Time. It’s one of our most precious gifts. To our beloved volunteers – thank you for your time. The hours and days you take out of your life to help others is a blessing. When you give of your time, you change and save lives.
We extend our thanks to each of you who has treated patients onboard our Mobile Dental vans. To each of you who has stood for hours sorting medical supplies in our Distribution Center. To each of you who has contributed to the success of an event or helped in our offices or mobilized the community to raise funds, thank you.
Finally, to our Community Health Workers and refugee volunteers around the world – we are grateful for you. You’re ensuring people on the margins are not forgotten. You’re delivering health messages, helping women have healthy pregnancies and acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.
Over the past 40 years, volunteers like you have given of their time and talents, touching millions of lives. Whether a hurricane, a famine, a refugee crisis or a pandemic, you’ve shown up.
Here are just a few of the ways volunteers have answered the call to serve in the last few months.
Providing Emergency Dental Care
Our Mobile Dental vans are providing emergency dental care to help alleviate the burden on emergency rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteer dental professionals board the vans each day to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
Dr. Phil Etheredge has been volunteering with Medical Teams – both locally and internationally – for more than 25 years. When COVID-19 showed up in his backyard, Dr. Etheredge felt called to serve again.
“There are times when you feel the suffering and pain and misery. And then you get a personal invite to do something. I opened the email and it asked, ‘Will you help us?’ In that moment, I felt like it was God speaking to me through Medical Teams. It was that still, small voice – through an email – ‘Will you help me?’”
Another volunteer who has answered the call is Kathi Karnosh. Kathi is a dental assistant and has been volunteering with Medical Teams for 20 years. “Kathi will hold their [patients’] hands when she knows they’re nervous and scared.” Those are the words van manager Jill Ewanchuk used to describe Kathi at a recent emergency dental clinic in Portland, Oregon, held at Highland Christian Center.
Kathi has also served on countless international trips.
“When there’s an earthquake, I just feel like I want to jump on a plane to help people. It gives your life purpose and makes me feel like I have a good reason to get up,” Kathi explained.
Screening Patients for COVID-19
Other volunteers who have courageously put themselves on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis are helping screen patients for Mobile Dental clinics. Carla Scroggins is one of those volunteers. Carla is a paramedic in Multnomah County. As a first responder, she has the skills necessary to screen patients for symptoms of COVID-19. By volunteering, Carla is doing her part to ensure that emergency dental care is available for vulnerable people during this pandemic.
“This is a really tough time for all of us,” Carla said. “Our society and the whole world are going through major changes. I think this is tough on everybody, so I thought volunteering with Medical Teams would be a good way to serve at least within my community.”
Sewing Protective Equipment
When it became clear the U.S. was facing a severe shortage of protective equipment, volunteers who had previously worked in the Distribution Center got to work. More than 60 volunteers answered the call. Based on a plan developed by the University of Florida Anesthesiology Department, volunteers began sewing masks out of surgical drapes and wrapping material.
One volunteer, Beverly Simpson, rallied eight of her neighbors to help in the sewing project. Another volunteer, Nancy Jauch, is putting her exceptional sewing skills to use, making one mask every eight minutes! The masks have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies.
Mobilizing the Local Community
Healthy Women, Healthy World (HWHW) volunteers advocate and build support for programs that improve the health of women and children.
When COVID-19 upended our lives, HWHW leadership quickly pivoted, putting on their first-ever virtual event. The event was called Agents of Hope and speakers shared about what we have learned from faith communities overseas that we can now use to respond to this pandemic. More than 120 people joined from around the country.
Serving Around the World
While we have currently pulled all volunteers from their international assignments, we cannot forget the huge sacrifice deployed volunteers make year-round to care for people in crisis.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, one volunteer group returned from a month-long trip to Uganda. The team was made up of longtime volunteers Sharon Tissell and Dr. Bruce Murray, as well as Dr. Murray’s son, Dr. Benjamin Murray. They provided medical care to refugees and Ugandans in the northern region of Uganda.
Dr. Murray described the challenges of working in an environment with so few resources. “The mission of providing quality care with few tools and often inadequate medications here is quite challenging. However, the rewards of helping those in need are even greater,” he said.
Medical volunteers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with local medical personnel in places like Uganda, Bangladesh and Guatemala. They provide training and support so that local providers have the resources they need to care for their communities.
Love in Action
Check back in a few days to read stories from our Community Health Workers working around the world!
Click here to learn more about becoming a volunteer.