|Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital|
Since 2007, I have been travelling with a group based out of South Carolina (Mission of Hope) back to Samoa for two weeks every summer. Our team – which pulls members from across the United States – sets up rural clinics in villages far from the national hospital. Sometimes, we are the first medical staff a patient has seen. In the two weeks we spend in Samoa and American Samoa, we hold between 5 and 6 clinics and see between 1000 and 2000 patients. Our team leaders estimate that since the team started holding clinics in 1997, Medical Missions Samoa has seen 5-10% of the Samoan population.
|South coast of Upolu, post tsunami|
In October of 2009, a major tsunami hit Samoa and American Samoa, which is a territory of the US. The tsunami killed hundreds of people and destroyed a number of villages along the south coast of the main island, Upolu, which is shown in the photo to the right. In some villages, everything was destroyed and villages had to resettle. To Samoans, this is devastating as their culture is tied to their family bond with their land.
In 2010, we focused our clinics on villages that had been affected by the tsunami, which was heart wrenching. My sister asked one child to get his parents so she could give him his prescription and he responded that both had been killed in the tsunami. A grandmother in our prayer room wept that she had lost all of her grandchildren to the wave. In the village where this photo was taken, there were no toddlers. This village was built on the beach, between the water, and a rock wall which went straight up about 40 feet. When the tsunami hit, the school children were safe on top of the plateau, but the younger children were trapped between the wall and the water. Few survived.
This year, my medical school has given me permission to return to Samoa with Mission of Hope. We’ll be in Samoa from July 23- August 6th, although I’ll be there for an additional two weeks, working in the national hospital.
Our team sets up medical clinics, hosts a 1 day VBS program for children and ensures that everyone who presents to our clinic has a chance to go through our prayer room – even those who do not see a doctor.
|A house call for a young boy with cerebral palsy.|
Medically, we see everything from tropical diseases to non healing wounds to congenital defects to cancers to chronic illnesses, like diabetes, hypertension and gout. (I’ve seen blood sugars of 673 from people with no complaints and blood pressures of 212/180 from grandmothers who say nothing is wrong.)
A short blurb about the group itself: Mission of Hope is based out of South Carolina and is run by an American Samoan pastor and his Mexican American Wife (Pele and Eva); every year they run Medical Missions Samoa. They’re wonderful people and the focus of this mission is to empower local churches to touch a difficult to reach population. 90% of Samoans consider themselves Christians, but very few are actually evangelical Christians. Our team works with local evangelical churches and our medical clinics open the door for dialogue with local pastors and churches. Because we work extensively with churches on the ground, our team truly functions as “bait” to allow the local churches to reach out to their brothers. This is one short term mission trip that truly exists to support local missionaries on the ground. In addition, we communicate with the National Health Department to pass on information about the health status of the villages we visit to try to ensure ongoing healthcare for the patients we see.
If you’re interested in joining us this year, please let me know. We can use people from all walks of life – our team is made up of healthcare professionals, ministers, youth workers, musicians, computer specialists, political campaigners, high school and college students, accountants and anyone who is willing to join in a team effort to bring physical and spiritual health to the Samoan people.