in Alta Verapaz

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 22, 2014

    In January MTI Guatemala and the Hughes Dental Team treated 156 individuals as well as reaching 247 community members with oral hygiene presentations in Campat and Chicujal.

    Albina Toc (26) lives in Campat with her husband José Xol (30) and their three boys: Alvaro (8), Ervin (6), and Sergio (1). José works in local agriculture and to add to their income Albina embroiders fine details on huipiles, the traditional blouse worn by Maya women and girls in Guatemala.

    Albina met the Hughes dental team when she brought her son Ervin to the Campat Community Center for a dental check-­‐up. Upon examination, all of Ervin’s baby teeth were rotting and he had severe tartar buildup. In addition to offering a cleaning, the team pulled two teeth in response to Ervin’s greatest areas of pain.

    Noting that he was already getting his adult molars, dental hygienist student Shaireen Lata was especially concerned that both Ervin and his mother understood the importance of proper oral hygiene in order to safeguard his permanent teeth. The Mt. Shasta Community College student stepped aside from her work in the clinic to offer Albina specific information on status and care of Ervin’s teeth. Seeing that Albina also had her one­‐year old son Sergio with her and that he had six teeth already, Lata also explained the importance of oral hygiene care for babies even when they are exclusively breastfeeding.

    Albina said she had not known the importance of caring for Sergio’s incoming baby teeth. “Now because I’ve received this advice I’m going to put it into practice,” she said. “With my other children I didn’t have the information and I didn’t do it, but with the last one I will.”

    Albina and her children also attended an oral health presentation offered by the Hughes team in Campat. Using a combination of games and interactive activities, team members discussed proper brushing technique as well as what kinds of foods and sugars are most harmful to the teeth and difficult to remove while brushing. Children were given opportunity to practice what they learned on colorful stuffed animals before receiving their own toothbrush and participating in a two-­‐minute group tooth brushing session with team volunteers and MTI community health coordinators.

    Over the course of the week the Hughes Team saw 156 patients in their clinic. In addition to fillings, restorative work, and cleanings they pulled a total of 274 teeth and their education component reached 247 community members. Outside of their work in San Jan Chamelco, team leader Kristi Hughes conducted a presentation with MTI Community Health Workers from Chicamán and Cobán discussing the importance of oral health and its role in MTI Guatemala’s four objectives.

     Story and photographs by Brittn Grey, Guatemala ETV
  • Volunteers at Work in Alta Verapaz: Molly McHugh

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 15, 2014

    When mother-­‐daughter pair Mary and Molly McHugh travel together they don’t choose all-­‐inclusive resorts; they grab their backpacks and plan adventures. Molly’s college graduation gift from her mom was a backpacking trip through Europe with one stipulation—they would go together. When Mary planned a trip with Medical Teams International and invited Molly to join, she was up for the challenge. The McHughs formed a part of the 16-­‐ member Holmgren work team, constructing fuel-­‐efficient ventilated stoves for families in Chitepey.

    The family members soon found that working alongside one another in service provided a different perspective than vacation-­‐ oriented travel. For Molly, building stoves in Chitepey offered a new entrance into her mom’s life. “Getting to know your mom as the woman she is outside of being your mother is pretty incredible,” she said. “Spending time with them [parents] in situations where you get to see them in roles outside of being your mom provide valuable insight into who they are. And also where you come from. I am so thankful to share as amazing an experience [as] the week in Guatemala was with my mom.”

    Although Molly had no previous experience with MTI, the organization’s mission and focus resonated with her strongly, and the group’s all-­‐team meeting prior to departure helped deepen her understanding of MTI’s objectives in San Juan Chamelco. Still, only upon arrival in Guatemala did Molly’s nervousness settle. “The community was so welcoming and open to us on the first day that I immediately realized my nervousness and fear prior to coming on the trip had been for naught,” she said. “I know the welcome we received from the community was a direct result of the relationship MTI has built there.”

    Over the course of four days in Chitepey, the Holmgren Team constructed 28 fuel-­‐ efficient ventilated stoves benefitting 127 individuals. They also installed an industrial size stove in the aldea’s newly inaugurated community kitchen. Team members had opportunity to visit with families, learn about how MTI collaborates with other local organizations, and meet with local midwives and Mother Counselors to discuss the community’s health needs.


    During her time in Guatemala, Molly McHugh experienced the double blessing of giving and learning. She expressed her satisfaction regarding the change the new stoves will produce in the community’s health, but she also commented on how the trip impacted her after her return to the US. “Going to Guatemala made me realize I am content with what I have” Molly said. “I do not need more stuff or Molly McHugh (right) and fellow volunteers from Washington complete their first fuel-­‐efficient ventilated stove. Molly McHugh (left) with her mother Mary McHugh in Chitepey, Alta Verapaz. better stuff. I may not have the monetary resources to give to organizations helping those less fortunate but I do have time and that is something I definitely can make a point of giving.”

    While some US volunteers find the change of pace and cultural differences in Guatemala a difficult adjustment, McHugh was grateful for the pace and environment. “I learned to slow down and not be so goal oriented. It is better to enjoy the present, the companionship of those you’re with, and not be so worried about meeting deadlines or quotas. I learned to be incredible thankful for what I have.”

    Family bonds as well as a sense of one’s place in the global community are strengthened through international service learning. MTI’s volunteer-­‐powered service projects in Alta Verapaz continue to promote the health of San Juan Chamelco while offering both Guatemalan’s and US volunteers an opportunity for rich intercultural exchange.

     Story and photographs by Brittn Grey, Guatemala ETV
  • Happy 2014 - Thank You

    by Katie Carroll | Jan 14, 2014

    14 Reasons We are Grateful for You!

    Happy 2014!


    Thank you!

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