DocTours Newsletter August 2013
It is spring and time for some inspiring stories from our recent visits overseas – and now it is your turn to create your own story.
What’s new? My recent reconnaissance in Tanzania
I had been looking forward to flying into Kilimanjaro Airport. However after several flight delays it was now nightfall and too dark to see the great mountain. I was greeted by one of the locals with a wide smile of perfect white teeth and bundled into their jeep for the 45 minute ride to Moshi. Despite the darkness, there were many people walking along the side of the road – walking is the most common form of transportation for the Tanzanian people. Each person seemed to carry something on their head (such as a big bunch of bananas) or on their backs (such as a baby) or both. A lucky few had a bicycle and this was shared amongst their extended family. The next morning was Saturday and therefore the cooks on the compound were making pancakes with brown sugar and orange wedges to serve with local coffee for the volunteers’ breakfast.
The next morning was Saturday and therefore the cooks on the compound were making pancakes with brown sugar and orange wedges to serve with local coffee for the volunteers’ breakfast.
Afterwards, I was taken on a tour of two hospitals. The large regional government hospital receives around 550 patients each day from their catchment area of around 1.6 million people. The major needs are primary health care, O&G, treatment for infectious diseases (particularly malaria and HIV) and bacterial infections (pneumonia, gastro, meningitis and TB), HPT, psychosis and diabetes. Most patients walk great distances and then quietly wait in line to seek medical attention. Although the government hospital provides a free medical service, patients need to pay for their medication and most cannot afford it. There is a huge shortage of doctors (background information is in the attached article) and therefore foreign assistance is welcomed with open arms.
What’s hot? Myanmar and Bhutan
Doctours Small Group Journeys have created some terrific tours to Bhutan (on 20 May 2014) and Burma/Myanmar (on 2 March 2014). There are still places available on the Myanmar tour and the Bhutan tour is just about sold out. If you are interested in seeing these amazing destinations, please contact us for our itinerary. By the way, there is no work for you – purely one of our exciting and different journeys.
Photos by Jon Tanner.
The BoC boy
Karin is working in the office at a clinic in Cambodia. There are kids of all ages playing in the grounds rolling hula hoops and playing tag. There are no soccer balls or sports equipment, just their imagination and their laughter. I am walking around the compound watching them play when one of the staff ask me if I would like to see the original site of the clinic. Of course I said yes and off we went. The drive was interesting, winding our way through the narrow sandy roads, pot holes and all, passing through dusty villages with colourful materials and clothing hanging out to dry. Skinny scruffy dogs scratched themselves looking for minute scraps, shanty makeshift houses on stilts with grass roofs. Local elderly men are chopping wood and women pounding wheat in wooden bowls and the odd scrawny chicken being chased by a playful child.
After a 10 minute drive the van turns left and pulls into a concrete courtyard where we all alight and gather round. I walk to the other side of the courtyard because I see a family (now taking up residency here) stand in almost in a straight line staring at us. Their clothes are torn; they wear no shoes and look as if they have not washed in a long time.
My eyes are alerted to a young boy around 10 or 11 years old, sitting on a concrete wall. His legs dangling over the side are crossed at his ankles, hands’ listlessly resting on his lap, his gaze is looking straight in front of him, head tilted down with a sad and forlorn look on his face. I notice that his pupils were white in both eyes. He was blind and could not join in with the activities of his brothers and sisters.
The next day, Karin and I went back to the clinic. As we walked through the waiting room there was the little boy with the white eyes, again sad and just staring into space. It was apparently his first visit. Later that day I asked the nurse who had seen him as to what his condition was, her reply was not a great prognosis, blind in both eyes, and more than likely not curable. He had tried to visit the Fred Hollows Foundation however unfortunately they did not treat children and so they sent him away.
We had just travelled via a local bus to a neighbouring town (another story) to visit an ophthalmic hospital. It was really old and damaged, mould and water leaks throughout the ceilings, floors and operating room. However, there were two volunteer surgeons operating – performing mainly cataract surgeries. Facilities were modest and the possibility of cross infection high, but it seemed to be working. Patients were being treated and walking out of the hospital the next day with their sight restored and a smile from ear to ear – they could now be productive in the community Karin mentioned to the nurse that we had visited the ophthalmic hospital and perhaps there was a possibility that the boy (now known as the BoC boy) could be seen by one of their surgeons. We offered to pay for the journey and left it at that.
After our return to Sydney, we enquired about the BoC boy. He had been taken to the eye hospital and they were prepared to operate. The clinic paid USD3.60 for the 3 hour bus drive and the fee to visit the Doctor. He was to return in a couple of days for the procedure that cost USD15.00.
The next call we made to find out how he was going “knocked our socks off”. He had been treated and his vision had improved enough to get around and he even had his first experience of riding a bicycle around the courtyard. He was being tutored by the RN in her spare time to help him catch up on his learning, reading and he was attending classes at blind school. His progress may be slow but at least now our BoC boy can feel like the rest of his family and other kids by simply joining in.
Something different ….. just a couple of cabins left …..
Selected by National Geographic Traveller as one of their “50 Tours of a Lifetime” in May 2013, the SeaTrek Bali offers adventure cruises through the Spice Islands on a modified classical Indonesian wooden schooner or Bugis Phinisi. The ship has just 12 twin cabins all with ensuite bathrooms and individual air conditioning. Join Ian Burnet (Australian author, historian, voyager) onboard the Ombak Putih when it sails on 24 October 2013 from Ambon for 12 days of cruising the Spice Islands. More information is available at: www.ianburnetbooks.com