Many photos from the Congo Canoe Challenge 2015 trip are available on HandUp Congo’s Facebook page.
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Doctors united in ‘being a gift to the world’ at Rotary-sponsored medical training with visiting physicians from Australia. The training was conducted in September in Bolenge, Equateur province. L to R: Dr Yoursen Bosolo, medical coordinator of 6 general hospitals, 9 maternity centers and 42 functioning health centers under the auspices of Disciples of Christ Community in Congo (a HandUp Congo partner), Dr Vera Sistenich, Dr PepyMowengo (medical director of Bolenge hospital), Dr Pepe Banza (interpreter and family medicine physician at Tshikaji hospital) and Dr Grace Maano. Dr Bosolo is currently enrolled in an intensive 3-month English course in Nairobi. “I must be able to communicate with our English-speaking supporters and donors,” he says.
Letter from Dr Bosolo,
Dear Madam Lucy,
It is nice to write for you again from Nairobi where I still learning english.
I inform you that I met Dr. Grace [on right in photo] yesterday while she was training Kenyan medical teams about emergency ultrasonographiy,together with others trainers from U,S and Kenya. She introdused me again during the the training and I particited in the training althought I came late after English courses.
We talked about making some projects, and we will surely work when I will go back. We have to keep contact and God willing we could make goods things for people of Congo and to be exactly a gift of world.
I congratulate too much Dr. Grace, she have demonstrated that she is gift of world because ,she have worked hardly fron D.R.C, OUGANDA and KENYA. What wonderful Rotarian!?,I think that as a medical doctor ,it is a good way to work for God. It is like a light during the darkness which people have to follow for getting in the right way.
I went also to the meeting of Rotary club’s Hurl. in Naiorobi, I was welcoming by all members of this club, especialy the president of projet Joseph who are taking care for me every time and I plan to go at the meeting while I will get a free time.
The Main Road Through the Heart of Africa Is the Congo River—For Those Who Dare to Take It
Passengers travel by overloaded freight barges on 1,000-mile journeys that can take months.
Aussie RAWCS HandUp Congo Team
Team Leader: Lucy Hobgood-Brown
Dr Vera Sistenich
Dr Grace Maano
Dates of Travel to Congo:
August 21- Sept. 13, 2015 (24 days)
– 4 venues served (Kimpese, Kinshasa, Bolenge and Lotumbe)
– 2 to 4 days medical training conducted in respective venues
– around 90 medical staff trained on CPR, Airway/Intubation, Fluid Resuscitation, Obstetric Emergencies, Basic ECG and Ultrasound use, Contraceptive Implant insertion
– 300 contraceptive implant distributed, 100 each for Kimpese, Bolenge, Lotumbe with total 159 women actually received implant insertion to date
– various medical equipment donated in each venue (ECG, Ultrasound, Patient monitor, Fetal doppler, Pulse oximeter, Resuscitaire, from RAWCS; CPR mannequins from Dr Grace Maano; Airway heads from Cynthia; Airway packs and other hospital supplies from Hunter Hill Private hospital)
– USBs from Blugibbon containing training materials given to all trainees
– Reading glasses (various donors) and Reading/Sunglasses (Maui Jims from Dr Phil Steiner) were distributed at Bolenge and Lotumbe
– Footballs with pumps, singlets, backpacks from Football Federation Australia distributed in 4 venues
– Cameras and SD cards donated to Mbandaka and Lotumbe
– Laptops and LCD Projector (from Harvey Norman & Institute of Cultural Affairs Australia) donated to Lotumbe.
BIG THANK YOU TO ALL WHO MADE THIS HAPPEN…
you have given a gift to the world and all those who received them know they are now the “Gift to the World”!
Hello from MPH Guesthouse in Kinshasa, our team’s haven and where I used to attend dances in high school with Kevin. MPH stands for “Methodist Presbyterian Hostel” and in the ‘70s served as the boarding school for missionary kids. Today it hosts an eclectic range of visitors, many of them returning (like me) to their roots. Meals are lively, with Congolese guests and others working with/for NGO’s or churches exchanging project updates.
We arrived last night after another hair-raising drive, this time from Kimpese. We got stuck in traffic on the outskirts of Kinshasa. Huge trucks taking goods from the port of Matadi line up outside the city until 9 pm, when they are allowed to enter. The road is narrow, so cars try to go around them and get stuck in the sand. Small boys appear to dig them out or push them out of the way. Shouting, honking, people selling refreshments car-to-car, Congo jazz blaring from little nightclubs…you can imagine the scene. Luckily the driver found a hole in the jam and was able to wend his way out before the big trucks started rolling or else we’d still be stuck! Finally got to MPH about 9 pm, where Holly Anderson (another MK, and interim manager) had tacos waiting for us. After living on rice, fufu and banganju (manioc greens) the last few days, this meal was a mouth-watering change of pace.
My room is full of equipment bags. The team has gotten into a good rhythm; unpacking the ultrasounds and ECG machines, and getting them charged. New CPR mannequins arrived with Grace (our second team doctor) so little plastic faces are peering at me from around the room. There are 8 enthusiastic UPC graduates, now doing their registrar training in Vanga and Tshikaji (UPC’s 2 other work experience hospitals), at MPH for the 2 days of training at UPC. They are thrilled by MPH – to have running water and electricity and wifi is new to them!
We will leave for UPC medical school soon, and have 2 full days of training there. Hopefully Grace and Vera can squeeze in essentials into those 2 days so that we can have Sunday off. Everyone is eager to see the bonobo sanctuary and explore Kinshasa.
Mbote (g’day) from Kimpese. Our team is currently at IME, an ecumenical hospital with about 400 beds, about 220 kms from Kinshasa. We came here because it is one of 3 hospitals where UPC (www.upcongo.org) medical students receive work experience.
Getting here is a bit hair-raising – the road is wild! It’s the busiest one in Congo as it leads to the country’s only port, Matadi. Every vehicle is overloaded both inside and out, teetering along the narrow road with people and goats tied to the roofs along with merchandise. We didn’t take pix of the road, since there were cops and soldiers along the way and we didn’t want to have any kerfuffles (“pay me and I’ll let you go”).
As you can imagine, there are many road accidents so Vera’s emergency medicine training is vital. Most patients don’t survive the journey to the hospital, because such basics as ambulances, paramedics and general knowledge of first aid aren’t available.
Vera had a fantastic first day of training, she told us last night. All the months of planning for this trip were worthwhile for her, based on her trainees’ response. She is blown away by the doctors here, who achieve miracles in spite of the minimal resources they have to work with. Vera’s a natural teacher, so gifted at motivating people to learn and collaborate.
The doctors, including 4 UPC alumni who are registrars, are bright and very capable. None has had emergency services training, though, even basic CPR. So they are loving the hands-on learning, which Vera is exceptionally good at. She has made the training space a safe one, where even the dignified hospital administrator feels comfortable asking questions.
We are dividing the To Do list, with Chris (our other team photographer) cheerfully helping Vera by serving as a resuscitation model. Everyone is practicing their Heimlich techniques, airway clearance, compressions etc on poor Chris!
Meanwhile, Maureen and I wander the hospital grounds taking photos and snippets of life stories. The grounds are big, with lots of trees providing shade for patients’ families who are camping out. (In Congo, patients rely on families to feed, bathe them etc.) There are common bathing and cooking areas, with everyone helping each other. We have enjoyed the happy and collegial ambience, and have asked permission to share the team’s photos one evening. There are plenty of big walls to use as a screen, and we anticipate an enthusiastic response from the hospital community. Imagine mobile patients and their families, plus staff, on the lawn, hooting as they spot familiar faces!
Maureen and I have found a few minutes of connectivity in the hospital’s personnel office, the only place with wifi. This access was made possible by the hospital’s finance director, a dynamo lady who is an alumna of UPC’s business school! You can read all about her in the next issue of UPC NEWS.
Vera and Chris are beavering away in the training room at the moment. Since Maureen and I have colds, we justify having a few minutes to ourselves as we don’t want to spread our cold cooties around the hospital!
The Kimpese guesthouse is a palace compared to Mbandaka and Lotumbe quarters, where we’ll stay before long. There is electricity (and AC) most of the time, and water from 7 am to 7 pm. But the water pressure is terrible, so we fill two big buckets and give ourselves a splash to wash up. We feel quite cosseted by the spectacular mosquito nets over our beds – mine is hot pink, Maureen’s is peach. Chris is bunking with Dr Philippe Lukanu (UPC’s family medicine coordinator) and they have baby blue mosquito nets.
We all eat together in a dining room of what was once a missionary’s house, next to the sleeping rooms. There is the usual Congolese fare – homemade bread and succulent omelettes with chives for breakfast, then for lunch and supper we have rice, manioc root by-products (sticky gray and corn meal ‘rolls’ that we mop up sauce with), lovely fish or chicken in tomato sauce, plantain, and oranges. Sadly we aren’t here at mango or pineapple season. We are eating so well, reminded that most Congolese only have one meal a day.
It’s the end of the dry season, so a bit cooler than usual (whew!) but very humid. I hope the rains hold off til after the canoe portion of our itinerary!
Tomorrow our team member who is another doctor, Grace, arrives. She will do contraceptive implant and ob/gyn training. I’m sure Grace will be just as effective as Vera with her training. It’s wonderful to be part of this team, who are fantastic travelers – flexible and fun and oh, so talented.
Much love to you all and thanks so much for being such great cheerleaders! Check out the HandUp Congo facebook page for pix. We’ll post when connectivity permits.
For more photos go to HandUp Congo’s Facebook page
From CongoTeam Member – Maureen Burdynski
An amazing trip so far travelling with 18 large suitcases of medical equipment which we hauled onto six trolleys at three airports with the help of local porters and then piled into minibuses. Airport check-in staff were really helpful as we rolled up with our trolleys. So it is with much relief that we arrived in Kinshasa with all 18 bags in perfect condition
I’m part of Lucy’s team with medical trainers Dr Vera Sistenich, Dr Grace Maano (still to join us) and Chris Coombes Chris and I are documenting the trip.
Yesterday, our first day in Kinshasa, we visited the UPC Congo Protestant University where we received a wonderful warm welcome from the top academic staff. It is a privilege to be part of this team and experience the deep connections Lucy and her family have with the University and other organisations in the Congo. We attended meetings and learnt about the medical system in the Congo.
A couple of facts standout. Firstly, most of the medical services are provided by church organisations, and secondly, 70% of resources are in the towns which has only 20% of the population. It is difficult to get doctors to work in rural areas, especially remote ones such as where we will be going by canoe at the end of our trip. We toured the hospital and saw the medical clinic that the University provides and also the large building site that will provide much needed new facilities
After the tour we lunched at a restaurant where I was able to have my first taste of Congo river fish – Capitaine – delicious and taste local beer Tembo.
We are staying at MPH guesthouse which is much better than I expected – we still have hot running water, power and even Wifi, as you can see. Meal times are interesting as many people staying here work for NGOs so can hear about their experiences. At breakfast, Glen Chapman talked about his parachute vehicle – a unique way of getting around areas with no roads.
Today we are off to Kimpese, 220 kilometres away, where Vera will provide training in her speciality emergency medicine. The medical department of UPC started in 2006 and the first students graduated last year, one of whom works at Kimpese Hospital. I hope to organise an interview with him.
It is great to see the exchange of ideas and the exploration of future possibilities between Vera and the Medical Department of UPC. Yesterday was a rich day of medical information and exchanges – most of it new for me so my head was reeling by the end!
That was only the first day so now very excited to see what happens in Kimpese…..
With appreciation from HandUp Congo and RAWCS for the following donations including in-kind (as of October 13 2015)
AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANT ~ PLATINUM SUPPORTERS
[The African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is a forest-dwelling species of elephant found in the Congo Basin. It is the smallest of the three extant species of elephant, but also the third-largest living terrestrial animal.]
Blugibbon – Sam Whitaker
Congo Protestant University
DAK Foundation/Rotary Club of Woy Woy
Kevin and Lucy Hobgood-Brown
Institute of Cultural Affairs Australia
OKAPI ~ GOLD SUPPORTERS
[The okapi is a mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of zebras, it is most closely related to the giraffe.]
Cook Medical Australia Pty Ltd
Football Federation Australia and Patterson Family
Hunters Hill Private Hospital
Koala Medical Pty Ltd
BONOBO ~ SILVER SUPPORTERS
[The bonobo is a primate only found in the DRC. The bonobo shares 97% of the same DNA that makes up humans and displays very similar behaviour to humans as far as social interaction and reproduction are concerned.]
Harvey Norman Superstore Wagga
Platinum Dermatology – Dr Jacqueline Matulich
NORTHERN WHITE RHINO ~ DIAMOND SUPPORTERS
[The Northern white rhino is one of the two subspecies of the white rhinoceros. Formerly found in Congo, it is listed as critically endangered. As of July 2015, there are only four rhinos of this subspecies left. They all belong to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic but live in Kenya and San Diego.]
Scott Bobb’s everyday hero fitness challenge (supported by Mary Ann Hurst, Jimmy Shafe, Phil Kliewer, Raoul, Catherine, Rebecca)
Hunters Hill Optical
Hunters Hill Pharmacy
Chris and Barbara Shine
Rotary Club Hunters Hill
Wagga Wagga City Council
Waitara Before and After School Care
Thank you, BLUGIBBON, for donating these colourful USB’s to the Congo Canoe Challenge’s medical trainees in August. The USB’s come complete with invaluable medical resources, and will be distributed by Dr Vera Sistenich and Dr Grace Maano at emergency and family medicine training sessions in Congo. Follow our adventurous medical mission here…you can bet we’ll be having more fun than a barrel of monkeys!