My exciting news is that at my brother's wedding on July 28th I met a special someone. Her name is Stephanie and after being too afraid to get her number after the wedding I took the sneaky route and got it the next day from her cousin - Ha! (who happens to be my new sister-in-law - Alicia). We stayed in touch after I returned to Wisconsin and I couldn't shake the feeling that despite her residing on the west coast and me in Wisconsin this was someone I could not pass on getting to know. I just had this gut feeling...
So, after a couple of weeks of talking over the phone, I swallowed my fear and asked her what she thought of me flying out to visit her!
And, fortunately, she thought it was a great idea! (or I reckon I wouldn't be telling you this story would I:) Our time together that visit was incredible and as evidenced by her coming to visit me in Milwaukee this past weekend things have continued to go well!
(Stephanie and me on a bike ride on a beautiful summer day in Portland!)
(Stephanie at a recent friend's wedding; what a nice smile!)
The most recent exciting news is that Stephanie - you might want to take a seat for this one - will be joining me in East Timor for the entire 6 months to volunteer at the clinic... (!) I know, it seems crazy. I meet a nice person, hit it off, and then invite them to work with me in a developing country full of tuberculosis and unsafe drinking water.
BUT, in defense of my sanity, I knew Stephanie was searching for a service-learning type adventure and was also in a position career-wise to take a chunk of time to make that dream a reality. You also just have to meet her, Stephanie is a real go-getter and well-traveled herself. The more I thought about the idea the less crazy it seemed. So, I asked her. I was on a labor and delivery night shift at the time and couldn't wait to ask so on a slow moment I sent her an email laying out my idea. Her response was:
Which, I took as an affirmative:)
We are both extremely excited for this opportunity and have been busy preparing for the experience. Which leads me to my next topic...
For those that might have missed a previous entry East Timor (or Timor-Leste as it is called by those who live there) is one of the world's newest nations, gaining independence in 2002 after 3 years of bloody conflict with indonesia that followed a 25 year annexation. By the time the indonesian military departed, the country was in ruins and most of the health infrastructure and other public institutions were destroyed. It was into this gap that Dr. Daniel Murphy and the clinic he founded - Bairo Pite Clinic - stepped in to make a difference. However, the going has not been easy.
Tuberculosis, malaria, and dengue are all common maladies. Home births without access to a health provider have lead to high maternal mortality. One out of every 270 pregnant women in East Timor dies during or shortly after their pregnancy; this is 47 times the rate of nearby Australia and trails only Afghanistan, Nepal, and Laos for the highest maternal mortality in all of Asia (1).
The Bairo Pite Clinic, located in the country's largest city Dili, sees an incredible number of patients each day (539 per day in 2009) and provides a wide range of services from tuberculosis and HIV testing and treatment to maternity care. They do all of their work on roughly $17,000 per month or $570 dollars per day!
(Patients waiting to be seen at the clinic - photo from BPC website)
For more details on the clinic and incredible work they do please see the clinic's website at the following link:
My role working at Bairo Pite will be two-fold. First, I will spend time caring for patients in the out-patient clinic, in-patient ward, maternity ward, small emergency room, as well as mobile clinics to out-lying communities. My second role will be to assist the Maternal Child Health Program (MCHP) of the clinic which is training women from outlying communities to be skilled birth attendants with the goal of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality.
Stephanie will also be working to care for patients at the clinic and specifically with patient's needing rehabilitation. In addition, she is a certified yoga instructor and the head of the clinic has suggested she teach the staff yoga! We have been informed many of the staff are trying to learn English and this is another potential area where she is excited to contribute.
In preparing for this experience I looked into bringing medications and equipment but kept running into issues. Procuring medications and/or supplies is not simple. Aligning what people are willing to donate with what the clinic actually needs can be troublesome. Transporting large quantities of medications and supplies across country lines can result in substantial tariffs, etc. In the end I have decided to focus my efforts generating funds and plan to let the staff at the clinic put them to use where they are most needed. I succeeded in obtaining one fellowship to support my work with the Maternal Child Health Program and will be using those funds as well some of my own. I am also taking over funds from a Madison, WI based group that are long time supporters of the clinic.
And, I want to know if you would like to contribute to the clinic's work.
I know these are hard times but if you feel this is a place and cause you would like to support I promise to keep you up to date with how your funds impact the clinic and the MCHP.
I will be at my present address (2) until mid-December if you would like to donate by check. The BPC website has a donation link but I have been told the best way to maximize funds getting to the clinic is to bring them directly and/or create an account with a local bank in Timor-Leste and then do a one time transfer of funds (which can then be pulled out without losing money to ATM charges). This is why the Madison group is having me bring their donation. If you cannot or prefer not to support by check but would like to contribute I have a Paypal account we could us, just let me know. While I cannot give you 501c3 status to get a tax refund I can promise to closely update you on how your generosity is making a difference in the lives of real people.
Thank you for reading and your consideration of supporting the people of Timor-Leste.
And as always I would love to hear how you are and what you are up to!
Michael and Stephanie
1. World Health Organization (WHO) website, authors WHO Country Facts
http://www.who.int/countries/en/ [Accessed 1/14/12]
2. my address:
3011 S. 56th St. APT 7
Milwaukee, WI 53219
2. my address:
3011 S. 56th St. APT 7
Milwaukee, WI 53219