Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nurses for Edna: A Medical Mission to Hargesia, Somaliland

In August 2013, Wanda Chestnut, Kim Law and Kerra Plesko, three members of the Nurses for Edna team, left for Hargesia, Somaliland.  Due to a death in the family the last nurse, Sarah David, joined them two weeks later.
 Each member of the team had expressed a passion to improve women’s health around the world. For almost a year they had planned and worked.  They held fund raisers to augment the already generous grant awarded by Barco’s Nightingale Foundation for this mission. They sought free medical equipment and found ways to cover shipping costs and logistics. They sent out hundreds of appeals to friends and family to raise awareness of the plight of the Somaliland women. They did all this in an effort to make a difference in a country still struggling to recover from years of civil war. They traveled with little personal luggage so they might fill their baggage allowances with donations of medical equipment.  The trip took more than 24 hours; they arrived exhausted, but eager to begin work.
The Hospital director, Edna Adan requested they teach a First Aid course while they were in Hargesia. What they didn’t realize was how large the group would be – over 150 nurses, lab techs and public health students. Nor did they realize that some of their teaching would need to be done using pantomime and interpreters! 
Although each member of the team expressed that the teaching experience was both frustrating and somewhat overwhelming, they also expressed that one of the best things about the trip was the positive feedback that they got from their students. They can feel proud that they were instrumental in teaching more than 150 students the necessary skills needed to provide basic First Aid Care for the people of Somaliland.
“My happiest moment is a culmination of positive feedback from my students and from the university. Both have expressed gratitude for and positivity towards my teaching and indicated they would happily  have me teach again. Having never taught in a classroom setting before, and having experienced numerous frustrations throughout the course, the end response was very gratifying,” Kim Law.
Besides teaching and working at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital the nurses also worked and taught in the
community at the Abdi Idan MCH Clinic. This free, government funded clinic provides multiple services including antenatal and postpartum care, low risk deliveries, a nutrition clinic, a pediatric health and immunization clinic, and lab services in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Hargesia.
While they were not able to spend as much time as they had hoped providing women’s health clinical care at the hospital, the nurses did both work, and provide supervision to student nurses, on the wards. Three of the nurses identified their biggest challenge, and saddest moments, came while resuscitating a newborn infant with no doctor to guide them.

“We tried to get one of the nursing students to go find a doctor, but she didn’t understand what we wanted. Finally, the nurse anesthetist came in and we were able to partially stabilize the baby and get it breathing. But, it was just a situation where no one in the room knew what to do and we couldn’t find anyone to help us, Kerra Plesko.

It was during incidents like this one, and other long neonatal resuscitations that the nurses felt pummeled with a moral and ethical dilemma.
 “My absolute worst experience here is the ethical dilemma I am now constantly thinking about. We've done a few, long neonatal resuscitations, and have been able to revive the babies, only to have them die a few days later. If they had lived they would have been severely disabled. Is it ethically responsible to do long resuscitations in resource poor countries where the risk for long term disability is high?” Kim Law
However, the nurses also expressed being positively impacted by their time in Somaliland, They came home with a greater appreciation for everything available to them at work and at home: medications, supplies and equipment.

“I now really appreciate being prepared at every delivery, having the necessary equipment ready, or
even having it at all, and having qualified trained people who know the importance of quick resuscitation and being efficient with what we are doing.  I appreciated it before, but I had never seen babies die from the lack of those things. I know we live in a rush- rush society and I do believe that we need time for slowdowns often, but I also value responding to a task quickly, and Africa has shown me how valuable that can be,” Kerra Plesko

They also came home with a greater appreciation for their knowledgeable, supportive team members at their respective work places.  Larger still, they returned with a sense of respect for the people of Somaliland and a reminder of the importance of humility.

“The people of Hargesia are so poor and despite being poor they are humble people. This experience reminded me to remain humble in all situations and circumstances,” Wanda Chestnut.

The nursing team also described moments of happiness along a difficult medical mission. Moments of showing support for each other; of early morning work -out sessions on the roof to decrease their stress; and spontaneous dancing in their rooms after working all day to the point of exhaustion. But, the most gratifying memories they report are of times they saw their hard work actually bringing change in the nursing practice at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital:

“My happiest moment was when I went downstairs one morning after breakfast and saw the nurses and midwives put two babies in the Embrace warmers! It was a proud moment. Not only did they do it correctly, but they actually remembered to use them! It’s hard to tell when you get through to some of the nurses, but at that moment, I knew that our in-services and teachings had some sort of impact because the neonates were in Embrace,”  Sarah David

The  nurses report feeling proud of some of the small, yet significant, changes they brought to the Edna Edan Maternity Hospital such as putting together an emergency resuscitation kit for the med/surg ward. They are particularly proud of the part they played  in the prevention of neonatal hyperthermia.

“When we first arrived at the hospital, neonatal resuscitation were being done on an old cart with a heating pad. The babies would get extremely cold (like 34 C cold). They had two radiant warmers shoved into corners so we decided to check them out. One of them didn't work but the other one was in beautiful shape. It took several weeks to get everyone to leave the warmer on and plugged in at all times. But eventually, with perseverance and a little duct tape, we made it happen.”Kim Law.

Although the mission to Hargesia was challenging, each nurse expressed how very grateful they are to have had this experience. Each feels this experience both gave them a fuller appreciation of their nursing careers at home, as well as helped to prepare them for future medical missions. Each member of the Nurses for Edna team: Sarah David, Wanda Chestnut, Kim Law, and Kerra Plesko plan to continue to volunteer in the global arena. One nurse at a time they will change the world!

 The nurses of the Nurses for Edna team want to thank One Nurse At A Time as well as the Barcos Nightingale’s Foundation for their generous support of this medical mission.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sue Pharney's trip to Kenya

Thank you to One Nurse At A Time, and Barcos' Nightingales,  for helping support me on my medical mission to Kenya. Below is a brief account of my trip, and a few photos.

The team from Project Helping Hands, twenty six of us, all met together and assembled in Nairobi Kenya. We than drove seven hours to Oyugis where we hold medical clinics for the next 8 days. Oyugis is one of the areas in Kenya that has been hit the hardest by HIV and thus has hundreds of orphaned children and thousands of people in need of medical assistance. Everyday the team would walk three miles through the country side to get to the medical clinic site and would be greeted by a couple hundred people waiting in line to be seen. In total the team saw over two thousand people on this medical mission.

The team was able to help patients get HIV and TB testing and treat several for malaria and dengue fever. My personal nursing knowledge was greatly enhanced on this trip. I was able to help treat and diagnosis diseases I had learned about in nursing school but never seen. We also tried to provide as much health education as possible and make sure the medical treatments we were prescribing were sustainable after we left Kenya. I personally was reminded of the importance of health education and preventive care. One of the saddest cases I saw was a seven month baby seen for severe malnutrition and acute diarrhea. The baby weighed less than five kilograms and was severely dehydrated and lethargic. We paid for the baby to be admitted at the local hospital where she was treated for rota virus. When we left the baby was still hospitalized and was being tested for HIV as the mother was HIV positive and had breast fed the baby. Preventative care in the form of immunizations and nutrition good have prevented this from happening. Education on oral rehydration with diarrhea and not breast feeding when HIV positive could have also prevented the baby from becoming so sick. This case showed me how blessed we are in the states with our medical system even at a time when our medical system is under much scrutiny.

One of my favorite memories of my time in Kenya was our daily walk home. Everyday
around five o'clock after clinic was finished we would walk the three miles back to our hotel. Without fail we would be greeted by a hundred "jambo" and smiling faces and cheering children. It was not uncommon for little kids to come running up to us grab our hands and walk us home. I was touched by the Kenyan spirit and by the love and appreciation they had for us. I was over whelmed by the thanks they gave and the gratitude they had for a simple toothbrush or even just holding the hand of a "mzungu".

Thank you again to everyone who helped support me and make my medical mission to Kenya possible.

Susie Pharney 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

MSF Event Announcement

Monday, December 2, 2013 - 7:00PM
The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center
Goodman A Room
7700 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Every day, Doctors Without Borders aid workers from around the world provide assistance to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe – treating those most in need regardless of political, religious, or economic interest. Whether an emergency involves armed conflicts or epidemics, malnutrition or natural disasters, Doctors Without Borders is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis.

On Monday, December 2, medical and non-medical professionals are invited to join us for a presentation to learn more about how you can join Doctors Without Borders' pool of dedicated aid workers. An aid worker and Field Human Resources Officer will discuss requirements and the application process, and you'll meet experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers from the Seattle area and hear firsthand stories of "life in the field."

For more information and to register please visit:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 7:00PM
The Cleaners at Ace Hotel Portland
403 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
Every day, Doctors Without Borders aid workers from around the world provide assistance to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe – treating those most in need regardless of political, religious, or economic interest. Whether an emergency involves armed conflicts or epidemics, malnutrition or natural disasters, Doctors Without Borders is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis.

On Wednesday, December 4, medical and non-medical professionals are invited to join us for a presentation to learn more about how you can join Doctors Without Borders' pool of dedicated aid workers. An aid worker and Field Human Resources Officer will discuss requirements and the application process, and you'll meet experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers from the Portland area and hear firsthand stories of "life in the field."
For more information and to register please visit:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica, I worked at a clinic with one other nurse and one to two doctors. Daily we would see anywhere from 25-30 patients.

What I enjoyed the most on this trip was working with girls from a ministry called Refugio. This ministry is in a slum called La Carpio where 99% of the women are raped or sexually assaulted by the age of six. While there I was able to listen to, pray with, and get to know these girls. Being able to support and show love to such a hurt group of girls was a blessing to me.
What I enjoyed the least was hearing the stories of La Carpio such as the babies sleep in sugar sacks that are hung from the ceiling so that the rats don’t eat them. I just can’t imagine having to live that way. It was very hard to hear such a thing be true.
The cultural differences I observed were the happiness in Costa Rica. The happiness that this culture had was so contagious. These people are people who have essentially nothing and are happy with what they have. In the Costa Rican culture it is customary for families to always be together and eat every meal together. I enjoyed this aspect because it made every day more fun and exciting.

A memorable moment to me is when the girls from the refuge and I had a mud fight. These girls have to grow up so fast and their childhood is stolen from them and being able to play with them took away all of their worries for the time being. One of the girls gave me a coffee mug with our picture on it afterwards. I know that it was a sacrifice for her because they barely have enough money to live off of. Another memorable moment was teaching a fifteen year old how to add and subtract. This particular boy never had the opportunity to go to school so he attends a tutoring program in La Carpio ran by Christ for the City International. Seeing him progress and actually understand the math was very exciting for me.
While on this trip, I translated for an American doctor and was able to better my Spanish medical terminology. I enjoyed working with Dr. Elizabeth because I was able to observe the different treatments for the diseases that I’m not used to seeing in Illinois. Since the clinic in La Carpio is operated mostly from donations, many times we had to work with what we had and be creative with our supplies. I learned to adapt to a new environment and be ready for any situation that would come through the front door.

I would just like to thank ONAAT for the scholarship I received. I was able to change the lives of many people in the one month that I spent there. I hope to return to Costa Rica whenever God provides. 
By: Ashley Basurto


Friday, October 25, 2013

Nuevo Laredo - Sue's Mission trip

[LATE POST - our apologies!]

Well, it's going on 3 weeks now and I haven't told you guys what's happening.  Sorry about that!

We've been slaving away (you might have seen the Tribute to Post It Notes) on the project proposal.  MSF Swiss is taking on the ED of the General Hospital (public hospital) in Nuevo Laredo. This is where people go who have the social insurance or none at all (about 50% of the population is at risk).  You would be astonished to see - there are 3 private hospitals with all the money in the world, look just like ERs in the US, TVs in the waiting rooms, marble floors and walls, polished spokespersons greeting you at the door ... And our hospital is the run down, doing their best with very little, dangerous part of town where all the traumas go.

The situation is that in Nuevo Laredo, over the past 13 years of the War on Drugs, two cartels have been fighting for control of this corridor - and civilians are caught in the crossfire.  Everything is locked up tight, few people on the streets, "no go" areas of the city.  400,000 residents living in fear.  This has caused the outlying public health clinics to limit services, hours, care and so everyone has become accustomed to coming to the ER for everything (sounds a bit familiar to our situation at home?).  The ER has now become overwhelmed with 50 patients per day, boarding for days (including TB patients boarding for a week in an non-ventilated "isolation" room in the middle of the ER), no in ER pharmacy system, doctors who are not ER trained, nurses who learn on the job ... AND the pre-hospital EMS/911 system doesn't work.  

What we've done so far is redesign the physical layout (working with the hospital architect), created the positions of Chief of Emergency Medicine and Nurse Manager of ED, created a new flow by having Triage and Fast Track, make lists for equipment, medications, training and systems that will help fix all of the above.  Sounds like a lot, eh?  Well, as we being to fix the ER, we will tackle the EMS system and fix that, plus repair the referral system to the clinics. 

We started with blank faces and blank walls.  The Mexican ER doctor had been here 3 weeks working and immersing himself in the ER, but had no idea how to go about creating a proposal to fix things.  So they brought me in.  My first task was to rearrange the office, put pieces of paper on the walls and  a pad of post its in each hand.  And began to brainstorm.  I can only imagine what was going through their heads - no one on the team had ever seen such a thing!  For 2 days we put ideas up on the wall, discussed, fine tuned and began to shape the ideas one by one and see how they could fit together.

Then came time to begin putting finger to keypad and bring it all together in a cohesive whole.  Each day we work on collecting more information, adjusting original ideas and trying to figure out what the project ought to look like.  The proposal will be sent to Geneva tomorrow and the discussions with the overseeing desk begins.  A week later, the fully polished version is presented to the President of MSF Switzerland for approval.  THEN the work really begins.

Our work day starts about 8:30 til 2, then 1 1/2 hrs for lunch and back to the office til 6ish.  My evenings are watching internet TV (The Daily Show and Colbert Report in order to keep up on the news :), chatting with Pete on Skype, reading, watching DVDs, etc.  Weekends so far have found me happy with internet sites to watch the Seahawks wins and Formula 1 races.  We've really not seen anything of the town - home to office by car, back again, to/from the hospital ... I walk a bit on weekends, but there's nowhere much to go that's safe.  Most of the city is "no go."

Hoping they will find and send the field team before I go so we will have some handover.  In the meanwhile, I'm going to be working on protocols, manuals, assessments and training and getting ready for the field team to implement what we've envisioned.  It's going to be an interesting 2 years for them and I'd love to see the results one day.

- Sue 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy Emergency Nurses Week!

It's hard to believe but another year has passed us yet again. It's Fall of 2013 - and it's emergency nurses week!  I might be a little biased, because I am an emergency nurse, so this post is to all of those ER nurses who work short-staffed, pee once a shift (at the end), take a lunch break (stuffing food in their mouth's between codes) and always having that nitty gritty attitude of "This is not the worst part of the day - it. could. get. worse."

Emergency nurses are amazing at their jobs, they have inventive and thoughtful ways of caring for the most complicated patients. After 30+ years working in the ER, I still see veteran nurse's leave a sick patient's room with tears in their eyes. They know what the route will be for this, mom, daughter, father, son, grandmother, uncle, cousin, friend, wife or spouse.

It's really nice to be celebrated, and every year, hospitals take the time to honor their emergency department nurses with a week-long or day of festivities. This celebration is for the nurses who give their best in acts of service, compassion and commitment.

Emergency Nurses Association is doing a really fun celebration contest this week. I don't know if any of you participated in it last year, but here's the short of it: "Last year, we sent all of you a video featuring staff to wish you a happy Emergency Nurses Week. This time, we want to hear from you. This is your chance to not only share what being an emergency nurse means for you, but to celebrate your colleagues from all over the world. Join and help us celebrate!"  - Instagram Contest - ENA  Tag it with #ENWeek

This year's theme as set by ENA is "Everyday Extraordinary". I really like what they say about ER nurses. But I also think, that this can apply to ALL nurses, in every nature of nursing. ENA states "Everyday Extraordinary is a call to acknowledge the daily bravery, devotion and dedication provided by nurses who save lives and care for the critically ill, mentally ill, traumatized, and marginalized patients who enter their doors 24/7."

Cheers to you and all of your dedication and hard work. THANK YOU!!

Global Outreach Mission

Global Outreach Mission (GOM) is another featured organization we would like to share with you. This organization has had over 70 years of ministry experience around the globe...and I mean they are around the globe!  I was amazed at how many countries they have working projects in!  GOM is dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Christ, and they are doing so in over 50 countries.

Currently they have an urgent request out listed on their website: "The Floods in Pakistan have devasted many. Please prayerfully consider helping!"  Donate to Help Pakistan  Other projects GOM is currently working on are: Clean Water Initiative - Sierra Leone, West Africa; Dental Clinic - Belize, South American; Leprosy Clinic - Congo, Africa; Prison Medical and Child outreach - Costa Rica.

Global Health Services Evangelism is the fundamental goal; and essential programs such as church growth, leadership training, camps and medical ministries are a catalyst for effective evangelism. GOM seeks to successfully build and maintain hospitals, smoothly handle short-term clinics in isolated villages, and provide medical professionals with unique opportunities to successfully introduce the love of Christ.

There is a medical need mission to Costa Rica listed on the website that sounds interesting. The trip is to Orosi Valley, south of the capital city of San Jose. Medical teams will travel to areas with the central valley to hold medical clinics for those who have little or on access to proper medical care. There are several opportunities for all- physicians, nurses, paramedics, physical therapists, dentists and physician's assistants.  There is a children's ministry that can be held in conjunction with the medical clinics and opportunities also exist in a local orphanage or at the retreat center.

If you are interested in learning more or contacting a mission specialist please go HERE

Hope you take some time to learn more about this wonderful organization. Thanks for all that you do!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Camp Boggy Creek - Pediatric Nursing Volunteers

I was thumbing around on the website today and found an excellent little camp that I thought I should share to you. Have you ever heard of Camp Boggy Creek? Well if you haven’t, it’s an excellent example of what happens when you gather people together who really want to make a difference in the world and in someone else’s life.
Here is one of the opening lines from their About Us page - “A camp where children with serious illnesses and their families can forget the word “no” for a little while and embrace the promise of “yes”.

Camp Boggy Creek has been around since 1996. It was originally founded by Paul Newman and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. This camp is huge! And it is in one of the best places to visit on earth, especially when it is winter everywhere else. The camp located just outside of Orlando Florida on a 232-acre camp. The camp serves children ages 7-16 who've been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening condition.

Are you interested now? Well if you are there are many times and many ways you can volunteer or donate to help. Since Camp Boggy Creek is open year around, their need for volunteers and donations are large. The camp utilizes 1800 volunteers annually to provide a safe, free and medically sound camp environment for these children.

To look at their list of volunteer needs please click HERE

Here is a basic list of their current needs:

Special events, airport transportation ambassador, housekeeping, dining hall/kitchen, maintenance, quilts, afghans, Boggy Bears, Office support, service projects, woodworking. 

During the summer, medical professionals are needed at their summer camps.  These volunteers are nursing or physicians who specialize in the illness they will be serving during that summer camp session. Some summer camp sessions require other medical volunteers, such as pharmacists, EMT/Paramedics and respiratory therapists. Medical and nursing students are also encouraged to volunteer as cabin counselors!

If donation is something you have in mind, here is a direct link to their donation page. Thank you!

We hope you take a moment to read about this wonderful camp and take the opportunity to either donate or take the next step towards volunteering your time there!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kim Law in Hargeisa Somaliland

Recently the Nurses for Edna team traveled to the Abdi Idan MCH Clinic in one of the poorest neighborhoods’ in Hargeisa, Somaliland. This  free, government funded clinic provides multiple services including antenatal and postpartum care, low risk deliveries, nutrition clinic, pediatric health and immunization clinic, and a lab services. In a recent report from nurse, Kim Law, she describes her experience:
        “After a thirty minute drive down what one would generously call a very bumpy road, or realistically call a 4x4 trail, we arrived.  The clinic is next to what looks like a military or police building, but it's hard to be sure. In between the two buildings is a heaping pile of garbage. There is no waste disposal system in Hargeisa, so garbage lines the streets; it is a common site to see 'urban goats; chewing on discarded plastic.
     On arrival, we were given a quick tour; there was already a lineup at the pharmacy for the nutrition program. Next we settled into the antenatal clinic. The antenatal clinic is staffed by one community midwife, and two community midwife students. Patients were given an antenatal record that they are expected to bring with them to every clinic. At her first visit, the woman is weighed, her height is measured and her obstetrical history is taken. Many of the women guess at their age and the years their children were born.

I noticed a trend that many of the women's first children were born at home, but their more recent deliveries where at an MCH clinic or hospital. Hopefully this is an ongoing trend.
        If available, the women are offered an on the spot HIV, Syphilis, and Hep B testing, but supplies are scarce. On the day we were there, there were only Syphilis tests available, and we ran out of those before the day was over.  After the finger prick, the woman's blood pressure is checked, and then she is assisted onto the examining bed. Her fundal height is measure, the fetus is palpated with Leopold's maneuver, to determine its position, and then the fetal heart is assessed with a fetoscope.
       Joining us on this trip was Dr. Mary Margaret O'Neil, and OB/GYN from California. I had never used a fetoscope before nor done very few antenal exams before 25 weeks gestation, so, she was instrumental in not only teaching the midwifery students, but teaching me as well.
I spent a lot of time helping the students learn how to accurately measure blood pressures, their technique significantly improved over the course of several hours. We instructed them on how to improve their Leopold's maneuver, and the importance of determining fetal position to make it easier and faster to locate the fetal heart. The students very quickly improved their technique for measuring fundal height.
     Another aspect we were able to reinforce, was caring and compassion. For example, helping the woman sit up and get off the examination table, not
leaving her to fend for herself.
     Muuna, the Community Midwife who runs the clinic was so patient with us, letting us teach the students. We definitely made the clinic run late, but the extra time was worth the knowledge we were able to share.”

Thank you everyone for your help and support in making my dream a reality. ~ Kim Law, RN.BSN

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Although I  left San Francisco on Monday, September 8th, I didn't actually get to Hargeisa until Friday the 13th. I had a horrible time getting here. My connecting flight from Addis to Hargeisa was cancelled. An angry airplane of Somali natives and I were waiting around the airport for hours until they gave us hotel vouchers.

 We stayed overnight in Addis. The next day, still no word on how Ethiopian Air would transport us to Hargeisa. There was talk about a bus ride across the border, or possibly sending us to Djibouti to catch another flight to Hargeisa.

 I walked to town with a new friend and had Ethiopian coffee and used the internet. When we returned to the hotel, we learned the airline would fly us to a border town called Jijiga, and then catch a bus across the Ethiopian border to Hargeisa, Somaliland.

We caught our scheduled flight to Jijiga that afternoon and  were greeted by several vans. We loaded up the vans and began our bumpy drive to the border. It was 6PM and as we neared the border, the driver says, "They closed the border. It is 6:05pm. They close at 6pm." WHAT?!

The airline representative with us put us up in a hotel about 4 minutes away. Hotel? No way. This was a cinder block brothel that converted to a hotel when we arrived. Cardboard covered the ground and the walls were dodgy and dirty. Thank the Lord I got my own room because they were short on rooms. I knew would rather sleep standing than lay on that bed, but. I grabbed my stuff and headed to bed anyway wrapping myself in my towels limiting skin contact with the bed.

Edna and Tom picked me up from the drop off location in Hargeisa the next day – Friday the 13th! When we arrived at the hospital I finally met the rest of the Nurses for Edna team - the lovely Kerra and Kim! We've been sharing plenty of laughs the past few days. We've been teaming up on various projects.

“It's an honor to work alongside such passionate nurses. One Nurse At A Time and Nurses for Edna has shown me what amazing things can happen when ambitious women join forces and work towards something they believe in.” ~ Sarah David

Monday, September 2, 2013

Nurses for Edna Team update

Three amazing nurse of the  Nurses for Edna team, Wanda Chestnut, Kim Law and Kerra Plesko departed on August 25, 2013 on their first medical mission to Hargeisa, Somaliland. Due to a death in the family the fourth team member, Sarah David will not arrive until September 9th.
This inaugural mission launched ONE NURSE’s partnership with one of the world’s most respected providers of maternity and midwifery services in developing countries – The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital.
The trip began with more than a few challenges for at least one nurse. When Kim Law’s flight was canceled
and she learned that all other flights to Dulles were full. So, she flew to Calgary, then Newark, then  Baltimore, where United Airlines paid  for her to be driven the final  32kmsby taxi to Dulles.
 Once there she woke up her cohorts, they did a mad scramble to finish sorting out all the medical supplies and luggage, then headed to the airport for their early morning flight to Ethiopia. “No sleep in the near future,’ Kim quipped, ‘Good thing I'm a nurse and I'm used to running on little to no sleep. Nothing is standing in my way!”
 It’s this sort of attitudinal mix - part grit; part humor, that will get the nurses through the next month as they
work under very different conditions than those they are accustomed, in a country very different from their own. Their excitement, trepidation, and their gratitude as they begin this medical mission adventure are best stated in their own words:

“With two sleeps to go before I start my long trip to Somaliland, I’ve been asked how I feel about the upcoming adventure. I’m feeling everything, and surprisingly sometimes I don’t think about it at all...When I’m feeling everything I feel excited. Excited to start the adventure, to finally meet my new cohorts. To meet Edna and the people of Somaliland. I feel hopeful, hopeful; that we can help, even if it’s just in a small way… I feel nervous... Theoretically I know what to expect, but all nurses know that theory rarely matches reality,”~ Kim Law

As the days approach for us to leave I am feeling a little overwhelmed with all I still have to do a work…I am honestly not excited about the 2.5 hour ride to and from the airport, it’s a long way on bad roads. The good thing is I will have company going. I am very excited to see Edna and the other people I met I on my previous trip. ~ Wanda Chestnut

“ I’ve always had a dream of nursing in South Africa and together with One Nurse At  A Time and amazing sponsors like Barco’s Nightingales Foundation, that dream is coming true! Thank you so much!” ~ Kerra Plesko

 Nurses for Edna will work with local medical staff and teach current nursing practice, techniques and standards of care. This joint effort by One Nurse At A Time, Barco’s Nightingales Foundation, and numerous individuals’ donors,  is forged in the common values of integrity, commitment to the well-being of others, an innovative spirit, and a passion for inspiring to the hearts of others.

Check back frequently for updates on this amazing team’s work in Hargeisa, Somaliland!

About One Nurse At A Time
One Nurse At A Time, operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded by nurses in 2007. They are passionate about giving back to the local and global community through volunteer and humanitarian medical pursuits. Their goals are to support nurses by lowering the entry barriers to volunteer locally and globally, and to increase public awareness of the role and contribution nurses make at home and abroad. For more information, please contact Nancy Leigh Harless, Communications Liaison, at 319.372.1339, email; or Sue Averill, President 206.527.4862

About Barco’s Nightingales Foundation
Barco’s Nightingales Foundation, operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded by Michael and Frida Donner on behalf of Barco Uniforms. The Foundation serves to advance the nursing profession and honor those women and men who devote their lives to serving others through nursing. The Foundation is the Donner family’s way of paying tribute and saluting the many generations of nurses for their tremendous contribution in making the world a better place. Its objective is to support the vitality and courageous heart of nursing, while also dedicating itself to honoring the spirit of those women and men who choose nursing by focusing its philanthropic efforts on helping to mend the lives of children and their families.  For more information, please contact Barco’s Nightingales Foundation headquarters at 310.719.2108, follow us on Facebook or email

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wendy Libowitz tells about her trip to Tanzania

I have always loved to travel and visit other parts of the world.  For years I had dreamed of having the opportunity to do some type of work abroad and fantasized about joining the Peace Corps, but life took me in another direction.  So, when the chance to participate in my first international mission arose in 2008 I took it, albeit with some trepidation.  Having loved that first trip, I sought out other opportunities, which lead me to Missions For Humanity.  Missions for Humanity is a non-profit organization which sends teams to both Honduras and Tanzania annually in the summer to serve some of the world’s poorest communities.  Teams provide medical, dental, and humanitarian aid as well as work with local school children and teachers.  Groups have been traveling to Honduras since 2004 and Tanzania since 2007. In Tanzania, Missions For Humanity operates in conjunction with Caritas Dar Es Salaam, another organization, which essentially serves as Mission For Humanity’s in country hosting organization.

I recently returned from a trip to Tanzania, Africa from July 5 – July 19, 2013.  This was my second mission with Missions For Humanity having previously served in 2011.  This year I was a part of a group of 22 people from the United States – two physicians, one dentist, one dental assistant, two nurse practitioners, two nurses, seven teachers, one college student, and six high school students.  Volunteers from the USA were joined by a large number of Tanzanian staff from Caritas who served as our drivers, guides, interpreters, and coordinators.

This year our work in Tanzania occurred in rural communities typically within a two to three hour driving radius of Dar Es Salaam, a city on the Indian ocean in the more southern part of Tanzania. The care provided in the medical clinic I would describe as that of an acute illness/primary care nature with conditions treated including both acute and chronic illnesses.  Patients ranged in age from newborns to the elderly.  Approximately 1350 people were served in Tanzania in 2013.  All care at the clinics was provided for free.  All of the supplies and medications used at the clinic were brought to Africa from the United States, which amounted to over 50 pieces of luggage transported by our group.  My primary work role in the clinics was that of the “pharmacist,” preparing and dispensing prescriptions and providing the necessary patient teaching regarding such things as medication purpose, dosing/administration, storage, and side effects.

Some of the highlights…

The hugs, smiles, handshakes, and words of thanks I received from many local people.  Although in my mind my actions in many ways were small or what I could give patients limited, the deep appreciation people showed me was heart warming.  The knowledge that in some small way I contributed to making people feel cared for and not forgotten in an underserved part of the world was a powerful experience.

The team was a highlight of the trip.  Participants from the USA ranged in age from about 14 to 73.  I really enjoyed the multi-generational makeup of the participants.  Working in collaboration with local staff enhanced the experience as well.   It’s interesting to me how you can take essentially a group of strangers and some acquaintances and after a few weeks a great camaraderie and friendship develops.

One evening our entire group was invited to the home of the Caritas director for dinner along with all his staff.  This was an amazing, once in a lifetime cultural experience.  There was an enormous feast with many foods I had never seen before. There was lots of time to socialize.  I sat with a young man who clearly was extremely knowledgeable about his country, providing so much information and answering questions.  Overall the evening was delightful with perfect weather, wonderful food, and great company.  I will never forget this night in my life and how welcomed I felt in Tanzania.

On a long drive one evening I overheard three adolescent American students and one Tanzanian young man sharing their passion for music.  Despite the thousands of miles between their two countries they shared many of the same favorite artists. Listening to them sing and connect over their common interest was a shining example of human similarities and common interests in a world which often seems to focus on differences.

An unusual experience on the trip was having the opportunity to teach bottle feeding in a rural village.   At one village, twin infants (about eight weeks old), whose mother had died following childbirth, were brought to the clinic.  The provider who saw them was concerned as one of the infants, in particular, seemed developmentally delayed and poorly nourished.  Both were reportedly being fed cow’s milk.  The following day our group delivered baby formula and bottle feeding supplies to the community.  I had the opportunity to explain bottle feeding via an interpreter.  While it seemed unusual to promote bottle feeding in a society where that is not the norm, it seemed like the best option for helping these babies receive better nutrition.  After leaving the supplies in the village my fingers were crossed that the new experience would be successful.  Feedback from local staff a few days later was that the babies were taking the formula well.

A final highlight for me was that my 17 year-old daughter accompanied me on this trip as a student volunteer.  She loved the trip!  The experience for her was maturing and educational.   She valued being part of a team, enjoyed the work, and loved playing with local children.   Both during and subsequent to the trip her participation sparked great conversations between us as she shared thoughts on topics such as poverty, happiness, health care access, and ethical dilemmas.  She learned many things, which neither I nor a textbook could ever have taught her.

Visiting a country as a nurse on a mission has given me perspectives I would never have obtained through travel alone.  I have seen parts of countries which would never be on the “tourist” route.”  I have had the privilege of getting a glimpse into the lives of local communities and understanding in more detail some of the health challenges facing the developing world.   I do however, recommend trying to find the time to see some of the “touristy” things a country has to offer as, in my opinion, that’s part of the fun of the experience.

I’ve found working in a developing country to be a humbling experience.  In my daily life I often feel stressed, like I’m on a treadmill trying to keep pace with my responsibilities – family, work, home, etc.  I never take time to look at how fortunate I am in my life.  I take for or granted that I have access to clean water, ample food, health care, and free education for my daughters.  On my mission I observed in wonder that people would walk miles to receive healthcare.  I was moved by the hug of a patient who thanked me because she would otherwise not have been able to afford to see a medical provider or pay for medication.  I felt so appreciated by someone who just wanted to shake my hand and offer their words of gratitude in some cases because I gave them something as simple as a bar of soap or a tube of toothpaste.  When reflecting back on my mission the expression, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” comes to mind.  I am reminded to put my stressors and experiences into a new perspective, appreciating all that I have and knowing that some of what I believe in my mind to be important, taxing, or stressful in the scheme of things and the greater world really is not.

Mission work has been a career highlight for me.  It gets to the heart of why I chose to become a nurse in the first place, the desire to help others.  I enjoy the challenge of functioning in a resource limited setting and getting creative, at times, in order to help patients.  On this mission, as with the others, I came home feeling as though I took away more from the experience than I gave.  I hope to have another opportunity to work abroad in the future.  In fact, I hope to someday be in a situation that allows me to do it for a longer timeframe.

I encourage other nurses or people interested in participating in some type of volunteer experience to try to find a way to make it happen.  People sometimes say to me that they think it’s great I’ve gone on missions and they too would like to.  However, that comment is usually followed by a list of perceived reasons preventing them.  Some of those issues are real limitations, but many people, I think, just need a cheering squad to help them pursue their dream.  If it’s your dream, try to make it happen.  It’s not easy in many ways…time away from work and family, sometimes long journeys to get places, lack of creature comforts, but likely you will feel fulfilled by the experience and then, I suspect, be looking for your next opportunity.

Thank you One Nurse At A Time and Barco's Nightingales. The financial assistance you provided was tremendously helpful.  But also, thank you for giving international/volunteer nursing a presence and encouraging nurses to get involved.  It’s wonderful to have an organization that values the contributions nurses can make outside of their regular work environment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 article on Nurses for Edna

In the fall of 2012, seven nurses and advanced practice nurses from different parts of the United States as well as Canada, reached out to One Nurse At A Time (One Nurse), an organization that educates, enables and empowers volunteer nurses to deliver healthcare to people in medically under-served communities around the world. Each had questions about volunteering in women’s health care. All wanted to volunteer in the global arena. Sue Averill, Co-Founder and President of One Nurse, met with the nurses and found that several of them had read the book, "Half the Sky", by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, while others had seen the PBS documentary by the same name. Because of it, they were all inspired to help improve women’s health around the world. They began to ask, "How I can make a difference – large or small? How can nurses affect a community, or address an issue, one person at a time?"
Located in the Horn of Africa, Somaliland is an unrecognized, self-declared state. Women of the country struggle to receive equal rights and healthcare services due to gender inequalities, weakened infrastructure, lack of education, poor literacy rates, and limited access to the services that do exist. The work being done by a nurse/midwife, Edna Adan, in Hegesia, Somaliland, particularly resonated with this group of nurses. The idea for Nurses for Edna was born and the group began planning a medical mission to Hargesia where these nurses would volunteer in the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital.
After retiring as a senior United Nations diplomat where she'd campaigned for women's and children's health, Edna Adan could have chosen to have a comfortable life in London or Paris or New York. That's what most people would have done, but not Edna. A comfortable, sedate, retired life was as far from her dream as imaginable. Instead, Edna cashed in her pension, sold her Mercedes and her jewelry to build a hospital in her home town of Hargesia, Somaliland. Her mission was to provide safe deliveries for women who were far too often dying in childbirth.
The region had some of the worst maternal infant mortality rates in the world. Edna wanted to change that. She asked for land in the heart of the city. The government offered her only a trash heap that had been the appointed location for executions during the recent civil war, but Edna readily accepted the land. Over the next decade, while living in the hospital as it was slowly being built, Edna watched her dream come true. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital officially opened on March 9, 2002.
Last year, thanks to the hospital’s own doctors, and with support from visiting surgeons from the USA, Australia and UK, 1,057 babies were delivered, including 166 C-sections. In addition, over 700 major and minor operations were completed. For this great work to continue, Edna states that the Hospital’s most pressing need is for professionals to help support new doctors and nurses in training.
Nurses for Edna wrote up a proposal and submitted it to the board of One Nurse. The board voted unanimously to support the nurses organizationally, including financially. One Nurse then forwarded their proposal to Barco’s Nightingale’s Foundation, another non-profit organization that serves to advance the nursing profession and honor nurses who devote their lives to serving the community. Barco’s Nightingales Foundation agreed to sponsor four nurses for the initial Nurses for Edna medical mission, which will occur in August and September of this year. “This collaboration with Barco’s Nightingales Foundation transforms the positive impact of individual nurses multifold. Together we are able to serve as the launch pad to attend to healthcare needs of one of the most medically under-served populations in the world: the women of Somaliland,” said Sue Averill, President, One Nurse.
Edna has expressed that her greatest present need is for teaching. She has asked this medical mission team to teach courses in Basic First Aid and General Physical Assessment this year, as well as share nursing practice and skills on the hospital floors while supervising student nurses.
For their first medical mission The Nurses for Edna team plans to hold educational seminars for midwifery students at the hospital, as well as equip staff and students with critical resources including DVDs, books, writing utensils, stethoscopes, and other general nursing supplies. Collaborating with hospital founder Edna Adan, the nurses participating in the trip will identify the needs of the hospital and the women it serves, and establish goals and a plan to achieve them.
After learning about the issues women and girls face across the globe, Nurses for Edna is joining the movement to empower and uplift women and prove that everyone can make a difference. Nurses for Edna hopes to empower the community's local nurses and build a lasting relationship with the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, as well as create a pathway for future volunteer nurses to offer their skills in Hargesia.
Those nurses participating in the first mission include:community nurses
  • Wanda Chestnut, RN, DHSc, HIV/AID Specialist from Glen Dale, MD. Wanda has over 15 years of experience in HIV/AIDS work. During those years, she has focused on the HIV/AIDS population, both in the United States and Africa.
  • Sarah David, RN, BSN, Emergency Nurse from New York City, NY. Before becoming a Travel Nurse, Sarah worked in the Emergency Department in the Bronx, NY. This challenging work atmosphere taught her to multi-task, prioritize and think critically on her feet.
  • Kimberly Law, BSN, RN(C) Perinatal Nurse Specialist from Penticton, British Columbia. Kim is a registered nurse with certified practice in reproductive health and perinatal specialty training. In 2012, she traveled to Liverpool, UK to obtain a professional certificate in Emergency Obstetrical Care and Newborn Care as well as her Diploma in Tropical Nursing.
  • Kerra Plesko, a certified perinatal nurse in a Maternity unit in Prince George, B.C., Canada, where she is responsible for antepartum, L&D and postpartum care.
The team will meet in Washington DC and depart from Dulles airport August 25, 2013.
“I’m hopeful that the success of Nurses for Edna will inspire other nurses to join with us, sharing their passion, skills and knowledge to benefit those most in need at home and around the globe,” said Sue Averill, President, One Nurse At A Time. “I do believe we can change the world, one nurse at a time.”
About One Nurse At A Time
One Nurse at a TimeOne Nurse At A Time, operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded by nurses in 2007. They are passionate about giving back to the local and global community through volunteer and humanitarian medical pursuits. Their goals are to support nurses by lowering the entry barriers to volunteer locally and globally, and to increase public awareness of the role and contribution nurses make at home and abroad. For more information, please contact Nancy Leigh Harless, Communications Liaison, at 319.372.1339, email; or Sue Averill, President 206.527.4862
About Barco’s Nightingales Foundation
Barco’s Nightingales Foundation, operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded by Michael and Frida Donner on behalf of Barco Uniforms. The Foundation serves to advance the nursing profession and honor nurses who devote their lives to serving the community. The Foundation is the Donner family’s way of paying tribute and saluting the many generations of nurses for their tremendous contribution in making the world a better place. Its objective is to support the vitality and courageous heart of nursing, while also dedicating itself to honoring the spirit of those women and men who choose nursing by focusing its philanthropic efforts on helping to mend the lives of children and their families.  For more information, please contact Barco’s Nightingales Foundation headquarters at 310.719.2108, follow us on Facebook or email
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