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HOPE works in more than 35 countires worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.

Project HOPE Volunteer Surgical Team Arrives in Pnom Penh

Posted By Faye Pyles, NP, Project HOPE volunteer on July 11, 2014

Labels: Cambodia , Humanitarian Aid, Alumni, Volunteers

Project HOPE volunteers arrive in Pnom Penh

Project HOPE volunteers from all over the United States arrived in Pnom Penh, Cambodia today to start what should be an exciting and rewarding mission.  The team is comprised of volunteers with a great depth of surgical experience and expertise.

Our orthopedic surgeon is experienced Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Paul Reiss from Seattle.  Our anesthesia team is comprised of very experienced nurse anesthetist, Judy Crowley, from Texas and Dr. Rachel Brown, from Tennessee, who is new to HOPE but experienced in health care in austere settings.  Our two OR nurses are Dakota Wheeler, from Florida, with a wealth of experience in the surgical arena as well as a previous HOPE volunteer and Amy Brunk, from Kansas, a new volunteer but an experienced operating room nurse.

HOPE volunteer Dr. Paul Reiss trains surgeons in Pnom Penh

As you can surmise we have brought a wealth of experience and talent from all over the U.S.  Despite the thirty hours of travel, we disembarked enthusiastically, ready to be part of the HOPE team.

Our energetic group of volunteers decided to take the afternoon to acquaint themselves with part of the history that has shaped the Cambodia we encounter today.  We visited the memorials for the victims of the Khmer Rouge Regime. The visit to Choeung Ek Memorial (the Killing Fields) and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum set a somber tone for our first day.  To a person, however, the team found this an appropriate start to our sojourn in this beautiful country.

Participants in Pacific Partnership's surgical training in Pnom Penh pose for a group photo

The next day, which is historically the rest day for team members having crossed multiple time zones, several members of the team took a somewhat arduous one-day excursion trip to the historic temples of Angkor Wat.   This visit put into perspective the long and significant history of this country.   Cambodia is a nation of resilience, which has been shaped by a long and amazing history of grandeur and tragedy.  Sometimes playing the tourist is an essential component of understanding the countries in which we work.

Our orthopedics team work starts today with a cardiology symposium this morning and an orientation to the surgical areas this afternoon. This is an exciting day for our group. Coming from half a world away to exchange experiences and knowledge with our peers in Cambodia, we are all anxious to get started.  The cases reviewed this afternoon and in the morning will set the tone for the next four surgical days.  This will be a brief but exciting time for all involved.


Nursing Students Offer Support in Dominican Republic

Posted By Volunteer Deanna Pilkenton, CNM, MSN, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing on July 2, 2014

Labels: Dominican Republic , Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Care Education, Volunteers

Deanna Pilkenton, CNM, MSN, an Instructor of Nurse Midwifery at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing  in Nashville, TN took two nursing students to volunteer in two women's and children's health clinics supported by Project HOPE in Herrera and Monte Plata, Dominican Republic.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing Students Help in Dominican Republic

It was my first time as a Vanderbilt University School of Nursing faculty member leading a group of student volunteers in the Dominican Republic with Project HOPE. What a fantastic first experience! Two nurse-midwifery students, Anna Calhoun and Emily Seimer, and I recently spent ten days in the DR with the fabulous Teresa Narvaez, Project HOPE's Country Director in the DR, as our on-the-ground expert chaperon.

We spent the majority of the time working at the urban Herrera Clinic. We participated in prenatal and postpartum care, home visits and community education.  The clinic staff and medical providers were welcoming and generous with their time and expertise. The patients and community members of Herrera were fabulous — allowing us to ask questions, observe andexperience a bit of their culture. Getting to know the people of the Herrera community, participating in home visits and observing clinic operations were definite highlights of the trip.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing Students Help in Dominican Republic

In addition to our experience in Herrera, Teresa also arranged several other valuable experiences for us. We toured the Monte Plata Clinic in the rural town of the same name. We were able to see first-hand construction of the new clinic in Haina, just outside the capital city of Santo Domingo.  And we were able to attend the National Vaccination Week inaugural event at a local school in Santo Domingo, where many prominent Ministry of Health representatives spoke and where we were able to meet the Minister of Health himself, Wilfredo Hidalgo!

Our Project HOPE volunteer stint was a great experience for all of us, students and teacher alike.  Our objectives were to participate in outpatient clinical work and have a valuable cultural exchange. Teresa and Matt, the Project HOPE staff and the beautiful people of the Herrera community made this an overwhelming success. We look forward to returning next year!

Learn more about the Project HOPE supported clinics in the Dominican Republic.

Help stock the third clinic now!


Assessing Medical Needs of Flood Victims in Bosnia

Posted By Dr. Dalibor Tasevski, Senior Medical Advisor for Project HOPE on May 29, 2014

Labels: Bosnia and Herzegovina , Disaster-Relief, Humanitarian Aid

Flooding in Odjak, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Project HOPE field team traveled to northern Bosnia to assess needs for medicines and supplies following Cyclone “Tamara,” which brought the heaviest rainfall in 120 years of recorded weather measurements to the area from May 14-16, 2014.  From our previous visit to Doboj, we thought we knew what to expect. We assumed we would see piles of destroyed homes, trees and trash on the side of the road, people working hard to clean and disinfect and a community working together to rebuild.

What we saw upon arrival to Odjak and Orashje, however, was even more hopeless.  The towns are still under water and completely deserted.  The water is still high enough that waders are necessary to walk around.  The smell is unbearable, consisting of rotten fish, dead animals and contamination. Odjak, which had a population of about 21,000 people, now has about 10 guys working to clear out the water.  It’s a ghost town.  To add to the devastation, the heat of the weather is attracting mosquitoes and other bugs that will bring diseases and infections.  Not only are the homes and buildings ruined, but so is the land.

Project HOPE's Country Director for Bosnia and Herzegovina Sejdefa Catic Basic observes the flooding in Orashje

Orashje, a town with a population of about 20,000 people, is also still under water.  Here, we saw about 30 people actively trying to clear the water and take back their homes.  We were able to reach a part of the city where the water had been removed. This is where the hospital is.  We went inside to meet with the canton’s Minister of Health, Dr. Blaz Zuparic and the director of the hospital, Dr. Ruzica Vukic.  Since this canton is the most heavily affected area, this meeting was designed to connect Project HOPE with the proper officials so that we could gather information on the current situation, what is needed in terms of medicines and medical supplies, what would be needed in the future for programs or volunteers and any other way Project HOPE could help the canton and the hospitals.

The Project HOPE field team meets with officials in Orashje, Bosnia

After the meeting, the field team left with a good understanding of what is needed and a better realization of the devastation of the flooding.  The director emphasized the need for aid from psychiatrists to address the mental health trauma caused by the devastating flooding.

Over the coming days and weeks, I will be working closely with our staff in the United States to coordinate a first air shipment from Project HOPE’s distribution center in Winchester, Virginia to the region carrying the donated medicines and supplies that were requested.  Project HOPE’s field team is also working to identify specific needs for medical volunteers in the affected region.


Sawubona! Greetings from the HOPE Centre in South Africa

Posted By Dinesh Pethiyagoda, Richard T. Clark Fellow, Merck & Co. on May 23, 2014

Labels: Africa , South Africa , Chronic Disease, Alumni, Volunteers

Informal settlements of Soweto, South Africa

Dinesh Pethiyagoda is an employee of Merck & Co. in Upper Gwynedd, PA in its Global Marketing Communications for diabetes franchise.  As a Richard T. Clark Fellow for World Health, he and Gary Zelko, Merck’s Director and Publisher of the Merck Publishing Group spent three months in the fall of 2013 visiting Project HOPE’s program sites in Africa.  The purpose of their fellowships was to develop new promotional materials for Project HOPE’s work in Africa to aid in attracting new sources of funding for our work in this region.

In South Africa, we first visited the informal settlements of Soweto on Sunday.  Although I’ve seen several slums all over the world, this was the first time I had the opportunity to walk through and observe the poor living conditions. There was a strong stench of sewage as we weaved through the so called “match box houses;” dirty water was running all over. The structures were built from most people’s garbage: cardboard boxes, old mattress springs, sheet metal, cardboard signs etc. We were taken into the guide’s home, which was very depressing. It was approximately a 12X12 foot room that was shared by 8 people (2 elderly, 1 man and 5 women). There were some communal toilets located outside and shared by the entire community. When asked about safety for tourists, the guide mentioned there has not been one incident. He said it was very safe for foreigners to walk through because the community had “Ubuntu,” which roughly translates to human kindness.

Project HOPE staff at the HOPE Centre, Zandspruit, South Africa

The next day we visited HOPE Centre located in a poverty-stricken township called Zandspruit, outside Johannesburg. The clinic was in the Emthonjeni Community Center, which interestingly enough has been visited by Michelle Obama, her daughters and mother. There were some very nice pictures of Mrs. Obama reading a story to young children. This community center has primary school classrooms (situated in donated shipping containers), a bakery running with solar ovens, a recycling program where people were provided with clothes and food if they recycled and a vegetable garden project.

Project HOPE, in partnership with Eli Lilly and the South African government has initiated a five-year program called the HOPE Centre.  Established in 2012 and already treating over 1000 patients, the HOPE Centre offers a multi-tiered approach to treating diseases including diabetes, HIV/AIDS and hypertension.

Children at the HOPE Centre, Zandspruit, South Africa

The clinic has unique features including a patient appointment system, patient satisfaction surveys, patient education in the form of medication identification, advice on diet and lifestyle changes and a peer support program. In browsing through the educational materials and watching the diabetes educators provide counseling to patients, I was very impressed. They had an especially interesting educational brochure that was in the form of a comic book.

With a shift in disease burden from infectious diseases such as HIV and TB to chronic diseases, many of the new urban poor were now encountering a “double burden” of disease. Many people were presenting at clinics and hospitals with complications from diseases that if detected earlier and managed better could have been prevented.

A man blinded by diabetes receives care through the HOPE Centre in Zandspruit, South Africa

We observed the community outreach that Project HOPE was doing - visiting homes of those in the community, providing education and encouraging them to be tested for diabetes and hypertension at the nearby clinic. One of the especially touching moments for me was visiting the home of a patient who had gone blind due to diabetes and was now under the care of HOPE Centre personnel, who would visit to check up on him and provide for his medications.  It was interesting to see how he was able to distinguish between the many medications he had just by feeling the packaging and determining which pocket or drawer he stored it in.


Volunteers Teach Nursing and Help Elderly in Wuhan, China

Posted By Sharon Redding, RN, PhD, Project HOPE volunteer nurse educator at Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing on May 19, 2014

Labels: China , Alumni, Health Care Education, Volunteers

Volunteers Sharon Redding, PhD and Linda Rice, RN in Wuhan, China

Sharon Redding, RN, PhD is a Certified Nurse Educator from Omaha, NE who has volunteered with Project HOPE since the 1970’s.  Linda Rice, RN, MS is a nurse and nurse educator from Phoenix, AZ.  Both are volunteering as nurse educators from February to July, 2014 at the Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing in Wuhan, China.

Linda Rice and I are responsible for teaching the Health Assessment course for the second-year international nursing students.  As part of that course, the students have some of their clinical activities at a nursing home in Wuhan. 

Conditions at this nursing home are very bleak.  Community care for the elderly is not a common practice in China.  The elderly usually live with their children and are cared for by them.  In cases where there are no family members, these community nursing homes are available on a limited basis.

Volunteer Linda Rice, RN with a 96-year-old nursing home resident in Wuhan, China

There are no health care providers at this nursing home - only attendants who assist the elderly.  They provide very limited physical care and make sure the residents are fed.  The elderly who can walk live on the lower floors of the building, which has no elevators.  Those who cannot walk are limited to their rooms on the upper two floors of this four-story story structure.  The building is not heated, but some space heaters are available. 

The rate of burns among the elderly is high in China, due to the use of space heaters.  Most residents have a bed, perhaps a chair, and a small cupboard for their personal items.  A year ago, after the nursing students started their clinical activities at this nursing home, they decided that they needed to do more for these residents. 

They started doing exercise with the elderly residents, talking with them, doing foot care (washing feet, trimming toenails, assessing for sores/pressure areas), doing neck and shoulder massages, playing games, and doing paper-folding with the residents.  They even organized a talent show, which they presented to the residents.  The nursing students go to the nursing home every Sunday afternoon and wear a uniform of red baseball caps and display a banner they have had printed.

Nursing student volunteers with their banner and uniforms for service at the nursing home

I am a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society (STTI), Gamma Pi-At Large Chapter in Omaha NE.  Our chapter provides grant funding for members who want to promote service-learning activities.  I applied for a grant of $350 for the Wuhan nursing home, and it was accepted.  I am presenting these funds to the student group this afternoon.  They plan to use the money to purchase rubber balls and rubber bands for exercise programs at the nursing home, personal care items and socks for some of the residents.  The funds will also pay to have some of the residents' wheelchairs and walkers repaired and will provide afternoon refreshments at a musical program in May.  I am also planning to help Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing set up their own chapter of STTI, and this service-learning project will be one example of the type of activity that the Wuhan chapter could consider supporting in the future.

This is a good example of the influence Project HOPE has beyond providing education and direct care.  Linda Rice and I have accompanied students to this clinical site and shared in clinical and service-learning activities with students who are volunteering.  It's quite a special experience.


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