Giving back

With Rachael holding down the fort at Studio R, I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda with my husband and sister for ten days in December.  We went with Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI for short), based out of Charleston, South Carolina.  If you are not familiar with PMI, you should definitely check out their website, it’s amazing! However, to give you an overview, founded by Matt Alexander and Dr. Ed O’Bryan, PMI exists to provide sustainable, quality healthcare to those in need while increasing accessibility to global medical missions.  Their vision is to see impoverished communities take ownership in a provided sustainable healthcare model so that they may become empowered to bring about long-term change and tangible improvements in quality of life.  For my sister and I, this was unfamiliar territory.  Neither of us are in the medical profession and this was definitely the furthest we have ever traveled from home.  We were reassured by friends and family that this would be life-changing, and that we would find a strong sense of purpose on this journey.  So, we boarded a plane on the 9th of December at 6am with 55 others from all over the United States that would travel to Washington, D.C., Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and lastly Entebbe, Uganda. A five hour bus ride later, we found ourselves checking in at the Masindi Hotel in Masindi, Uganda.  This would be our home for the next several days, and a comfortable place to rest after a long days work.  Our first full day, we visited the Family Spirit Orphanage and spent a few hours playing with the children.  Ben and I bought lots of toys from Oriental Trading company prior to our travels.  I could tell instantly that he would be a hit all week, as the kids loved the different gadgets he seemed to have in his ‘Mary Poppins’ like book bag.  Joe and Bear from NeedToBreathe came on this trip as well, and they entertained the kids that afternoon with a few songs.  The children entertained us, as well and it was as if time stopped for those moments when you would not want to be any where else.  But, the time flew by and it was quite hard to leave knowing the impact they had on our hearts in just those few short hours and that we might not see them again.  With a mix of heavy and happy hearts, we loaded in our vans and traveled to the Masindi Clinic to see the clinics progress.  The In Patient and Out Patient buildings are running at a high-level of sustainability and the Labor and Delivery Ward is under construction.  We met a lot of the staff employed there, and witnessed first- hand their strong hope and undying determination for the continued growth and sustainability of this clinic.  Arriving back at the hotel, we organized the prescriptions for the pharmacy before heading off to dinner and bed for an early first day of clinic the following day.  For the next five days, we would travel sometimes as much as 3.5 hours to create clinics in rural parts of Uganda where there is no easy access to medical care.  Most days, our clinics would be in old school houses and/or a church.  The conditions were rough, the roads were sometimes almost impassable, and the weather was warm, but the all-consuming love you felt from each and every smiling face you encountered every day, left you wanting to help all the more.

I love the post from Lexi, Kris and Lisa on day 3 of clinic!  “Wow! Today was an amazing day for PMI! We turned a dusty, old, dirt floor church into an efficient, well-oiled clinic that shattered a PMI record by seeing 412 patients! Not only did we heal Ugandans medically but touched souls as well. We went to a site, Bweyale, that is located near a Sudanese refugee camp. We were told the need would be really great there…boy, were we not disappointed. While some of the team registered patients, others made benches out of blocks and boards. An entire clinic was set up in a one room church! The registration line was filled with lots of people needing specialized medical care, including a women that could not walk and crawled her way to our clinic and a young girl who’s heart you could visibly see beating out of her chest (she was a former patient of the clinic). We saw over 100 people more than anticipated. It was heartwarming to see the providers praying with their patients and providing spiritual support as well as medical interventions. We can look back and laugh at the duck-duck-goose game with the armed guards and 50+ children, the memories of the smiles of the patients that could finally see after glasses were given, and the joy we felt when a grandmother kneeled in thanks after seeing her granddaughter fitted for shoes. The day ended with cheering and tears as we watched the woman who crawled into the clinic wheel herself away in a wheelchair.”

After 5 very successful clinic days working every where from glasses, to pharmacy, to with my dear friend Reames, a provider, and finally serving as a runner between the providers and the pharmacist, we were able to see over 1600 patients in various parts of Uganda.  A PMI record!  The last full day and night, we traveled to Murchison Falls National Park where we spent one night at a safari lodge and even went on our very own safari!  I have included a few of Lexi’s amazing photos of just a few of the animals we saw on the safari.

This truly was a journey of a life time; waking up only ten days prior to the unknown, and now not being able to imagine my life without this experience.  Flash forward a few weeks later, and I can’t stop looking at the photos as daily reminders of the awesome opportunity to serve others anyway I could.  As my new friend Rachel, from the trip says, “seeing the smiles, the faces of hope and love makes me want to jump on another  22 hour flight and go back. Until next time Uganda- I will be thinking of you with the fondest memories and a yearning heart.”  Enjoy the photos!

all photos courtesy of the amazing talented Lexi Ferra