When Jonathan White, RMF Director of International Relations, was planning his 2010 trip across Uganda, Sudan, and Nigeria to visit our programs, we asked him to help us meet the people that make up Real Medicine on the ground–our coordinators, our doctors, our patients.
Here, in the second interview, we meet Bilha Achieng, RMF Project Coordinator, South Sudan.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My idea of perfect happiness is when one is at peace with oneself and others.
When someone finds inner peace by being comfortable in one’s own skin, this is when they can spread it out to others.
What is your favorite activity outside of work?
My favorite activity outside work is traveling.
I like visiting and exploring new places. This gives me a chance to meet new people and share experiences.
Who are your heroes?
My heroes are my sisters who have been faced with different challenges but have come out as strong working women that I will always look up to.
What is your favorite or most used website?
My favorite website is www.yahoo.com
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is Pirates of the Caribbean 2.
I couldn’t imagine Johnny Depp in real life after that movie. He played the role well.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is supporting the coordination of the establishment of a training institution-Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery which will have a positive impact on human resource for health in Southern Sudan.
What is your favorite music?
My favorite music is Afro-fusion. I like this music because it blends two different rhythms into one mix.
Who is your favorite author?
My favorite author is Wangari Mathai.
In her books, she portrays one’s ability to stand firm on what one believes in and ‘an endless love for mankind’.
What talent would you most like to have?
Playing any musical instrument, more specifically the violin.
Where would you most like to live?
I would like to live along the beach, where I can watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Bilha Achieng is currently helping us to establish a 3 year accredited College of Nursing and Midwifery to help curb maternal and infant morality in Southern Sudan. Classes began May 2910 with 20 students who will soon go on to fill the vacant clinics that dot the countryside as the front line of care for mothers and infants in need.
Last week, in an update called “Friends Helping Friends” in San Clemente/Pisco Peru,” Steve Henrichson, RMF Director, Peru, touched on an aspect of community that is at the core of Real Medicine–the idea that community is created by working together, friends helping friends. Celebrating recent collaborations benefiting the Policlínico Peruano Americano, his article gives thanks to the partners who sustain us now while providing some perspective as to how far we have come since those first days in Peru back in 2007.
When Steve Henrichson first landed in Pisco with Rene Castillo, he had a long list of needs and a shorter list of names. Even so, thanks to his efforts in gathering support for the cause, in three short years his growing team has mobilized one of our most comprehensive health programs in the world.
Peru in 2007 to now: Meeting Initial Concerns
Looking back at the early days to what we have now, the transformation is simply inspiring and a true testament to how Real Medicine starts with basic care and grows from there, adding additional programs based on financial ability and community need. In one post titled “Peru–1st week in Peru,” Steve voices the thoughtful concerns of someone at the beginning of a great and daunting journey:
I was a bit anxious before leaving for Peru because I didn’t really know what to encounter. We had a plan but there are several things that need to fall into place. I had several questions floating in my head before the trip. How safe will it be? How responsive will people be to our efforts? What obstacles will we be dealing with? All are valid concerns, but after one short week, things are already beginning to ¨fall into place¨ and my confidence has been reassured.
Later, in this same entry, Steve sets the scene of life is beginning to emerge from the rubble, where thousands of people sell goods in the streets while living in tents; where hospitals that have survived are overwhelmed and working out of temporary shelters, without needed medications and equipment. He describes maternity wards treating patients without the guidance of ultrasound and where once successful doctors are out of work at a time when all skilled hands are in need.
It is in these early entries Steve almost forms a check list, a road map of the clinics growth. Since that day, many of the issues facing health care workers have changed with the work of RMF and our supporting partners: the temporary tent wards have been exchanged for a stable, permanent health care center, we have a maternity ward equip with an ultrasound machine, and we have hired once unemployed staff who have now become like family to the 70 patients who visit the clinic a day.
Peru today: Moving Beyond Expectation
What is perhaps more incredible though is that, in the small span of time from the clinics opening, these initial needs have not only been met but well surpassed. For example, not only do we have an ultrasound machine but, due to our affordable costs, we have become a referral site for it’s use, with other doctors sending mothers who might not otherwise be able to afford the test. More so, not only have we hired local staff but Dr. David, an our of work doctor introduced in the first accounts as a hopeful partner, has since not only joined the team but has become our head doctor, the bed rock of our health operations.
“When we hired Dr. David he didn’t have a job and was living in a tent city with his wife, who was pregnant at the time,” says Steve in a recent interview, “he delivered his first child himself in their small backpacking tent–that was all he and his wife had.” Since joining our team at the clinic, Dr. David has been able to save up and buy himself a house in a pretty nice part of town. He has had a few more children since he has started working at the clinic too. “It is really nice to be able to see his family grow and to be able to support his family,” says Steve, “we provided work, he worked hard, and life went from there.”
2010, Broader Awareness and Global Connection
Since 2007 the clinic has become not only a source of stability and growth for the community, but now, in 2010 we are beginning to see both patients and staff become empowered enough to look beyond themselves to help still larger communities.
One nurse, Leila A.C. Gutiérrez Luna, who has been working at the clinic since its opening is now is also using the stability of the clinic as a platform for something bigger. Feeling that it is safe to dream big she has proposed a plan to begin fighting child malnutrition in the surrounding community and has taken it upon herself to draw up the plans. Her willingness to aim for higher goals for the clinic is proof that consistent support has allowed her to dream bigger than she might have before.
“We try to share the clinic with the community as much as possible in the sense that we want the people to be proud of the clinic that they have in their community,” says Steve, “we want them to be able to take ownership and responsibility, to make it their own.”
Beyond even this larger focus, the stability created through continual donations has even allowed people in the community the security to look outside themselves on a global scale. When Haiti struck the clinic staff took the initiative to hold a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the earthquake, charging entrance fees that raised $300 US dollars. “After suffering through an 8.0 earthquake in 2007, the people from Pisco are all too familiar with the horror and despair that comes in the wake of such a disaster,” says Steve of that event, “They didn’t hesitate when an opportunity arose to open their wallets to help the Haitians.” Stable enough in their own place, the community around the clinic was willing to give what little they have in the hope that others might be able to receive the same care that they have seen since the quake.
“Ultimately, the clinic has provided constancy to the community,” says Steve, “And that can do a lot to give people hope for the future. When they see that we are still here, years later, they begin to feel like they have somewhere to start from–and from there anything is possible.”
Much to the delight of big hearted beer geeks across Los Angeles, June 27th was Dionicess VI. A generous pairing event featuring beers from the Firestone Brewing Company and sausages and fries from Tony’s Darts Away, with all proceeds supporting the Real Medicine Foundation in Armenia.
Led by Gev Kazanchyan, writer, professor, beer and wine philanthropist, and co-hosted by Firestone Walker representative and Certified Cicerone™ Jace Milstead and certified beer judge, food author and chef Randy Clemens, Dionicess VI was the most successful event in the Dionicess series to date.
Thanks to donated food from Tony’s Darts Away, 7 donated beers from Firestone Walker (including Parabola and Unfiltered 100% Barrel Aged, Double Barrel Ale on cask), a sold out event, and ongoing donations both at the event and after (Firestone beer was served until closing for continual donations), the event topped the charts raising close to $1600 for Real Medicine Foundation’s healthcare program in Shinuhayr.
Opening with homemade ‘chili-limon’ seasoned potato chips, the event was off with a spark followed by six paired courses.
1) A celebration in citrus: Firestone Walker Solace served with sun-dried tomato and mozzarella chicken sausage topped with orange zest.
2) Firestone Walker Humboldt Brown, a controversial beer formerly known as “Hemp Ale,” served with ”Poutine” fries, also topped with toasted hemp seeds.
3) A DBA take over: Firestone Walker Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale (DBA) with an apple sage chicken sausage corn-dog, made with DBA beer batter and served with DBA mustard and jalapeno ketchup.
4) A match up of personal favorites (Walker’s and Tony’s head chef Pyntch): Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve Robust Porter paired with ”Pyntch’s Mad Sweet” sweet potato fries topped with blue cheese.
5) Firestone Walker Union Jack India Pale Ale, a hopps forward 3 time gold metal winner, paired with natural pork Andouille sausage and home-made jalapeno mashed potatoes.
6) The final pairing was a rare treat, Firestone Walker Parabola served with Randy Clemens’ own “beeramisu,” a tiramisu blend of espresso and beer.
By far, this even set a new standard for Dionicess to come, but it would not have been possible without the help of everyone who came together to make it happen. Thank you to everyone who attended the event and to those of you who also added to the donation pitcher in the back.
Thank you to Tony of Tony’s Darts Away for donating food and covering staff cost and to Paige Reilly, dedicated General Manager, who worked the event for free. Thank to to the wonderful and hard working kitchen staff, Shawn, Liz, and head chef Pyntch who prepared each course at lightning speed to make sure that all six courses reached everyone on time.
Thank you to the helping hands of Dave Watrous, Matt Olesh, and Sarah Kissell who helped make sure that everyone was comfortable and taken care of.
Thank you to Dr. Martina Fuchs and Nairy Ghazourian for speaking on behalf of Real Medicine and representing the cause.
And of course, another thank you to Jace Milstead, Randy Clemens, and the unstoppable Gev Kazanchyan for all the hard work putting everything together.
The difference between humanitarian aid and international development can be ambiguous. It is oftentimes hard to tell where the line is drawn between providing temporary aid to a people in need, versus truly helping them to rebuild and develop.
Real Medicine’s goal has always been to start with aid but move beyond that as soon as possible, and provide sustainable and truly internal development over the long term. The old proverb of “Give a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish” is very close to what RMF tries to achieve with many of our projects around the world.
Watching other aid groups leave only months after the 2005 tsunami in Sri Lanka, Real Medicine made a vow to stay and truly rebuild. Newly formed, at the time, RMF’s work at the time was considered disaster relief but before long it was clear that our scope was beyond that, and perhaps even beyond traditional humanitarian aid.
Today, years later in 2010, Real Medicine’s Director of International Relations, Jonathan White, traveled to one of RMF’s biggest projects at the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda and found out first hand how this willingness to stay and challenge the conventional norms of aid vs. development can end up saving lives in a very different way.
With the help and backing of World Children’s Fund, Real Medicine does everything from providing health care, to fixing boreholes, to supporting the children and paying for school fees in the Kiryandongo refugee camp, home to Ugandan, Kenyan, Sudanese and Congolese refuges.
“Our impact here is enormous,” says White, “through the eyes of the 6,000 refugees living in this community; our projects touch almost every area of life in this settlement.”
From this standpoint, Real Medicine helps keep the community here stable allowing the community there to live and thrive–but there is still something missing. Setting up care and sustaining it was not enough, and it took some bored teens to shine the light on what could be the final step for this community and for true humanitarian development.
“The main thing repeated time and time again to me while visiting was that they need is some sort of vocational training center for teen and adults, “says White, “many bright teens are graduating from the schools we support with a good education, but with no trade skills, they aren’t qualified for any local jobs and they are turning to alcohol to dull their boredom and frustration.”
Watching their educated children and other young adults stagnate and slip into destructive activities, the community held a meeting with Jonathan while he was visiting, to intervene and try and save their children’s future. Three vocations were listed as those in high demand not only in the settlement but in the surrounding towns as well: carpentry, tailoring, and hairdressing.
“With vocational training these kids can find jobs that will allow them to support their families one day,” says Jonathan, “and that is the main point of what Real Medicine is trying to achieve—help people get back on their feet, and no longer need the aid from outside. These refugees have seen many humanitarian organizations come and go over the years and know that the only real long term solution is for them to be able to return to work in some capacity and rebuild their own lives independently.”
Working with the community we hope that donors will respond to this need with the same excitement that we have and help us move forward with a vocational program that will ensure that these teens, many of whom they have supported through school, are able to cross the final threshold and sustain their own lives.
Funding is needed to cover the costs purchasing carpentry, tailoring and hairdressing equipment/tools as well as covering the salary of the instructors.
6:50 AM – 7:15 AM – Registration
7:00 AM – 7:15 AM – Training Focus for This Week
7:15 AM – 7:20 AM – Body Looseners
7:20 AM – 8:50 AM – 1 hour 40 minute run/jog/walk for Marathoners, 1 hour run/jog/walk for Halfers 8:25 AM – 9:00 AM – Separate Yoga for both groups
9:30 AM – Metronome Workshop – Free
After a great run last weekend, we are adding Sole Runners in Long Beach to our list of RMF running groups.
Last week, lead by Lisa Suen, RMF athlete and super-volunteer, I ran with this group for the first time and was blown away. This was my first experience with Chi Running and I have to say it was completely bizarre and overwhelmingly beautiful. For reasons I am still trying to understand, this community is unlike any group I have run with so far–they seems to be bound together with stronger, more family like ties than I have experienced to date.
Though I was the only barefoot runner (and not 5-finger barefoot, but actually no-shoes barefoot) I felt completely accepted and supported and was able to run farther than I have to date on my first barefoot run on concrete. Because of the warmth and welcoming nature of this close group, I have decided to sign up to run with them every weekend.If you would like to come along and run too, please do! The more the merrier.
Approaching our 5th birthday August 16th, 2010 and look back to remember who we go to where we are now, here is a voice from those early days: the second update sent from the ground after opening our first clinic in Sri Lanka writen by Dr. Martina herself.
In it Dr. Martina Fuchs gives grateful thanks to those tho helped her, speaking as a friend to her network of friends who came together to make it possible.
February 20, 2005
From Martina Fuchs in Mawella, Sri Lanka
Hi everybody, here I am again, with the next chapter from Sri Lanka. So much has happened, it almost feels like a lifetime in itself.
First: A million thank you’s! Thank you for all your e-mails and contributions and thank you for being so incredibly supportive and encouraging! It means the world to me since the need and despair here sometimes do get overwhelming. I am so grateful to have this amazing network of wonderful people in Europe and the US, of people who are so unbelievably generous. Please know that everything you contribute gets right to where it is needed the most and you do make a huge difference in the lives of innumerable people!
Today, Sunday, we just came back from a big event in Tangalle, the nearest town to our camp. Several optometrists had come from Colombo with a total of 500 glasses to examine people who had lost their glasses in the tsunami. Will had organized two vans and we shuttled about 50 of our villagers to Tangalle. The optometrists had set up camp in a Buddhist temple, the Wajiragiriya temple, and there were huge lines as we arrived. But almost everybody left happy and a lot of our villagers with new glasses.
Waiting in line with our villagers, we caught glimpses of the Buddhist Sunday school:
The Buddhist monks here in Sri Lanka have initiated celebrations to mourn the people who died in the tsunami and to celebrate their lives, the Peritha celebrations. One of these celebrations was held in our camp on Saturday night. All the villagers did their best to dress up, and many of the kids were actually proudly wearing their new clothes that had come in from donation packages within the last few weeks. We were invited to be part of the celebration. It never ceases to amaze me how generous they are with the little they have. I was sitting on mats with a whole bunch of mothers with their kids and there were small packages of peanuts. They took pride in making sure that I was never without supply. The children fell asleep one after the other, and the celebration, the chanting and praying continued throughout the night.
My little clinic is up and running, and I couldn’t be more proud.
I am proud to present two of my patients :
The Sri Lankan Navy helped us to install electricity, we have light, we have two fans (thank you, Commander Jagath Mutubandara, for making it all possible!).
Jonathan and Orrin built our examination table and all the furniture:
Wasana, a woman from the camp, sewed curtains for us:
We will get a sink, a water tower is already prepared in a nearby tree. Patients are lining up as soon as our clinic opens, and it is everybody, infants and children and their parents of course, but also adults of all ages, pregnant women, I believe there were about 70 patients in two days. Right now, we have an infection going around in our camp, a lot of children are suffering from really high fever. And what I am seeing a lot, too, are patients who had swallowed water when the tsunami happened and need reassurance that they are okay. At this point, I want to thank the pediatric surgery division of the Kinderkrankenhaus St. Marien in Landshut, Germany, and their chief, my brother, Dr. Oliver Fuchs, from the bottom of my heart. The seven large boxes of medical supplies that you have provided and sent to us are absolutely invaluable. We would not be able to work without them. We are absolutely impressed by your generosity.
A few days ago, I met with psychologists from Galle, who had organized a day of psychological evaluation for 250 children from 4 schools in the area who still showed signs of extreme emotional distress after the tsunami. They had arranged a day of singing, playing at the beach, etc. while they observed the children and their reactions in order to help them specifically. We connected with them to provide psychological support for the children in our camp, too, and are very proud that a psychiatrist now is specifically looking after our villagers.
Children paint the tsunami:
Father Surangika Fernando took me aside and told me about an inter-religious nursery he had organized in a Methodist church, including Muslim children, Buddhist children, Christian children, etc. It is a total of 60 children under 5 years of age who have lost one or both parents in the tsunami, or children coming from families who have lost everything in the tsunami. In addition to the kids in our camp, this is where the toys and children’s clothes are going to go that are coming out of the beautiful toy drives in Germany and the US. Words cannot express my gratitude, Mutti, Papa, Gloria, Christiana, Familie Sigl, all the children and parents of the Kindergarten Hersel, Uschi, Loren, and everybody else who is part of it and who’s contribution is invaluable. Because of your support and generosity, I can keep my promises to these children, I would be helpless without you.
As promised, here a quick update on the Tangalle Hospital project, that RealMedicine supports. For the complete proposal, please go to: www.realmedicine.tv/foundation/TengalleTrustIn the following are some impressions. As I had mentioned before, this hospital is in dire need, and we are committed to supporting Nick Buckingham’s efforts to renovate and upgrade it.
Hospital main entrance
Burning of toxic waste:
Nurses and nurses’ room:
Nick’s team at work:
I will update here on our website again in about a week, stay tuned…
Thank you for following up on our suggestion to take on sponsorships for specific families. We are choosing families right now and will keep you posted. Any suggestions or ideas are always welcome!
Last, but not least, I would like to thank all the travelers here in Sri Lanka who spontaneously decided to support our work, Kumar Fernando, Solange, Wim & Adri Hendrik, Jaques & Francoise Mourrieras.
Your generosity is highly appreciated.
There was an article published today by the Associated Press about childrens artwork from Haiti, paintings and drawings made children after the earthquake that are now on exhibit by the Smithsonian Institution. It reminded me of a story that our Founder, Dr. Martina Fuchs once told me about emotional care and one box of donated crayons.
The enormity of something as devastating as an earthquake like Haiti has a tendency to shut children off and they can become dangerously emotive, they bottle up. Sometimes art is the only way a child can express what they have seen.
Dr. Martina met a a four year old boy like this in her first month of tsunami relief in Sri Lanka, 2004. His mother had brought him in worried, not knowing what was wrong with her son. It had been three weeks since the tsunami and he had not made a sound, he had not smiled.
When the tsunami hit she was out in the open walking with her son and his 2yr old sister. With nowhere nowhere to go she raced for a palm tree and started to climb, hoisting her son above her. They climbed as fast as they could but when the water hit she was hit and the force shook her little girl out of her arms. Now, weeks later, she was loosing her son.
Dr. Fuchs was not sure what to do, so after an hour examining the boy, finding nothing physically wrong, she did the only thing she could do and sent him home with a peice of paper and a small box of donated crayons.
The very next day he was back, this time with a picture and as Dr. Fuchs looked it over and pinned it on the wall he smiled. Then, he started talking about the picture. He talked about the water and how there were people in it, and then he mentioned his sister and stopped. When he started again, he said was scared that he caused his sisters death because he did not climb fast enough. He was afriad that his mother hated him because it was all his fault. Finally, it was out and suddenly his mother knew what to do, she knew what to do to make him feel better, she knew what to say, she had her son back and they could mourn the loss of his sister together.
From this lesson in Sri Lanka, Real Medicine has made emotional care a component of what we believe to be medicine because we understand the powerful damage emotional distress can do and how sometimes, just a simple box of crayons and a comfortable space can save a life.
Help us to continue providing life saving care. When Dr. Martina Fuchs was providing relief in Sri Lanka, everything hidged on a network of friends who were able to help and who came through. Today our work is still dependant on the help of generous friends, giving what they can, together.
By focusing on one child at a time, our Malnutrition Eradication team in Mahaya Pradesh India, has been able to move forward in spite of the staggering figures stacked against them–100% malnutrition rates and 1.2 million children at risk–and has grown from 200 patients to 100o’s to become the largest active feild presence in the country in only 9 months, reaching 500 villages and 100,000 families.
When Shukla announced her own dream to teach children from the slums of Bangalore India she was hit with a huge resistance from those around her–how was she, one woman, going to make a dent?
As if taken directly from Real Medicine’s core principles, Shukla takes the RMF approach of One Child at a Time and it is in this way that she was able to not move forward undaunted in spite of the scale against her.
With 200 million children who should go to school but do not, 100 million children who go to school but cannot read, and a 250 million national budget with 90% going to pay salaries for teachers who do not attend school–1 in 4 teachers in India do not go to school all year–she was faced with a challenge seemingly beyond her means. But as she states, “we dug our heels in and said ‘we are not in the numbers game.”
She believes, like we do, that if you can focus on one child and take them all the way from start to finish, in Shukla’s case, taking children from their first day of school to the last day of high school or even college, then suddenly the numbers will begin to grow and replication will come on it’s own: Shukla has now opened 6 schools in areas throughout Bangalore and has even opened after school classes for parents.
Learn about RMF supported schools in Madhya Pradesh
With a few weeks still to go the beer and sausage pairing event on Sunday June 27th at Tony’s Darts away is officially at capacity!
Thank you to everyone who bought tickets for the event. With ticket sales priced at $35 we have already raised over $1000 for Real Medicine’s health care initiative in Shinuhayr Armenia.
Funds raised though ticket sales and donations made the night of all go to providing primary best practice medicine and medical services to six villages with a population of over 6.500 people, who would otherwise have nowhere else to go. To find out more, please visit our Healthcare Project, Shinuhayr.
by Allison Glennon, Coordinator of Special Project, RMF Global Management Team
In April 2010, Lisa Suen of Los Angeles, one of our newest LA Marathon marathon runners, contacted me in a rather alarmed state. She and her good friend, Sharon Levy from San Diego, had been planning a humanitarian trip to India for years only to have it fall through at the last minute.
They had their tickets booked and were to depart in a matter of weeks but now, with the formal volunteer tour with a larger organization canceled, they felt abandoned.
Sure, they could go layout on a beach but the whole point of their quest was to do something positive for the local community–they wanted to help but they no longer knew how.
It was pure chance that she had found us through the LA Marathon Charity site in the first place, and after reading our mission she was inspired to run for our cause, but here she was taking another chance. After nearly a year of dialogue spent setting up their first trip with a different organization, organizing a replacement in a few short weeks with Real Medicine, an organization she had only recently met, seemed like a pipe dream.
None the less, she asked–and that was the beginning of one a life changing trip to Madhya Pradesh.
In late May, thanks to the hard work of our dedicated and dynamic team here and abroad, Lisa and Sharon were able to join us in the field where among other acts of generous giving they helped Baby William get back on the road to health after Severe Malnutrition in Devigrah, and celebrated the opening of our newest initiative to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS with a Drop in Center for Female Sex Workers in Meghnagar.
Just recently they have returned and once jet lag subsides more reports of their experiences are expected.
If you or someone you know would like to volunteer with one of our programs abroad, please contact us! We would love to have you.
“Do with a purpose” – is my belief that resonates in my career, travels, running and most of all, helping others. When we are mindful of what we do with good energy put forth, the possibilities are endless. It is with this mind frame that I decided to run the 2010 LA Marathon for charity and once I discovered the core principles of RMF, I felt compelled to bring forth the passion to help. —Lisa Suen, after joining our LA Marathon team