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Out of Africa

Out of Africa
As our caravan makes its way through Murchison Falls National Park, a waterbuck stands careful guard – as if to warn us of the elephant in the foggy distance that has knocked a tree down and into the roadway.

Team Uganda has been back in the States a little less than two weeks now. I’ve sat down several times to write my last entry, but for some reason, the words which flowed so freely while in Uganda, seem to escape me now. Maybe it’s easier to write when you are in the thick of things – images, sounds and smells swirling all around. If I close my eyes, they still there – as vivid as the brightly colored buckets in which mothers scrub their toddlers clean from head to toe. As a team we remain connected – still sharing photos and telling stories via social media. Heck a few of us already gathered for a happy hour, and plans for our picture party are well underway. Maybe not penning this final blog has secretly been my way of hanging on to an experience I’m not ready to let go of.

Every mission is unique. Like nearly half the Team, this was my first mission to Uganda. It was however, my fifth overall with Medical Missions Foundation, having also traveled to Guatemala and Romania. All were amazing, eye-opening, rewarding, energizing and exhausting – all at the same time!!! What I found to be unique about Uganda was all the moving parts and initiatives that comprised this mission. There was so much going on that it was impossible to do it all justice through these blogs.

Here is an overview of Uganda 2019 by the numbers:

  • Volunteers – 45 (23 new to Uganda & 17 new to Medical Missions)
  • Surgeries – 122
  • Medical professionals certified to perform CPR and use AED – 165
  • Clinic & burn patients screened and/or treated – 315+
  • Physicals for retired Sisters of St. Mary Immaculate – 9
  • Blood drive donations by Team Uganda – 18
  • Dance Party hosted for patients in Lacor Burn Unit – 1
  • Equipment donation to Lacor Burn Unit by Dr. Aguayo – 4 (2 Dermatomes & 2 tourniquet machines to assist w/grafts)
  • Nursing staff educated on impact of use of Afripads: 50
  • Hygiene kits with AfriPads distributed – 10
  • Soccer balls distributed – 50
  • Coloring sheets, crayons and stickers – too many to count!

I would be remiss if at this point I didn’t pause to thank the three extremely talented, organized, patient, and, above all, brave, individuals whose leadership made . all of this possible: Pepper Card, Brandon Pomeroy and Mark Shields. Collectively, with the support of the Medical Missions Foundation staff, they oversaw every detail of this 10th anniversary mission. From logistics to paperwork to simply keeping the Team (and all our stuff) all accounted for. There are no words to express what their hard work enabled us to accomplish. I have yet to insert my all-time favorite quote – now seems the perfect time.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

In the end that is who we are and what we are driven to do as volunteers. We don’t just arrive in a community and do for them what they are challenged to do for themselves. We do, but in the process of doing, we teach. It’s that transfer of knowledge and skill that changes lives far beyond those we have personally touched.

It’s the smiles and compassion shared with strangers and meals and laughs shared with new friends, that make the world a little smaller – and hopefully, more kind. We can tally up procedures and donations and feel accomplished, and rightly so. But in a world where over-communicating has led us to be under-connected and too often indifferent, it’s the shared human experience of wiping a tear, kicking a soccer ball or holding a brand new baby that thats changes us all – long after we are out of Africa.

Team Uganda 2019