Real Medicine Foundation Stories of RMF Involvement Around the World 2017-03-09T16:44:32-08:00 Stories of Women Impacting Change 2017-03-09T16:44:32-08:00 2017-03-09T16:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/58bf7570a0b5dd4be9054324/Screen_Shot_2016_06_30_at_11_17_44_PM.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"><br /> <br /></p> <h4>From Poor Housewife to Accomplished Government Health Supervisor</h4> <h5>Liberating Human Potential</h5> <p><strong>Rekah Mawi</strong> is a resident of the Barwani Tribal district of Madhya Pradesh, India. At an early age, she married a daily wage earner named Anil. Rekha soon realized that her husband was an alcoholic, and his meager daily income coupled with his frequent, compulsive spending on alcohol was not enough to support the family. Rekha was specially concerned for the welfare of their two children. On April 1, 2010, Rekha met with Radha Chouhan, the District Coordinator of <span class="caps">RMF</span> India’s Barwani office. Rekha shared her plight with Radha, who recommended her case to RMF’s district management team. With management’s approval, Rekha was hired as a cook for RMF’s Barwani office. During her days as a cook, <span class="caps">RMF</span> project management learned that Rekha had studied up to the 12th standard, and noticed that she possessed strong interpersonal and communication skills. With these qualifications, <strong>Rekha was capable of serving as a Community Nutrition Educator (<span class="caps">CNE</span>)</strong>. Subsequently, Rekha was given the new role of <span class="caps">CNE</span>, to <strong>promote health and nutrition in 10 villages in the district of Barwani</strong>. She received the required counselling training from <span class="caps">RMF</span>, and started conducting home visits to screen children for malnutrition status and connecting households with service provision centers such as Anganwadi centers and/or Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers. Rekha soon started to recognize her own abilities, and so did RMF’s district team management. <strong>In addition to individual and community counseling, Rekha also referred several children to seek lifesaving treatment at NRCs</strong>.<br /> <br /></p> <h5>Fostering Change</h5> <p>The local community, including government workers on the frontline, also began to recognize Rekha’s contributions in fostering behavior change and improving the health of mothers and children. By that time, Rekha had become more confident in her abilities, and was very competent in community-centered communication and helping local people value and access available government services. In Feburary 2013, local government appointed Rekha to serve as an <span class="caps">ASHA</span> (Auxiliary Social Health Activist) in Rajghat (one of the villages where she worked as an <span class="caps">RMF</span> <span class="caps">CNE</span>). She showed great commitment and passion in her new role. <em>As they say, fortune follows those who chase their dreams</em>. In May 2015, based on her progressively more remarkable performance, the Department of Health promoted Rekha as an <span class="caps">ASHA</span> supervisor in the same catchment where she served as an <span class="caps">ASHA</span> worker. <strong>Today Rekha stands as a courageous, committed <span class="caps">ASHA</span> supervisor helping women and children live healthy lives</strong>. For the year 2015-2016, the state government of Madhya Pradesh awarded Rekha the “Best Cadre Award” for exemplary performance. <br /> <br /></p> <p><img src="/assets/58bf7537d4c96156fd05286a/Screen_Shot_2016_06_30_at_11_17_58_PM.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"><br /> <br /> <br /></p> <h5>Empowering Dreams</h5> <p>Today, Rekha acknowledges the difference <span class="caps">RMF</span> India made in her life by <em>helping empower her to accomplish her dreams</em>. Rekha states candidly and confidently, <strong>“RMF has helped change my life for a better.”</strong> <span class="caps">RMF</span> India takes this opportunity to wish her the very best for all her future endeavors.</p> <p><a href="">View this story and original report</a><br /> <br /></p> <p><img src="/assets/58bf7534edb2f34213053cbc/Anmol_case_study.jpg" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"><br /> <br /></p> <h4>Timely Counseling Leads to Child’s Recovery</h4> <h5>8-Month-Old Baby Girl, Anmol</h5> <p>Bajjta is a small, tribal area with a population of 1,535, situated in the Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh. Locals participate in agriculture or daily labor to earn their livelihood. Some residents also travel from their village in search of employment and return home after an interval of three to six months.</p> <p>This story is from Bhilat Baidi, a hamlet in the village of Bajjta Khurd. This is where an 8-month-old baby girl named Anmol lives with her family, including her grandfather, grandmother, mother (23-year-old Sulochna), and her father (25-year-old Mukesh). Anmol’s father works in agriculture, overseeing his agricultural produce.</p> <p>On April 15, 2016, an <span class="caps">RMF</span> Community Nutrition Educator (<span class="caps">CNE</span>) visited the village hamlet of Bhilat Baidi. <strong>Our <span class="caps">CNE</span> stopped at Anmol’s house and found her to be extremely weak</strong>. She took the child’s <span class="caps">MUAC</span> measurement and found it to be at 11.7 cm. This indicated that <strong>Anmol needed to be treated for Moderate Acute Malnutrition (<span class="caps">MAM</span>)</strong>. Therefore, the <span class="caps">CNE</span> started inquiring about the child’s history.</p> <p><img src="/assets/58bf7534a0b5dd4be90542f9/DSC01323.jpg" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"><br /> <br /></p> <p>Anmol’s parents informed the <span class="caps">CNE</span> that the child was delivered at home. After her birth, Anmol was neither breastfed on time, nor given regular and appropriate breastfeeding. This was because the elders of Anmol’s family believed that the initial milk of her mother was not good for her and breastfeeding should be started a day after the birth and supplemented with cow’s milk and other food that could be provided. As far as routine immunization was concerned, Anmol received a <span class="caps">BCG</span> vaccination, but because she cried for the whole day, her parents did not pursue further vaccinations.</p> <p>There were several other traditional myths and misconceptions that the family believed, which had made the small child suffer. <strong>Lack of proper education and awareness in the family had caused the baby’s Moderate Acute Malnutrition</strong>. Our <span class="caps">CNE</span> began her counseling session with Anmol’s parents, which included:</p> <ul> <li>Referring the family to seek Anganwadi services and get registered there</li> <li>Initiation of complementary feeding with periodic intervals</li> <li>Continuation of breastfeeding up to the age of 24 months</li> <li>Explaining the importance and process of administering all doses of vaccination to the child</li> </ul> <p>The CNE’s counseling also emphasized that the utensils used for the child should be separate from other members of the family, which would help Anmol’s mother to know quantity of food the child had been consuming. She also emphasized that the mother must sanitize her hands properly before cooking and at the time of feeding her child.</p> <p><strong>Our CNE’s counseling changed how the family conducted itself with respect to the child. This change was able to eliminate crucial problems of malnutrition that Anmol was suffering from.</strong></p> <p>On May 12, 2016, when our <span class="caps">CNE</span> again approached the Anmol’s parents and measured the young girl’s arm with the <span class="caps">MUAC</span> tape, she found an improved <span class="caps">MUAC</span> measurement: 12.9 cm, as compared to the previous measurement of 11.7 cm. Anmol’s parents and the entire family thanked our <span class="caps">CNE</span> for her commendable contribution towards <strong>educating and counseling them and improving the nutritional health of the baby</strong>. Anmol’s mother was of the opinion that if she had received such knowledge and education before and on time, her child would never have had to face such a painful trail. She further promised, with great determination, that she will convey this message to every woman in her village and try to make them understand this knowledge and help the community become healthy.</p> <p><a href="">View this story and original report.</a><br /> <br /></p> <p><img src="/assets/58bf7534edb2f3421c006c62/gram_sabha_women.jpg" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"><br /> <br /> <br /></p> <h4>Empowering Women to Pursue Safe Water</h4> <h5>Community Nutrition Educator (<span class="caps">CNE</span>), Salita Dawar</h5> <p>The story is from a village called Badgaon, which is situated in the Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh. It is a highly tribal village with a population of 4,114 inhabitants. The literacy rate is minimal, and residents’ livelihoods solely depend on agricultural work, which is seasonal.</p> <p>In Badgaon, our local Community Nutrition Educator (<span class="caps">CNE</span>), <strong>Salita Dawar</strong>, works with great enthusiasm under the banner of Real Medicine and Nutrition Trust (<span class="caps">RMNT</span>) <strong>to find and treat malnourished children under 5 years of age</strong>. She screens children for malnutrition by measuring their Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (<span class="caps">MUAC</span>). Our bright and determined <span class="caps">CNE</span> also educates lactating mothers and pregnant women about nutritional requirements during pregnancy and breastfeeding, works with Anganwadi workers and <span class="caps">ANM</span>, and participates in all types of community meetings to raise health awareness.</p> <p>During a routine survey in Badgaon, <span class="caps">CNE</span> Salita found several female residents discussing something among themselves: They were highly ashamed that they didn’t have a facility for safe or potable drinking water in their village. <em>They had to walk up to 2 or 3 kilometers to fetch water</em>. <strong>Our <span class="caps">CNE</span> encouraged the women to be confident, and added that they would have to take initiative and move forward to fix this problem.</strong></p> <p><img src="/assets/58bf7534d4c96156fd052868/gram_sabha_case_study.jpg" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p>Even after <span class="caps">CNE</span> Salita encouraged the women to take action, they were reluctant to pursue the subject further. She counseled them again and asked the women to take their problem to the Panchayat Sarpanch (the town council secretary). In case their problem wasn’t heard there, they could then raise the issue in Gram Sabha. Even if they failed to present their problem in Gram Sabha or it was not resolved there, they could approach the District Collector.</p> <p>The local women formed their own team and approached the head of the village Panchayat, but he did not pay any attention to their problem. After several days, a program called “Gram diwas se Bharat diwas” was launched by the government, where citizens could present their social problems to officials. But unfortunately, the secretary of the Gram Panchayat would not allow the women to approach senior officials.</p> <p>Once again, our <span class="caps">CNE</span> Salita Dawar stepped in and discussed the matter with the women. She found that they were disappointed, but had not lost hope. The women asked <span class="caps">CNE</span> Salita for advice, and <strong>she provided guidance by saying that they should draft a letter and present it to the grievance cell of the district.</strong></p> <p>They shared their problem with the District Collector, who issued an order to make a water supply connection in Badgaon. <strong>Our <span class="caps">CNE</span> Salita Dawar motivated the team of village women, and with perseverance, they were able to resolve their problem</strong>. The whole village is thankful for the role that <span class="caps">CNE</span> Salita Dawar played in the process.</p> <p><a href="">View this story and original report.</a></p> Rakesh Dhole and Deanna Boulard #BeBoldForChange 2017-03-08T14:37:58-08:00 2017-03-08T14:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <h4><strong>bōld/</strong><br /> <em>adjective</em><br /> 1. (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous. &#8220;A bold attempt to solve the crisis.&#8221;</h4> <p>The World Economic Forum predicts the <a href="">gender gap won&#8217;t close until 2186.</a> Fortunately, this fate is not set and <span class="caps">RMF</span> is working to empower women and girls to #BeBoldForChange.</p> <p>In light of International Women’s Day, we asked some of our boldest female staff members about their vision for the women of their country.</p> <p>N’Deane Helajzen is RMF’s Program Director, Serbia, and also supports the coordination of our global programs. She is a medical anthropologist whose employment over the past 15 years has involved the provision of technical advice across 20 countries in post-conflict and fragile states, across Southeast Asia, the Pacific, Africa, and Eastern Europe, targeting legislative and regulatory reforms, with a focus on social development, provision of health care in under resourced areas, sexual and gender based violence, women’s empowerment, and gender equality.</p> <p>Her team works tirelessly to provide comprehensive protection and medical services to at-risk refugees in Serbia. Their main goal is to provide first aid and basic primary health care, but they also have the skills to identify and refer extremely vulnerable individuals—women, children, victims of sexual or gender based violence, victims of human trafficking, or victims of other forms of exploitation—for appropriate assistance and follow-up by relevant institutions.</p> <p><br/></p> <h5>Interview Q&amp;A</h5> <h4>What are some of the challenges for women that you see in your work?</h4> <blockquote> <p>The women and girls we work with are fleeing conflict in their homeland where they have faced systemic rights violations, including bombardment of civilian areas, killing and disappearance of family members, sexual and gender based violence (<span class="caps">SGBV</span>), obstructed access to food, water, and electricity, reduced education, and destruction of their homes and livelihoods.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Many have been repeatedly displaced and some have suffered violence, exploitation, and abuse while seeking asylum.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Refugee and migrant women and girls face specific challenges and protection risks including family separation, psychosocial stress and trauma, health complications particularly for pregnant women, physical harm and injury and risks of exploitation and gender based violence.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Because of women’s gender role in society, particularly from the refugee producing countries, women serve as the main caretakers for children and elderly family members, further increasing their need for protection and support.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What kind of change would you like to see for women in the country you work in?</h4> <blockquote> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> Serbia’s work focuses on supporting women refugees and migrants&#8217; access to health and protection services during their time in transit through the western Balkans route. In order to better address the scale and severity of the Syrian refugee crisis, I would like to see women refugees be given something to hope for and for resettlement countries like Australia and the United States to increase the number of individuals and families they are welcoming.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What women&#8217;s health resources or education are lacking in your country? What difference would obtaining these resources or education make?</h4> <blockquote> <p>There are a number of barriers which exist for women to access services and information and better attention needs to be paid to the gendered dimensions of the refugee crisis. National capacity needs to be raised to effectively respond to the specific needs, priorities and protection risks facing refugee and migrant women and girls. More attention needs to be paid to gender based violence and the establishment of referral mechanisms, safe houses, women-only spaces within reception and transit centers, the provision of more information that women can easily access, and the collection and use of sex-disaggregated data for planning purposes.</p> </blockquote> RMF German foreign aid is at a record high and rising. 2017-02-27T16:52:30-08:00 2017-02-02T16:35:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><a href="">German foreign aid is at a record high and rising. Here is how it works.</a></p> <p>Catherine Cheney included part of Dr. Martina Fuchs&#8217; feedback on how Germany is aiding refugees in Part 2 of her article series for Devex: &#8220;German foreign aid is at a record high and rising. Here is how it works.&#8221; She highlights how the number of refugees seeking shelter in Germany is growing and the social service benefits they will receive while there.</p> <blockquote> <p>By the end of 2016, more than two-third of refugees coming to Europe find shelter in Germany, and once they are registered, they receive the wide-ranging social services provided to German citizens, said <strong>Dr. Martina Fuchs</strong>, founder and <span class="caps">CEO</span> of the nonprofit humanitarian aid organization Real Medicine Foundation.</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c899edb2f32e391e62de/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_38_23.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c8d4a0b5dd08a91e4ec3/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_38_38.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c8f2edb2f32e391e6342/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_38_48.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c915edb2f32e391e6347/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_38_57.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c938edb2f32e391e6356/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_39_08.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c952edb2f32e391e635f/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_39_23.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> <p><img src="/assets/58b4c997d4c96175f81e0841/Screenshot_2017_02_27_19_50_51.png" alt="AmazonSmile" style="width:2880px;"></p> Yusuf Bisiku 2016-12-28T14:44:50-08:00 2016-12-28T14:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/584c8723d4c96105c7336457/YusufBisikucropped.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Yusuf Bisiku</h4> <p><a href="/initiative-reports/uganda/archives/2016/07/31/panyadoli-health-centre-q2-2016/">View this story and original report.</a></p> <p>Yusuf Bisiku is a <strong>three-and-a-half-year-old boy</strong>; a refugee living at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Uganda. Yusuf had symptoms of malaria and he was vomiting. After an investigation by RMF’s laboratory technicians, he was diagnosed with severe malaria and being underweight. He looked like a much younger child. After the diagnosis, Yusuf was immediately put on treatment.</p> <p>Yusuf’s mother explained that they did not have enough food since fleeing South Sudan. They survived on water and biscuits and some food begged from well-wishers they found along the way. The whereabouts of Yusuf’s father are unknown, but there is a high chance that he perished in the war.</p> <p><strong>Yusuf continued with his medication and has greatly improved; he has gained weight and is now playing with his friends.</strong></p> <p>Yusuf has a future thanks to RMF’s work in the settlement and also thanks to the community health promotion system that has been able to constantly monitor and encourage the community to go to health facilities for treatment.</p> <p><img src="/assets/584c869fd4c96105d003c6be/Panyadoli.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> supported Panyadoli Health Centre at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement provides health care services to over <strong>100,000</strong> refugees and persons in the community. As fighting continues in South Sudan, the number of refugees entering Uganda will only grow, putting a strain on the resources needed to treat children like Yusuf.</p> <p>Partner with us this giving season by taking a moment to donate. Your financial support plays an integral part in changing the lives of children in Uganda.</p> <p><strong><span class="caps">RMF</span> believes in Friends Helping Friends Helping Friends. Thank you for showing your friendship to Yusuf Bisiku!</strong></p> RMF Samelle Joseph 2016-12-19T08:12:25-08:00 2016-12-19T08:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/584c8c74a0b5dd05d432f7d2/1__JOSEPH_S__before_surgerycropped.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Samelle Joseph</h4> <h5>Free Surgery Begets a Lifetime of Opportunities</h5> <p><a href="/initiative-reports/haiti/archives/2016/10/10/10-year-old-girl-receives-life-changing-operation/">View this story and original report.</a></p> <p>Samelle Joseph is a 10-year-old girl who has been living with a very severe form of Blount’s disease, a deformity of the lower limbs that commonly afflicts a specific ethnic group in Haiti. The disease also includes increased weight and specific morphologic features, as well as moderate to severe progressive medial leg bowing and tibial bone changes.</p> <p><img src="/assets/584c8cd9a0b5dd05d432f7fe/3__JOSEPH_S__preop_x_rays.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Because of the deformation caused by Blount’s disease, Samelle and children like her face physical disability, discrimination, limited opportunities, and the emotional and financial distress which accompanies these. <strong>Thanks to the operation that Samelle received for free through RMF’s surgical clinic at the Hôpital Lambert Santé, she will gain greater mobility and have opportunities that would otherwise be denied her.</strong></p> <p><img src="/assets/584c91bda0b5dd05d432fa3d/7__JOSEPH_S__after_surgery.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h5>Continued Support in Haiti</h5> <p>In the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake, in addition to tackling some of the immediate relief needs, <span class="caps">RMF</span> moved forward with a comprehensive long-term strategy for sustainable health services development in Haiti to help rebuild its shattered public health system. <strong>This initiative is all the more essential in light of the destruction brought by Hurricane Matthew and the subsequent cholera outbreak.</strong></p> <p>The UN recently called the needs in Haiti <a href="/media/press-releases/archives/2016/11/20/one-month-after-hurricane-matthew-needs-in-haiti-remain-vast-un-reports/">“vast ”</a> with “600,000 children being stalked by disease, hunger and malnutrition.”</p> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> will continue to support Haiti in working towards sustainable services and liberating the potential of Haitians like Samelle Joseph, but <strong>we need your help</strong>.</p> <p><strong>Consider donating today so that we can continue to provide unwavering support to the people of Haiti.</strong></p> RMF Noemi: Case Study 2016-12-05T07:24:48-08:00 2016-12-05T07:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/5845824da0b5dd05d42e72a2/IMG_34841.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Noemi</h4> <h5>Hope Through Continued Treatment</h5> <p><a href="">View this story, as well as the report, on it&#8217;s original page.</a></p> <p>7-year-old Noemí is youngest of four siblings, and was born on March 11, 2009 in San Clemente. At two days old, she was taken to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia and had to stay in an incubator for several days.</p> <p><strong>In 2011, when Noemí was 2 years old, she would try to stand up, but was not able to.</strong> Her legs had no strength or stability. Her parents (her father owned a shoe shop in San Clemente and her mother worked in the fields collecting cotton) thought that their daughter’s development was normal. As time passed, Noemí’s mother sought medical attention at the “Posta Medica” where they began therapy. Noemí responded well to therapy, until her mother was mistreated by a medical professional who said that Noemí’s mother was not able to understand her daughter’s symptoms because she was too ignorant. Because of the insulting treatment she received, Noemí’s mother did not return to the “Posta Medica” to continue Noemí’s treatment.</p> <p>In 2013, Noemí’s father passed away at age 39. Noemí’s mother became a widow, and was left to care for her four children. She became depressed because of the economic difficulties she had to face and the difficulty of maintaining the health of her four children.</p> <p><strong>We met Noemí when her mother brought her to <a href=""><span class="caps">RMF</span> Perú</a> because she was having problems with her lungs.</strong> Once we learned more about Noemí’s case, we realized that her health problems were not limited to her lungs.</p> <p>We recommended that her mother bring Noemí to the <span class="caps">PAMS</span>-<span class="caps">RMFP</span> Mission to be examined by Dr. Thomas Gallagher. <strong>Dr. Gallagher examined Noemí and diagnosed her with kyphoscoliosis, a congenital deformation of the lower back.</strong> He recommended that she be seen immediately by a spine specialist.</p> <p><strong>Noemí’s mother does not have the economic resources to bring her daughter to a specialist, so <span class="caps">RMF</span> Perú’s team stepped in to help.</strong> We made Noemí an appointment at the “Clinica San Juan de Dios” in Lima, and we will be taking her to the specialist and helping her mother continue Noemí’s treatment.</p> <p>In October 2016, we traveled to Lima&#8217;s “Clinica San Juan de Dios” with Noemí for a consultation with spine specialist Dr. Iparraguirre.</p> <p><img src="/assets/584582bdd4c96105c72ecee4/14729172_646158538888574_8509985164862423022_n1.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Noemí arrives at the clinic with her mother and <span class="caps">RMF</span> Perú Executive Director Magali M. de Pujalt</em></p> <p><strong>After a thorough diagnostic examination, Noemí was diagnosed with neuromuscular scoliosis. Dr. Iparraguirre’s recommendation is that Noemí receive 3 months of daily physical therapy and rehabilitation,</strong> use a corset, and undergo a consultation with a pediatric orthopedic specialist (who is currently away on vacation through November).</p> <p><img src="/assets/5830c47dedb2f305d702de37/waiting_1.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Waiting to see the spine specialist, Dr. Iparraguirre</em></p> <p>In Pisco, we have a Physical Rehabilitation Center: <span class="caps">OZONED</span> <span class="caps">SAC</span>. Upon our return from Lima, Noemí had a consultation with Physical Therapist Jacky Chaves at <span class="caps">OZONED</span> <span class="caps">SAC</span>. In addition to the diagnosis of scoliosis, Noemí also has:</p> <ul> <li>Hemiparesis of the left arm</li> <li>Cavovarus foot (hip rotation)</li> <li>Semi hemiplegia</li> </ul> <p><img src="/assets/5830c507edb2f305ce229b45/ozoned_2.png" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Noemí and her mother arrive at <span class="caps">OZONED</span> in Pisco</em></p> <p>Noemí needs therapy, as well as orthopedic shoe inserts and an orthopedic corset. After 3 months, we will have a follow-up appointment with spine specialist Dr. Iparraguirre to determine whether Noemí should continue wearing the corset or proceed with a spinal operation.</p> <p><img src="/assets/5830c597edb2f305ce229b74/consult_2.png" alt="" /></p> <p><em>Noemí’s consultation with Physical Therapist Jacky Chaves</em></p> <p><strong>The 3 months of therapy, in addition to the corset, have a cost of $620. <span class="caps">RMF</span> Perú needs the help of our friends to be able to continue with Noemí’s treatment. Thanks to the help of a great-hearted person, Noemí has started her therapy, which has been financially covered for 10 days.</strong></p> <p>If you would like to support Noemí, you can donate to our current account in Scotiabank Nº0003417967 on behalf of Real Medicine Foundation Perú. Thank you in advance for your support.</p> <p>Noemi has yet to complete her therapy or purchase the rehabilitation tools necessary to her therapy. In this season, please consider giving this young girl and her family hope!</p> <p><br /><a href="/donate/" class="button radius alert tiny">Donate Now</a><br /></p> Magali M. de Pujalt Promoting Girls' Health and Education in Pakistan 2016-12-01T19:12:28-08:00 2016-12-01T18:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/5840da35d4c96105c72be98b/RUBINA3.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br/> For the past two months, I have had the honor of communicating with <span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan’s Country Director, Dr. Rubina Mumtaz. We have texted, emailed, and Skyped so that she could share her knowledge and expertise regarding RMF’s Menstrual Hygiene Management Project, resulting in the <a href="//">previous two blogs</a>. Over the course of our communications, I have developed such respect and admiration for Dr. Mumtaz. She is intelligent, passionate about her work, and dedicated to see women and girls empowered to their fullest potential.</p> <p>Finally, we get to hear straight from Dr. Mumtaz as she has generously agreed to answer some questions and provide insight into the necessity of the <span class="caps">MHM</span> project, RMF’s role in its success, and the future impact of improved menstrual hygiene on women’s education.</p> <p><br/></p> <h5>Interview Q&amp;A</h5> <h4>Please tell me about your role as RMF’s Country Director of Pakistan.</h4> <blockquote> <p>As the Country Director I have the overall responsibility for the strategic leadership and direction of <span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan to achieve the organizational vision, mission and objectives. I oversee programmatic and operational management of all our projects inclusive of implementation, human resource, monitoring, periodic web updates and project progress reports. I represent <span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan when creating new linkages and opportunities to forge partnership at local, national and governmental levels for new program initiatives. Often this is accompanied with grant proposal writing for funding of the same.</p> </blockquote> <h4>How did you come to be part of <span class="caps">RMF</span>? What drew you to the organization?</h4> <blockquote> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan began with the devastating 2005 earthquake. I was studying at Harvard at that time and a colleague introduced me to Dr Martina Fuchs who had recently founded <span class="caps">RMF</span> with the Sri Lanka Tsunami. A long chat over coffee in a Boston cafe and <span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan came into being. Initially volunteering for this new setup, I became full-time as it began to grow within no time. <span class="caps">RMF</span>, for me, represents the ongoing opportunity to do something a little extra for the poor and vulnerable around us. Today, a decade later, I still feel like the excitement that comes with a new job because everyday something different happens which keeps me alert and on my toes. Yes, I love being able to be in this priceless role where I get to touch so many lives with a little bit of good.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What role does <span class="caps">RMF</span> play in the Menstrual Health Management Project?</h4> <blockquote> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> has a long history of working in the Mother and Child Health sector, so it was a natural consequence to get involved in the menstrual hygiene and management arena. Our research wing led this initiative to enter into looking at how <span class="caps">MHM</span> plays a crucial role in school dropout tendencies of Pakistani adolescent girls. Many factors contribute to dropout rates but the least researched was <span class="caps">MHM</span>. So RMF’s focus has been <span class="caps">MHM</span> related attitudes and behaviors of school girls in both rural and urban areas and identifying the many barriers and taboos they face in a society where the word ‘menstruation’ is spoken in hushed tones. We realize this is just a small group of women compared to a large majority of women who do not have the opportunity to go to school and they too are restricted by the taboos surrounding menstruation but we have to start somewhere.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What outcomes do you hope to see as a result of the research project?</h4> <blockquote> <p><span class="caps">MHM</span> is a recent field of interest in Pakistan and <span class="caps">RMF</span> is very much in the forefront by being a member of the pioneer teams in the development health sector that promise to address this crucial issue that affects millions of girls daily. Our research is at the initial stage of scientifically evidencing the situation in Pakistan and will become part of the country’s baseline information on which much will be built.</p> </blockquote> <h4>Will any further research be necessary in regards to Pakistani girls’ school-going experiences?</h4> <blockquote> <p>Definitely! Like I mentioned earlier, we are currently contributing to the initial scope of literature on <span class="caps">MHM</span> in Pakistan and much, much more needs to be done which will involve many vast and varied project interventions associated with advanced research repeatedly until we perhaps can achieve our ultimate goal of having made a significant impact of at least reducing <span class="caps">MHM</span> as one of the barriers interrupting adolescent girls’ education and hence their potential to live their lives to the fullest.</p> </blockquote> <h4>How have you, personally, been impacted by the work in Pakistan (specifically with the <span class="caps">MHM</span> Project)?</h4> <blockquote> <p>The <span class="caps">MHM</span> program has been quite an eye-opener for even me, despite the fact that I belong to the same culture. Some of the taboos and restrictions we have discovered have left me dumbstruck. Yet, at the same time, where I expected greater resistance from local authorities and government in terms of permission for this type of research, I was pleasantly surprised to come across many officials (many of whom were men) who not only approved of our work but in fact felt that the women of this society need aid and knowledge in this field. This, despite the growth of Islamic dogmatism in Pakistani, was a welcome response. So yes, I feel the times have changed and are ripe for intervention.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What is your message to everyone out there who is reading this?</h4> <blockquote> <p>Menstruation &#8211; becoming a woman should be embraced and rejoiced, not met with shame and embarrassment. It is not fair that many girls in Pakistan are forced into the latter. Those of us who are empowered must do our utmost to overcome that.</p> </blockquote> <p><br/> Real Medicine Foundation partnered with Dr. Marni Sommer of Columbia University and gained funding from Grow N Know Inc (G&amp;K) to launch a research study to “explore the knowledge gap of how the onset of menstruation and puberty influences the Pakistani girls’ school-going experiences, including school retention, and to develop the Pakistan girls’ puberty book…with the aim to promote young women’s health and education during pubertal transitions.” Learn <a href="//">more</a> about how <span class="caps">RMF</span> is empowering girls in pursuit of an education.</p> Danielle Etter Questions and Answers 2016-11-15T18:27:42-08:00 2016-11-15T17:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/582bc253a0b5dd05d4201829/eagertolearncropped.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><em>All information contained in this blog originates from the 2016 report, “Formative Menstrual Hygiene Management Research: Adolescent Girls in Baluchistan,” by Dr. Zubia Mumtaz, Dr. Marni Sommer, and Afshan Bhatti (<span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan’s Research Project Manager) and from our interview with <span class="caps">RMF</span> Pakistan’s Country Director, Dr. Rubina Mumtaz.</em></p> <p><br/> If I could sum up Pakistani girls’ pubertal experience in one word, I would choose “confusion.” This may be true of all countries and cultures, but in Pakistan, where menstruation is only spoken of in hushed tones and fragments, the confusion is pervasive and severe. You may have read our <a href="/blog/archives/2016/11/07/menstrual-health-management-and-school-retention/">previous blog</a>, about the often traumatic experience that is a Pakistani girl’s first period. The girls often do not know what a period is before experiencing it:</p> <blockquote> <p>When I had my first period, I did not know anything about it. I was at home at that time. I was getting ready for school one morning when I felt my shalwar (pants) was wet. I was surprised because I had not sat in water or anything. I went to the washroom and checked my shalwar. I got very scared and I thought that I had developed cancer. (Lasbela, Girl in 9th grade)</p> </blockquote> <p>In addition to lack of knowledge regarding the physiology of menstruation, there is a great deal of misinformation taught to young girls and perpetuated by grown women and even teachers. Much of this misinformation entails restricting girls’ ability to function normally in the areas of physical activity, religion, hygiene, and diet.</p> <p><img src="/assets/582bb773d4c96105c7200634/Girlsincourtyardcropped2.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Physical Restrictions</h4> <p>While menstruating, girls’ physical activity is severely limited. They are not allowed to play, ride bikes, dance, etc.</p> <blockquote> <p>Why can we not play during menstruation? It is a natural process. Don’t sportswomen play during this time of month? (Kuchlaak, Girl in 9th grade)</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Why can&#8217;t we lift weights during our periods? What happens if we do? (Kuchlaak, Girl in 8th grade)</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="/assets/582bb774edb2f305d70298fc/Religiouscropped2.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Religious Restrictions</h4> <p>Many girls have been told that they must not pray or fast during menstruation because they are impure. Additionally, sitting on the prayer mat and reading or reciting the Quran is not allowed.</p> <p><img src="/assets/582bb773d4c96105d002642f/Girloutsidecropped2.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Hygiene Restrictions</h4> <p>Girls are not allowed to bathe while menstruating and are instructed not to wash their private parts with water even after urination/defecation. Subsequently, they may smell and get infections. Girls are told that using water leads to infertility.</p> <blockquote> <p>During periods we are not allowed to take a bath for 7 days. What is the reason behind that? (Kuchlak, Girl 8th grade)</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Should we clean ourselves with water during this time (Kucklak, grade 9th)?</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="/assets/582bb772edb2f305ce1f77aa/Eatingcropped2.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Dietary Restrictions</h4> <p>Some foods must be avoided during menstruation as well, though the specifics seem to depend on the family. For example, in some families ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ foods, according to traditional humoral understanding, cannot be consumed.</p> <blockquote> <p>My mother doesn’t allow me to eat certain things during periods e.g., onions, meat, buttermilk, yoghurt etc. What is the reason behind this? (Lasbela, Girl in 7th grade)</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Is it true that our stomach enlarges if we use water to wash ourselves and eat beef during periods? (Kuchlaak, Girl in 9th grade)</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Can we take any medicine to relief the pain? Some people say that we shouldn’t take medicines during periods. Why is that? (Kuchlaak, Girl in 10th grade)</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="/assets/582bb774a0b5dd05d4200b56/learningcropped2.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4>Pakistan Girls’ Puberty Book</h4> <p>Real Medicine Foundation partnered with Professor Dr. Marni Sommer of Columbia University and gained funding from Grow N Know Inc (G&amp;K) to launch a research study to “explore the knowledge gap of how the onset of menstruation and puberty influences the Pakistani girls’ school-going experiences, including school retention, and to develop the Pakistan girls’ puberty book&#8230;with the aim to promote young women’s health and education during pubertal transitions.”</p> <p>All of the above quotes from students came from the “Formative Menstrual Hygiene Management Research: Adolescent Girls in Baluchistan” report. This report, along with our findings in Punjab, have informed the creation of the Pakistan Girls’ Puberty Book that will aid community members and teachers in conveying accurate medical and social information to the girls. This book (to be published in December 2016) is <strong>culturally sensitive</strong> and <strong>contains information the girls have requested and suggested</strong>. It will address the restrictions listed above, explain the natural physiological process of menstruation, and provide information on hygienic menstrual management and practices.</p> <p>As you can see, <strong>Pakistani girls are asking questions and they want honest, accurate answers</strong>. <span class="caps">RMF</span> is working to liberate the potential of Pakistani girls through empowerment and education. The puberty book will give the girls and women of Pakistan the knowledge they need to manage their own menstrual health without trauma and confusion, ultimately allowing them to maintain better health and continue their normal routines and education.</p> Danielle Etter Menstrual Hygiene Management and School Retention 2016-11-07T17:02:20-08:00 2016-11-07T14:00:00-08:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/58200723edb2f305ce18c84f/Girlsoutsideresized.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br/></p> <h4>Fear and Confusion</h4> <h5>A Common Story</h5> <p>“Ah! Oh my god!” A terrified young girl runs out of the bathroom and down the stairs calling out, “Daddy!” when a friend of the family stops her and asks what’s wrong. “I’m hemorrhaging!” she replies out of breath and desperate. Fortunately, the friend of the family is a woman, a woman who calmly explains that the girl has experienced her first period. As the girl’s confusion and fear subsides, the doorbell rings. Upon answering, she finds her best friend, a boy, who innocently suggests that they go swimming. Angered by this, the girl pushes her friend to the ground yelling, “Get out of here! And don’t come back for five to seven days!”</p> <p>This is one of my favorite scenes from the 1991 film, <em>My Girl</em>. I saw this movie when I was five years old and had no idea what they were talking about. I can remember standing in the back of a pickup truck at the drive-in and asking my sister what it all meant. She wouldn’t tell me. I deduced, even at five, that this was one of those uncomfortable subjects that I wasn’t supposed to know about and I already felt embarrassed for asking.</p> <p>But I had a clue. My mother never talked to me about menstruation, but I watched a 20-minute video in 5th grade that I guess explained it (I wasn’t really paying attention). Sure, when I got to college I googled, “Why do women get periods?” the very first day I was alone with the Internet. But I had the gist. It came around once a month. I needed supplies for which my mother willingly gave me money. It was fairly excruciating to ask for the money (because I had to admit why I needed it) and I felt as though I was disappointing her every time, but it was still available to me.</p> <p>But what if it wasn’t? <strong>Can you imagine having no knowledge of what a period is before experiencing it?</strong> In Pakistan, this is usually the case. Think about it. You’re 12 years old, sitting in class, and suddenly your lower abdominals begin to hurt. What is this? Something I ate? Then you begin to feel a bit wet. Not normal. You go to the lavatory when you can, but there are boys around. A few of them make fun of you as you wait, but there aren’t separate facilities for the girls. There’s nowhere to go. You mentally assess your surroundings for physical threats and do a quick cost/benefit analysis in regards to hanging around. You don’t want to get physically attacked. Finally, you can go in and you discover it. Blood. Your mind is racing, heart is pumping. Am I sick? Dying? What is happening to me? There is no one to tell you. You remember overhearing something about bleeding at some point, but you weren’t supposed to know. And you deduced that this was one of those uncomfortable subjects that people don’t talk about. You feel the shame now. It is nausea and sadness, your legs weaken and shake. You search for something to catch the blood, but you’re in traditional Pakistani dress and therefore have no panties. Nothing to hold up the spare bits of cloth you managed to piece together and no water to wash the dripping blood from your legs. What do you do? I would probably run home.</p> <p>Not much solace is found there. When you tell your mother what’s happening she hushes you, whispers that you are a woman now and can have children and that from now on it is your job to hide this from everyone. There are no pads and certainly no tampons. Way too expensive. You use reusable cloth and hold it up with ill-fitting panties. But you absolutely do not wash yourself. You’re not supposed to bathe if you’re bleeding. So you get infections. And you miss school. You can’t sit in class and risk bleeding through your clothes. You can’t go to the lavatory where someone might see. And now you have a fever. You’re behind in your schoolwork because you missed a week last month as well. <strong>You might as well drop out.</strong> Over the course of your adolescence, through whispers, you glean as much information as you can about this process and yet, you wonder how much of what you’ve heard is true.</p> <p><img src="/assets/58200748a0b5dd05d4194a5f/Girlswanttolearncropped.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br/></p> <h4>Educational Implications</h4> <h5>Menstrual Hygiene Management Research Project</h5> <p>If you found the above scene alarming, imagine how it must feel to experience that kind of trauma on a monthly basis. According to <span class="caps">RMF</span> Country Director of Pakistan, Dr. Rubina Mumtaz, even teachers, who should be champions of education, are reluctant to talk about menstruation in an accurate, medical manner and even propagate the taboos prevalent in Pakistani culture.</p> <p>What is it about periods that makes people so uncomfortable? Is it the blood? The sexual implications? The perceived loss of childhood and innocence? It’s a perfectly normal biological process experienced by half the world. If the lining of the uterine wall is not needed to nourish an embryo it has to go and this is how the body does it.</p> <p>So, what to do?</p> <p>Dr. Mumtaz reported to <span class="caps">RMF</span>, “Despite the proven public health impacts of schooling, three quarters of all eligible [Pakistani] girls are out of school, and <strong>77% of those attending school will drop out before graduation.</strong> Many barriers prevent young women from attending or completing school but one of the most under-researched is menarche.”</p> <p>Therefore, Real Medicine Foundation has partnered with Professor Dr. Marni Sommer of Columbia University and gained funding from Grow N Know Inc (G&amp;K) to launch a research study to “explore the knowledge gap of how the onset of menstruation and puberty influences the Pakistani girls’ school-going experiences, including school retention, and to develop the Pakistan girls’ puberty book in line with G&amp;K’s model of similar puberty books in low and middle-income countries, with the aim to promote young women’s health and education during pubertal transitions.” <strong>In other words, RMF’s objective is to find out exactly how menstrual health (knowledge or lack thereof) affects Pakistani girls’ educational status and to determine what the girls want and need to know to help them achieve an education.</strong></p> <p>The research design of this study is a comparative case study in rural and urban Punjab, as well as a replicate follow-up study in the Province of Balochistan (in which <span class="caps">RMF</span> partners with Columbia University, New York, and <span class="caps">UNICEF</span>) to contribute data for the purpose of creating the Pakistan Girls’ Puberty book. Furthermore, in October 2016, <span class="caps">RMF</span> learned of UNICEF&#8217;s support to carry out the same study in Sindh, making the research more comprehensive as it will complete the research across the nation.</p> <p><strong>The specific aims of the study <a href="/initiative-reports/pakistan/archives/2015/06/05/new-research-study-launched-in-punjab/">are</a>:</strong></p> <ul> <li>To describe local cultural understandings and meanings of menarche in urban and rural Pakistan through the use of ethnographic observations, interviews and participatory activities with adolescent young women and the adults who play key roles in the lives of school-aged young women.</li> <li>To explore, through comparative case studies of young women’s lives, the ways in which local cultural meanings about menarche and menstruation interact with sanitary technology, school design, and peer group relations, to create intolerable menstrual-related stigma that leads to young women dropping out of school.</li> <li>To utilize adolescent young women’s own recommendations for improving the pubertal and menstrual management related guidance adolescent girls receive through the development of a girls’ puberty book in Pakistan.</li> </ul> <p><strong><span class="caps">RMF</span> is fully responsible for the creation of the puberty book</strong> (to be published in December 2016) and it will be based on similar, <span class="caps">UNICEF</span>-supported projects in Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia and Cambodia with <a href="">encouraging results</a></p> <p><img src="/assets/582008f1edb2f305ce18c886/Learningcropped.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br/></p> <h4>No Judgement</h4> <h5>Respecting Pakistani Culture</h5> <p>Right now, you may be asking yourself, “But why don’t the women of Pakistan just explain menstruation to their daughters?” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. For years and years, these austere cultural beliefs have been developed and rooted in the minds of the people. It may be easy to judge; in the modern American political and cultural climate, we could get pretty prideful about our attitudes toward periods. Many families speak comfortably and naturally about menstruation and some even throw <a href="">period parties</a> for their daughters to celebrate their budding womanhood. However, it was not that long ago that women were warned not to swim with a tampon in or they would sink. Or that my mother looked at me with utter disappointment when I told her I had started my period. One of the most beautiful things about the way <span class="caps">RMF</span> operates is that they do not come from a place of judgment.</p> <p>It does not work to go into an established culture and tell them where they are “wrong.” <span class="caps">RMF</span> knows that you have to start where people are and build. The puberty book, therefore, cannot show (even in silhouette) a naked body. It cannot use the word “vagina.” But Pakistani girls are eager to learn. They want answers to their questions, and this book will do just that. Furthermore, it may be tempting to say, “Let’s send supplies! Pads! Tampons! For everyone!” No. It’s too expensive. Supplies must be sustainable and manageable for the culture, meeting the socio-economic challenges presented. We’ve seen this before. When <span class="caps">RMF</span> supported Lwala Community Alliance began Grace Ochieng’s <a href="/blog/archives/2016/07/31/everything-is-connected/">New Vision Women’s Sewing Cooperative</a>, girls had access to reusable menstrual supplies and school attendance rose (as well as their economic stability).</p> <p><strong>Every generation wants a better life for their children.</strong> Through RMF’s work on the Pakistan Girls’ Puberty book (in partnership with Columbia University, G&amp;K, and <span class="caps">UNICEF</span>), a new generation of girls will have the opportunity to grow up to become educated women. Women whose first thought when they see blood won’t be, “I’m hemorrhaging!” or “Am I dying?” Women who are educated about their bodies, who are empowered by their knowledge and ability to manage menses, and who are able stay in school. By developing their minds and improving their economic stability, <strong>Pakistani girls will have the tools they need for future generations to turn taboo into normalcy and shame into dignity.</strong></p> <p><br/></p> <p>Learn more about the Menstrual Health Management Research Project in <a href="/our-work/countries/pakistan/initiatives/menstrual-hygiene-management-mhm-research-project/and">Punjab</a> <a href="">Balochistan</a>.</p> Danielle Etter A Story from the Field 2016-10-08T18:37:59-07:00 2016-10-07T11:00:00-07:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/57f85ac3d4c96105d0000b9b/serbia12.png" alt="" /></p> <h4>Each Refugee, A Story</h4> <h5>A Report from Belgrade</h5> <p>As we look more closely at Real Medicine Foundation’s work with refugees in Serbia, we recognize that each refugee has a story. A past. A special situation. A home that they have left behind. It’s easy to dismiss or generalize, until you remember that each of these refugees is more than a face. They are a neighbor. A friend. A face within a war.</p> <p>An <span class="caps">RMF</span> team member on the ground in Serbia sent a story of one such person.</p> <blockquote> <p>During a shift we had an uncommon case. A woman from Iraq delivered on September 15th. Rezna, our brave patient, delivered in the woods. This is her fourth child. She travelled with her husband and her other three children. She has children who are nine, eight, and three. In Iraq she is a housewife while her husband works in a store. They all traveled together with two more families in two separated cars through Bulgaria to the Bulgarian-Serbian border. Police stopped the first car where her husband and her children were. All who were in the second car managed to cross the border. After they crossed the border, they continued their way on foot. During that walk, she started to feel contractions, and the delivery started. The people from the car with her helped. She delivered at 10:00 PM, and they stayed that evening in the woods. In the morning they continued on their way. They found a house where one Serbian family lived. That family helped Rezna to bathe the baby and gave her some clothes. They arrived in Belgrade on September 18th, where we met in the Asylum Info Centre. We took her and her baby to the hospital, and, together with the assistance of the Info Centre, we managed to find clothes for the baby, a blanket, and some other baby items. We managed to find some clothes for Rezna also. She was also worried for her husband and children, so people from Asylum Info Centre took their names and started to look for them. They found them in Preševo, and their arrival is expected. <br /> <br /> Throughout Rezna’s case with her newborn baby, Mohamed was a huge help. Mohamed also helped our patient during her delivery. He was with her during the delivery and he cut the umbilical cord. He and his wife and two-year-old daughter were in the same car with Rezna. He came from Kurdistan, Iraq. He spent three years in Nottingham England where he worked in a fast food restaurant. Two years ago he went back to Iraq to get married. In that period, he said that it was great in Iraq. But since last year when the war started, they had to leave their home. They have been traveling for three months now. He is planning to go back to England again because he had a lot of friends who will help him find a job and they will help his family also.</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="/assets/57f99e22d4c96105c701335a/_60447D33376584D336FC379DB244CE25C9D6C7065767997B65_pimgpsh_fullsize_dis___.jpg" alt="" /></p> <h4><span class="caps">RMF</span> Medical Team</h4> <h5>The Only Medical Team on the Ground</h5> <p>Real Medicine Foundation (<span class="caps">RMF</span>) is the only medical team in the field that offers 24/7 holistic medical care to refugees like Rezna. Our team meets not only pressing physical needs, but takes time to meet the emotional and mental needs that many are experiencing due to the trauma they are fleeing from and the trauma of their journey. Our team in Belgrade is dedicated to walking alongside these people whose journey has been long, and is often far from over.</p> <p><a href="">Meet the Serbia Team.</a></p> <p><a href="">#RMFSerbia on Facebook</a></p> <p><br /><a href="/donate/" class="button radius alert tiny">Donate Now</a><br /></p> RMF When a War Becomes Personal 2016-10-18T09:26:21-07:00 2016-09-13T18:00:00-07:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/57d8a913edb2f31a33004e68/P2100080.JPG" alt="" /></p> <h4>Trading Places</h4> <h5>What if I was the Refugee?</h5> <p>A crowded train car.</p> <p>Middle of the night.</p> <p>I&#8217;m struggling to keep my kids, 2-year-old Jack and new baby Oliver, close to me as people are pushing, adjusting, trying to fit in this train car. I have to use the lone toilet at the other end, but there is no one to hold my boys and no way I can maintain my grip on them and still make it through the crowd. The baby is crying, but there is no food for him, and I have long-since run out of diapers. The only blanket we managed to bring with us is dirty, torn, and so soiled I cringe to even think of using it.</p> <p>But we&#8217;re so cold. The smell from the bodies packed into this little space makes my head reel, but I push it down and try to keep focused on my kids. If I lose my grip on them, I don&#8217;t know if I could find them again. It’s just that dark.</p> <p>I haven&#8217;t been with my husband since he went on before us to try to find a place to go. This train ride is only part of our journey. I&#8217;ve been on foot for months, trekking through the forest, trying to help the boys and keep myself together. I can&#8217;t even bear to look at Jack&#8217;s feet, they are so cut and bruised from the terrain. His shoes gave out months ago.</p> <p>I&#8217;m going to have to figure out how to get some food soon. My money is gone. Anything of value that I had was left behind in our hurry to get out alive. I think back to the warm fireplace we used to sit by in our little home and tears come to my eyes. All of that beauty and togetherness we used to have, and because of the war, this train car in the middle of the night is the better place to be.</p> <p>How will I provide for my boys? How will I keep them from harm? Will I have to sell my body? Will they have to grow up stealing just to survive? How will I give them a future? Where are we going to go?</p> <p>The train is so crowded, someone accidentally steps on Jack&#8217;s little hand, and he begins to cry, joining Oliver&#8217;s hunger cries. I&#8217;m so tired even holding them is a chore, but I do my best.</p> <p>Sleep can&#8217;t come, I must stay awake to protect them. There is nowhere safe. I think back to the days not long ago when I was worried about germs and healthy food and it almost makes me laugh at the irony. What I wouldn&#8217;t do now for <span class="caps">ANY</span> food &#8211; healthy or not.</p> <p>I switch Oliver to my other arm and try again to console Jack, who is looking up at me with his big, brown eyes and wiping his runny nose onto his arm. Please don&#8217;t get sick, I think. If only I had a coat for him, or a new pair of shoes. I hadn&#8217;t had time to bring them from home when we left.</p> <p>I wish my husband was here. He would know what to do. If only I could go home &#8230;</p> <p><img src="/assets/57d8a951d4c96124640044f1/P2100099.JPG" alt="" /> <img src="/assets/57d8a979d4c961246400450b/P2100118.JPG" alt="" /></p> <h4>The Reality</h4> <h5>Seeing Things More Clearly</h5> <p>When I put myself in the shoes of a refugee mother in Serbia, I can&#8217;t help but weep. I&#8217;m going through my American day with my babies, caring for them, playing with them, meeting their needs, and I&#8217;m unable to stop thinking: &#8220;what if I switched places with a refugee?&#8221;</p> <p>What if I was forced to leave my home &#8211; only the clothes on my back &#8211; and flee to a different country? Walking for months carrying 30-pound Oliver on my hip, hiding out in the woods like animals, losing the ability to meet the needs of my kids.</p> <p>This is an everyday experience for refugees coming into Serbia. In a recent report from Real Medicine Foundation (<span class="caps">RMF</span>), over 150 people have to sleep outdoors every night. The reception centers and refugee camps are full, there are no jobs and little food, and because of conditions described above, crimes, health issues, low morale, and hunger are just the beginnings of the trials facing refugees at this time.</p> <p>Imagine if you had to stand up, right now, from wherever you are, and leave. No time to pack. Imagine grabbing your kids in whatever they have on, leaving dinner cooking on the stove, and starting a long journey that will take you away from all your resources and everything you own. No debit card. No savings account. No career. Everything you’ve worked for, gone. Right down to your family photos.</p> <p>This is what has happened to so many people that find themselves on the run, nowhere to go; a refugee in Serbia.</p> <h4>RMF&#8217;s Work</h4> <h5>Healing the Whole Person</h5> <p>I am so proud to be a part of the <span class="caps">RMF</span> team, working together in even a small part to help fight against situations like these. Currently, <span class="caps">RMF</span> Serbia is the only 24/7 medical team in the field offering medical services, boosting morale, and simply treating these refugees like people: offering hope. Liberating potential. In less than a 6 week period, RMF’s team of doctors and translators reported over 1,800 lives touched by their services.</p> <p>I think of how much it would mean to me: my humanity itself being ministered to after a long journey on that train. How I might weep with gratitude as I watched someone wash and bandage Jack’s torn little feet and gave me food to satisfy my baby’s hunger cries.</p> <p>N’Deane Helajzen (<span class="caps">MSH</span>, BS), RMF’s Program Director in Serbia, shared with me that sometimes physical ailments are small, but the need for human contact is great. N’Deane and her team work around the clock to offer a listening ear and emotional support as well as meeting medical needs. In my own struggles as a mom, I can understand how important emotional and mental health is to a person. I’m thankful to be part of an organization that recognizes the importance of treating the person as a whole.</p> <p>These holistic health needs continue to grow as time passes and refugees continue to arrive. Each day, over 100 new refugees arrive in Belgrade, a city already full and taxed by broken buildings from past bombings and a long history of hosting refugees. And that’s where we can help.</p> <p>It’s easy to dismiss news of a war far away from home. Until it becomes personal. Until you can see yourself in the humanity of our friends in need. When the faces of their kids become the faces of ours. Then and only then will we choose to help. That is how wars will cease. That is how lives will be liberated and people will be given the freedom to reach their true potential.</p> <p>Anyone is able to help on this level, trading apathy for empathy and becoming aware of the human faces hidden within a war. Perhaps a busy family cannot drop everything to go be a part of the Serbia team. But they could skip a dinner out and give financially to the team. I’m not always successful at doing it, but I want to raise my kids in an environment that teaches them how to serve and sacrifice for the good of our neighbors, both near and far. Supporting the work <span class="caps">RMF</span> is doing in Serbia and throughout the world is one way I&#8217;m trying to do this.</p> <p><img src="/assets/57d8a997a0b5dd12b6004879/P2100124.JPG" alt="" /> <img src="/assets/57d8a9bba0b5dd12c0000901/P2100139.JPG" alt="" /></p> <h4>Your Part</h4> <h5>Support the Work</h5> <p>What if that mom in the train was you? What if it was your wife and kids? What would help from a caring team mean to you if it was literally all you had left?</p> <p>Their journey has already been long, and for most, it’s far from over. Read more about RMF’s work on the ground in Serbia by <a href="">clicking here</a>, and donate to help support the <span class="caps">RMF</span> family by clicking below.</p> <p><br /><a href="/donate/" class="button radius alert tiny">Donate Now</a><br /></p> JL Wright Lwala Healthcare Project 2016-08-29T14:28:23-07:00 2016-08-27T17:00:00-07:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/57c23d6bd4c96161d2011cfa/Mercy_Owuor_leadphoto.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p></b><br /> In the month of August, Real Medicine Foundation has been featuring the Lwala Healthcare Project in Kenya. Since Lwala Community Alliance’s beginning in 2007, <span class="caps">RMF</span> has played a critical role, providing funding and mentorship throughout the organization’s development. Currently, <span class="caps">RMF</span> provides medicines for children under 5, clinical staff salaries, ambulance repairs and fuel, and funds for hospital referral costs.</p> <p>In our previous blogs, you can read more about the <a href="">role of community within <span class="caps">LCA</span></a> and the <a href="">incredible work they are doing to limit the spread of <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>.</a></p> <p>Over the last month, I have had the honor of communicating with Mercy Owuor, Community Programs Director, via email. She was gracious enough to answer some questions and provide insight into LCA’s take on maternal and child health, their cutting-edge integrated approach, and their meaningful partnership with <span class="caps">RMF</span>.</p> <p><br /> <br /></p> <h5>Interview Q &amp; A</h5> <h4>Please tell me about your role in Lwala Community Alliance (<span class="caps">LCA</span>).</h4> <blockquote> <p>I am the community programs director at Lwala Community Alliance responsible for providing overall leadership in design and effective implementation of the community outreach programs including public health outreach, education and economic empowerment.</p> </blockquote> <h4>How did you come to be part of <span class="caps">LCA</span>? What drew you to the organization?</h4> <blockquote> <p>My dream has always been to work more closely with women to help them achieve their dreams including the dream of seeing their children grow to become the best they can be and fulfil their purpose in life.<br /> <br /> Lwala provided me with this opportunity because my first role at Lwala was to create demand for maternal and child health services at Lwala Community Hospital that will reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality. This meant recruiting a team of community health workers and working more closely with pregnant women to achieve the objective.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What is an integrated approach and why is this so important to <span class="caps">LCA</span>?</h4> <blockquote> <p>Integrated approach is providing holistic care and support to individuals to improve their wellbeing. We cannot improve [an] individual’s wellbeing [or] health without addressing the social determinants of health. These are those issues that play out in the day to day life of women and children for example that more often than not have a direct effect on their health. <br /> <br /> For example, when a woman cannot provide proper nutrition to her children, and she is not even educated enough to know the importance of proper nutrition, we will always end up with sick children no matter how much medicine we give them. If young adolescent girls in schools are not educated about their own sexual and reproductive health, we will end up with teenage pregnancies that are complicated thus driving neonatal and child mortalities. We know at this age, their bodies are not mature enough to handle a pregnancy and as a result we end up losing the mother, the child or both.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What part does <span class="caps">RMF</span> play in <span class="caps">LCA</span>?</h4> <blockquote> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> has been playing a key role in reducing maternal and child mortalities in North Kamagambo. In our effort to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality, we required a supply system that would meet the demand. <span class="caps">RMF</span> provides medicines and equipment to make this happen. <span class="caps">RMF</span> also provides funding for referral services in cases of emergencies. <span class="caps">RMF</span> also pays for some of the staff that provide services for pregnant women and children including nurses and clinicians.</p> </blockquote> <h4>How has <span class="caps">RMF</span> impacted the success of <span class="caps">LCA</span>?</h4> <blockquote> <p>Currently we have cut early infant mortality into half the county average and <span class="caps">RMF</span> has played a pivotal role in this achievement. Having a constant supply of medicines and proper equipment has reduced the delay in care thus reducing mortalities that could have resulted from delayed care at the hospital.<br /> <br /> In addition, commodity stock-outs determine health seeking behaviour and people would not want to walk all the way to be told that there are no medicines to support them. With <span class="caps">RMF</span>, we are able to constantly stock the necessary medicines required to keep women and children healthy. Through <span class="caps">RMF</span>, we have also entered into an agreement with other tertiary institutions to provide tertiary care in cases of maternal and neonatal emergencies like obstructed labour, blood transfusion among others. <span class="caps">RMF</span> has ensured that we are on course to reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality in North Kamagambo.</p> </blockquote> <h4>How have you, personally, been impacted by the work in North Kamagambo?</h4> <blockquote> <p>Women and children are so close to my heart and seeing pregnant women have their babies in a more dignified way at a clean hospital and getting the proper care to see their children survive beyond five years makes my heart melt with joy. It gives me hope and confidence for a better tomorrow.</p> </blockquote> <h4>What is your message to everyone out there who is reading this?</h4> <blockquote> <p>When communities are in the front of driving their own change, then the change will be a lasting change with far reaching benefits for a better tomorrow. Women and children are the future and just like everybody else they deserve that future. Let us join hands to make that happen!</p> </blockquote> <p><img src="/assets/57c23b60d4c96161d20119ba/babies.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="/assets/57c23b71a0b5dd7ba10127a4/Emily_Achieng_high_res.jpg" alt="" /></p> Danielle Etter Happy 11th Birthday to RMF 2016-08-20T20:28:56-07:00 2016-08-18T06:00:00-07:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/57b5ac4fedb2f37e770b97cf/blog_banner.png" alt="" /></p> <p><br /></p> <h2>A Look Back</h2> <p><br /></p> <h5>Friends Helping Friends Helping Friends</h5> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> began in 2005 after <a href="">Dr. Martina Fuchs</a> felt compelled to travel to Sri Lanka to aid those who had been affected by the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. She thought that &#8220;as a pediatrician and also just as a person, [she] would be able to do something.&#8221; Now, <span class="caps">RMF</span> is empowering people through 48 active initiatives spanning 21 countries.</p> <h2>What we do</h2> <p>As our friends and supporters, you know that Real Medicine Foundation provides humanitarian support focusing on the person as a whole by providing medical/physical, emotional, economic, and social support.</p> <p>But what does that mean? It means that <a href="">Bharati</a>, a severely malnourished 24-month-old in India, is now growing. It means that <a href="">Safina</a> Haula, a refugee in Uganda, is able to provide for herself using skills learned in vocational training. It means that <a href="">Deborah Achieng</a> and other mothers living with <span class="caps">HIV</span> are not passing the disease to their children. It means clean drinking water, access to education, medically assisted labor and delivery, vaccinations, and so much more!</p> <h2>Thank You!</h2> <p><span class="caps">RMF</span> is immensely grateful for our partners, supporters, and teams on the ground working to liberate human potential around the globe.</p> <p><br /></p> <h3><strong>A Word from Dr. Martina Fuchs, <span class="caps">CEO</span>:</strong></h3> <p>Turning 11 today, we&#8217;ve just started another growth spurt of our highly impactful work around the world. I&#8217;m so grateful to get to do what I love every day with these amazing people: our <span class="caps">RMF</span> family and supporters, and the global communities we are partnering with.</p> <p><img src="/assets/57b5b43da0b5dd12760ba29b/Uganda__1.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="/assets/57b5b464d4c96104690b74af/India___2.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="/assets/57b5b479d4c96104690b74b1/Uganda.JPG" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="/assets/57b5b48bedb2f37e770b9c80/Los_Angeles.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="/assets/57b5b4ada0b5dd12760ba2a1/South_Sudan___3.JPG" alt="" /></p> <p><img src="/assets/57b5b4bfedb2f37e81011365/Philippines.JPG" alt="" /></p> Danielle Etter HIV/AIDS: It's Still Here 2016-08-17T18:15:51-07:00 2016-08-15T18:00:00-07:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/57b27fc6d4c961046909c238/Kenya_Sky.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br /></p> <p>When I think of <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>, the first things that come to mind are films and literature: <em>Philadelphia</em>, <em>Forest Gump</em>, <em><span class="caps">RENT</span></em>. I once read part of Tony Kushner’s <em>Angels in America</em> for a college English course. When I was 16, my sister took me to see <em>The Phantom of the Opera</em> in New York City, and after the show, the costumed cast stood in the lobby with buckets, taking donations for <span class="caps">AIDS</span> awareness. I didn’t know it was such a problem. I didn’t donate a dime.</p> <p>That was 2002, only 7 years after a period of time (1991-1995) the UN labeled <a href="">&#8220;Death and Darkness&#8221;</a> and only 8 years after <a href="">&#8220;<span class="caps">AIDS</span> was declared the leading cause of death for Americans aged 25–44.&#8221;</a> I was young and didn’t have a clue. As time moved on and treatments improved, it became easier to ignore.</p> <p>When I think of <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>, I think of a disease of the past. Something treatable. Preventable. But I shouldn’t. That is just not the reality facing many countries around the world. Currently, there are <a href="">36.9 million</a> people living with <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>, <a href="">69%</a> of them living in sub-Saharan Africa. <a href="">2.6 million</a> are children, most of whom contracted the illness from their mothers through pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Without treatment, infected mothers have a <a href="">15%-45%</a> chance of transmitting <span class="caps">HIV</span> to their children. In 2014, <span class="caps">AIDS</span> related illnesses caused <a href="">1.2 million deaths.</a> It is still an epidemic.</p> <p>Even the rural United States (which, for the most part, has been shielded from the disease) has recently seen an <a href="">uptick in <span class="caps">HIV</span> cases due to drug use.</a> Thankfully, major crises have been averted due to needle exchange programs.</p> <p>While now is not the time to be lulled to sleep by false security, there is also progress to celebrate. Due to advancements in antiretroviral drugs, the virus can be controlled and those living with <span class="caps">HIV</span> <a href="">&#8220;can enjoy healthy lives and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.&#8221;</a></p> <p><em><strong>As long as they have access to treatment.</strong></em></p> <p>Through the following initiatives, Real Medicine Foundation is doing its part to stop the spread of <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>:</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Mozambique Mobile Clinic Project</a>: <span class="caps">RMF</span> provides diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>, focusing on access to maternal-child healthcare and antiretroviral therapy (<span class="caps">ART</span>) for people living with <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><a href="">Lodwar District Hospital Support</a> (Turkana, Kenya): In an area with high rates of <span class="caps">HIV</span> and malnutrition, <span class="caps">RMF</span> provides medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and clinical training.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><a href="">Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement</a> (Uganda): <span class="caps">RMF</span> is a Healthcare Implementing Partner with <span class="caps">UNHCR</span> and provides a litany of services including voluntary counseling and testing, condom distribution, infection management, and community education.</li> </ul> <p>Additionally, <span class="caps">RMF</span>-supported <a href="">Lwala Community Alliance</a> (<span class="caps">LCA</span>) is excelling at ending the spread of <span class="caps">HIV</span> to children of mothers with the disease. In the county where Lwala is located, <span class="caps">HIV</span> rates are <a href="">&#8220;16-20%, triple the national average.&#8221;</a></p> <p>However, <a href="">98%</a> of <span class="caps">HIV</span>-exposed infants who received treatment at the Lwala Community Hospital tested <strong><span class="caps">HIV</span>-negative</strong> at 18 months!</p> <p>Please read the following story of Deborah Achieng, an <span class="caps">HIV</span>-positive mother of four, who was treated at the Lwala Community Hospital and learn about how <span class="caps">LCA</span> is seizing their <a href="">&#8220;opportunity to turn a story of death into a story of life.&#8221;</a></p> <p>The epidemic is not over, but modern treatments are effective. With access to treatment, those living with <span class="caps">HIV</span> are <strong>liberated from their fight for survival</strong> and can begin creating a better life for themselves and their community.</p> <p><br /> <br /></p> <h3>Lwala’s Community Health Workers Impacting Lives – One Mama at a Time</h3> <h2>Originally Posted on January 15, 2016</h2> <p><br /></p> <p>by Kelli Ross</p> <p><img src="/assets/57b27eacd4c961046909c1cf/m_photo/Shamimah_and_the_Mother.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br /></p> <p>Steve Okong’o, one of our public health officers, recently shared this story of transformation about a mother in the Lwala community…</p> <p>No pregnant mother wishes to pass <span class="caps">HIV</span> to her unborn child. Deborah Achieng, an unskilled farm worker and mother of four children who had little understanding of the virus, is no different.</p> <p>Deborah first suspected something was wrong when her weight seriously reduced as she was already two months pregnant. After a trained Community Health Worker (<span class="caps">CHW</span>) from Lwala Community Alliance visited her at home as a part of our Thrive thru 5 program (supported by Ronald McDonald House Charities, Izumi Foundation, Health eVillages, Real Medicine Foundation, and The Charitable Foundation), Deborah followed up on the encouragement to visit the Lwala hospital, where she was tested for <span class="caps">HIV</span>. If positive, Deborah would then have access to antiretroviral (<span class="caps">ARV</span>) medicine and antenatal education to drastically reduce the odds of transmitting the virus to her unborn child.</p> <p>Deborah began her antenatal care, where she received counseling on infant feeding, safe sex practices, as well as family planning. She also learned of her positive <span class="caps">HIV</span> status and joined a support group of <span class="caps">HIV</span> positive mothers at the hospital.</p> <p>When Deborah went into labor, she called the <span class="caps">CHW</span>, who then called for an ambulance from the Lwala hospital. She was rushed to the facility, where she immediately received the single-dose <span class="caps">ARV</span> prophylaxis. Four hours later, baby girl Shamimah Adhiambo was born, and she also received a pediatric dose of the <span class="caps">ARV</span> prophylaxis.</p> <p>Now, Shamimah has graduated at 18 months and has been confirmed as <span class="caps">HIV</span> free (through a program supported by Blood:Water and <span class="caps">FACES</span>). Today, Deborah is a happy mother who hopes that one day Shamimah will be a nurse. The CHWs will monitor Shamimah until age 5 for childhood illnesses and will also offer advice to Deborah.</p> <p>Deborah says she does not pay attention to any form of stigma. When she comes for her ARVs at the hospital, she does not pay attention to the stares she might receive. She says all she knows is that she is there to take care of herself and her family. Accessing treatment is something that will make her life better.</p> <p>Some people who are <span class="caps">HIV</span> positive do not adhere to treatment because of shame and stigma, but Deborah says it is necessary for everyone who is <span class="caps">HIV</span> positive to take care of themselves. “I have taken care of herself, and my baby is <span class="caps">HIV</span> negative,” she says. She looks forward to having one more child. But not immediately, she adds, with a smile.</p> Danielle Etter Everything is Connected. 2016-08-15T18:23:55-07:00 2016-07-31T19:40:00-07:00 [ Read more...]]]> <p><img src="/assets/579ebacea0b5dd55621f0186/LwalaCommunity.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p><br> <br> It’s no secret that the modern United States is lacking in its sense of community. Gone are the days of block parties, neighbors visiting on the front porch, and families helping to raise one another’s children. We’ve replaced this with the isolated new mother getting a handle on things alone in her home with only Google to help her and with neighbors hiding out, curtains drawn, preferring virtual community to flesh and blood.</p> <p>We live in isolation. And we venerate the independent. It’s almost a cliché at this point.</p> <p><strong>Or so I thought.</strong></p> <p>I’m going to be honest here. I have a lot of pride. I like to be in control, I’m a loner, socially awkward, and an introvert. In short, I don’t ask for help.</p> <p>But then, in July of 2014, I didn’t have a choice. I was 27 weeks pregnant with my twins when I went into preterm labor and was sentenced to strict bed rest until their birth. I had a two-year-old daughter to care for, a house to clean, meals to prepare, a life to live! How was I going to accomplish this? How could I do this on my own?</p> <p>All the doctors began asking, “Do you have a support system? Do you have a community of people who can help?” I wondered what that would even look like.</p> <p><strong>Two Men and Their Community</strong></p> <p>Milton and Fred Ochieng have understood the importance of community from the beginning, having grown up in Lwala, Kenya, where <a href="">&#8220;you really don’t belong to your parents, you belong to everybody.&#8221;</a> Lwala is a village whose people lived in huts with no electricity, no running water, and little to no access to health care. Tragically, the brothers lost their parents to <span class="caps">HIV</span>/<span class="caps">AIDS</span>, a disease that, in 2015, claimed the lives of <a href="">36,000</a> Kenyans. There was no diagnosis and no treatment, and so the brothers felt compelled to never let such a tragedy befall their community again.</p> <p>When the Ochieng brothers shared their vision with the Lwala community, the village came together, gathering enough funds to send the men to college. Milton and Fred both obtained medical degrees from Vanderbilt University and made it their mission to return home and help those who had helped them. Together, they founded the Lwala Community Alliance (<span class="caps">LCA</span>) and established the Lwala Community Hospital.</p> <p>Flash forward to 2016; the hospital boasts some impressive <a href="">results</a>:</p> <p>• 98% of exposed infants are testing <span class="caps">HIV</span> negative at 18 months. <br /> • 94% percent of pregnant women are delivering at a health facility with a skilled nurse, up from 26% before their commitment.<br /> • There has been a 30% decrease in deaths of children under 5 from 2014.<br /> • There has been a 50% decrease in infant mortality compared to the county’s averages.</p> <p>But perhaps what is even more impressive, is that none of this would have happened without the <strong>community of Lwala coming together</strong> to influence the design, implementation, and evaluation of the programs. <span class="caps">LCA</span> calls this <a href="">&#8220;Bottom-Up Innovation.&#8221;</a> It is <a href="">&#8220;health designed by us for us,&#8221;</a> says Leah Oyugi, Mentor Community Health Worker.</p> <p><strong>Friends Helping Friends, Helping Friends</strong></p> <p>The brothers’ community widened when Real Medicine Foundation and <span class="caps">LCA</span> formed their partnership. <span class="caps">RMF</span> has been an <a href="">essential partner</a> from the inception of <span class="caps">LCA</span>, supplying both financial and intellectual support through guidance and mentorship. <span class="caps">RMF</span> and <span class="caps">LCA</span> are bound by a <a href="">common goal</a>: to provide holistic services to the community in order to build the capacity of individuals through health, education, and economic sustainability.</p> <h6><a href="">“One of the things I believe in strongly is that healing has to include the whole person; of course illnesses and wounds have to be treated medically, but the emotional, social, and economic components of healing are just as important.” – Dr. Martina Fuchs, <span class="caps">CEO</span> <span class="caps">RMF</span></a></h6> <p><br><span class="caps">LCA</span> uses an integrated (or holistic) approach to address the complex needs that arise in Lwala. Community Programs Director, Mercy Owuor, gives this example to explain the need for such an approach: “When a woman cannot provide proper nutrition to her children, and she is not even educated enough to know the importance of proper nutrition, we will always end up with sick children no matter how much medicine we give them.”</p> <p>That’s why, in addition to medical care, <span class="caps">LCA</span> provides opportunities for education and economic sustainability.</p> <p><strong>A Sister</strong></p> <p>By now you know the Ochieng brothers, but let me tell you about their sister, Grace. Grace Ochieng began the New Vision Women’s Sewing Cooperative in Lwala. The cooperative, which employs 10 local women, makes cloth bags that are sold in Whole Foods stores in the U.S. and also produces school uniforms as well as reusable cloth menstrual pads for local schoolgirls. Access to menstrual pads means that these girls can stay in school, which increases their economic stability and decreases their likelihood of getting pregnant before they are ready, which means a greater chance of having healthy children when/if they are ready.</p> <p><strong>Everything is Connected</strong></p> <p>Information leads to nutrition, which leads to health. Education and training lead to economic stability, which leads to health. Health leads to decreased barriers to information, education, and economic stability. Everything is connected. Everyone plays a part.</p> <p>The people of Lwala, without electricity or clean water, made a financial sacrifice to send the Ochieng brothers to college with only a hope that they could accomplish their goals. This community changed their own lives by investing in the lives of others. Now, they are reaping the rewards of their investment in these men and the community-driven Lwala Community Alliance.</p> <p>Look what can be accomplished when we allow ourselves to help and be helped by others!</p> <p><strong>So, how did I do it alone?</strong></p> <p>The answer, of course, is that I didn’t.</p> <p>My husband made all the calls. And then my community stepped up. Family, friends, fellow church members, acquaintances, and even complete strangers (at least to me) brought us food, cleaned our home, did our laundry, and cared for my two-year-old. I was astonished. I was embarrassed. I was grateful. This is what community looks like, and it is beautiful.</p> <p>I owe the health of my babies to my community, just as the community of Lwala owes the health and success of their village to one another. Everyone plays a part. Whether you do something small like drop off a casserole or something huge like empower a hurting and dying village towards health and stability, you did not turn your back; instead, you chose to act. We all have a stake in our communities, local and global. What will you do?</p> <p>To learn more about how Real Medicine Foundation supports our friends in Lwala, click <a href=""><span class="caps">HERE</span></a>.</p> Danielle Etter