Thursday, June 12, 2008

Just Do It! A Dentist in Tanzania

I've served on 13 Global Volunteer teams in 10 countries since 1997. I recommend if you're considering joining a team....just do it. Global Volunteers will take it from there. Their country managers do an excellent job of setting up the food and housing, and consulting with the village leaders to find out what the needs are for that particular work site. I've always felt "needed" wherever I serve. Global Volunteers fits my needs because of the way they operate. There principles are, they only go where they are invited, and only do what the local people ask them to do. It is always with a team, the accommodations are comfortable for each project site, and the people are wonderful.

Once on site, a workshop, led by the country manager, is done to discover the unique characteristics of each team, and the unique skills of each team member to match the village needs. There always are options for work projects. In Pommern, where Global Volunteers has worked for over 20 years, and I have been 3 times, the team members have a choice of teaching English, doing light building and maintenance work, or working in health care.

Since there's no dentist for over 20 miles from the village, I've been using my skills to set up a dental facility. Some patients I see have had toothaches for as long as 6 years, and they walk or bike over 4 hours to be seen. The dental facility is currently able to extract, clean, and teach preventive oral hygiene. I am returning two more times this year so that basic fillings can also be done. There are over 1,300 students in the primary and secondary schools who are being taught proper preventive oral hygiene. Each one is given a toothbrush and toothpaste. They're also taught to use salt water once the toothpaste is gone. I'll return in August with restorative materials and will be then be able to do basic fillings along with the oral surgery, oral hygiene, and preventive care. And, a very nice dentist in Iringa has agreed to do root canals and restorations so people don't have to walk around with teeth missing.
According to the UN Human Development Index, there are four worlds, and all of Africa is in the fourth world. So what a better place to began, where the greatest need is. Or one can begin in any one of the "Four worlds". The key is, to begin. And that can be with any skills you have. My late wife Virginia and I took our two oldest grandchildren to Poland and Italy to teach English with Global Volunteers. With her passing away in February, I am carrying on the vision we both had and loved. In June, I am taking my third oldest grandson to Poland to teach English. When I return in August, a freshman dental student will be on the team. He'll make a great assistant and experience life and living in the "fourth world."

So the bottom line is, to name the three most important issues in the world. These can be either local or global. And use that as a starting point, and do something about it. This I know: Any skill a team member brings is always appreciated and used around the world. Volunteering with Global Volunteers is a wonderful experience one never forgets (and doesn't stop doing!).
Lewis Pierce, happy Global Volunteer

Monday, June 09, 2008

Update from the Cook Islands

This year's program started with a full team of 16 eager volunteers ready to head off into their service program on the first day of school. In the Cook Islands, sometimes schools take a little longer than schools in other countries to get started, so we had to redirect our energetic volunteers to other projects until the classes were ready for them!

Some of that energy was transferred into repainting the Cook Islands Library and Museum’s office. What a job! The office had not been painted since 1968 so – you can imagine! What with the heat, humidity and the ‘wild life’ of the tropics there were a few interesting cultural experiences had by the fabulous five who took on the challenge. Jean Mason the curator of the library says she is so thrilled with the end result; it is now a pleasant place to work.

We have also undertaken an exciting venture– the Virtues Project; a school-based program in partnership with Takitumu School. Its goal is the promotion of peace throughout the world...How appropriate a partner for Global Volunteers! Takitumu School is also one of the schools where we have supported a literacy program for many years, and is assisted by Global Volunteers’ Classroom Sponsorship Program.

In the Virtues Project, the school decided on three ‘virtues’ (excellence, unity and humility) that they would like to focus on. A large mural was designed by a volunteer from Vaka 96 to depict these ideas. Painting was all go with four volunteer helpers, and within a week or two the mural was ready for an unveiling. A special ceremony was held at the school with the media turning up for the occasion. If you look closely you will see a “96” on the vaka (canoe) just to ensure that everyone knows which team of Global Volunteers supported this project!

Of course, literacy remains the focus of the Cook Islands program. Volunteers have continued to support a number of primary and secondary schools with their reading programmes. One school is hoping that we will be able to expand into some numeracy (mathematics) support in the future, once they have designed exactly what support they need.

An upcoming project is assistance with the upgrading of our hospital. There is so much work to be done up there. The first stage is to make the children’s ward a place to get better! Plans include a new roof, walls to be ripped out, painting, wiring and plumbing repairs, an office for the charge nurses and installation of ceiling fans. Is anyone willing to come and help? The ANZ bank staff has fundraised to get this started – we just need some ready, willing and able volunteers and we are full steam ahead.
Of course, teams have had loads of fun together in their free time. Mama Here taught some volunteers to make beautiful ei’s. And of course we’ve learned all sorts of things about coconuts! It is amazing just what you can do with a coconut. We have learned to dance (well sort of anyway!), speak a few words of Maori and of course snorkeled, smelled beautiful flowers, and met beautiful people.

Thank you (Meitaki maata), to each and every person who has come, or intends to come, to the Cook Islands for their adventure in service. You are needed, and we have plenty of work for you to do if you decide to come again. I look forward to it. For those of you who are unable to return this year, please help out through the child sponsorship program. We appreciate all you do!

Kia manuia, Debi Futter-Puati
Cook Islands Country Manager

Thursday, June 05, 2008

So Small, But Such Big Hearts!

Chennai, India Today was a great day at Assisi Illam. I discovered that one of the children, Isaac, is incredibly ticklish. He loves when I pick him up and throw him over my shoulder or hang him upside down with one arm and tickle him with the other.

Of course, once I did this one time, he was permanently attached to my hip for the rest of the day. He would say “Auntie! Auntie!” and act out a tickling motion until I grabbed him up again. I didn’t mind one bit, even though today was one of the hottest days we’ve had yet!

The other children saw what was going on and wanted their turns as well. I’m sure I’ve grown some new muscles in my arms just from today! They laughed so much that we were hushed by one of the nuns. I’m so glad that I can bring them so much joy.
Tonight, we were lucky enough to meet some of Stephen’s family. his parents, his brother’s wife, her mother and his brother’s new baby boy. They were such nice people. It is amazing to see just how similar people basically are, despite whatever differences in their countries. Next week, Stephen and his wife Sheeba will be moving into the guest house with us. She is going to teach Chantal and I how to make Poori bread, which should be great!

Sarah - India volunteer

Please read today's post from India above, and view an amazing new slide show!