In June 2019, a small medical team comprised of five friends travelled to the TOUCO orphanage in Tanzania to provide medical care to the children and matrons. The dream began a few years ago when Amber Bajema, one of the team members, met Father Bruno and learned of the work with the children of TOUCO. Amber, who had participated in medical teams to India over the years, recognized a potential need and offered to help Father Bruno with the medical care for the children.
Father Bruno welcomed the assistance, and after much planning and coordination with Father Bruno and the team, the trip finally came to fruition in June 2019. In preparation for the trip, Amber had reached out to some of her friends and colleagues and was grateful two nursing colleagues: Mrs. Erin Willis and Mrs. BreAnna Caroll, along with Margaret Mortimer (NP) and Dr. Martha Franz expressed their interest in the work and joined the team. Before Margaret and Dr. Franz joined the team, Erin, BreAnna, and Amber had worked on some fundraising efforts, and through the generous donations from friends and family, were able to raise enough money to purchase the supplies and medications as well as help cover some of the travel expenses.
The primary objectives of the trip were to (1) perform physical evaluations and establish a medical file for each child (2) bring multivitamins, medications and supplies to be able to treat illnesses, and (3) determine possible areas in which the team could further assist Father Bruno and his staff to improve the health of the children and matrons such as networking with in-country resources to provide vaccines, etc.
For many TOUCO children, this was the first time they had a wellness check so obviously the Medical-team found the children facing a variety of health issues. Many children lacked basic dental care and many had never had access to a toothbrush and toothpaste or rarely used them. Many had minor skin issues that if left unchecked, could form into more serious illnesses. Some children were in serious condition and needed to be referred to nearby hospitals. Some of the residents were permanently disabled because of an accident but lacked basic items like crutches or splints, making mobility difficult. It was eye opening about how much care the children at TOUCO needed.
In addition, the Medical Team started a much needed medical records system to help track health issues at the facility, along with a system for referrals, so it was easier to send children with serious needs to local medical facilities near-by TOUCO orphanage centers. The idea would help TOUCO Centers strength ties with local communities, and integrate into local area medical system/s.
Education was also an important goal for the team, so the Medical Team worked with the matrons (who provide direct care for the orphans) and taught them about nutrition, proper hygiene and the “when, what and how” to use the medical supplies that the Medical team from USA brought with them.
At last, the team is very grateful to report the 2019 trip was an amazing success, and the plans for another medical mission trip sometime in June 2020 has begun. The goals in 2020 trip would be to ensure the matrons have adequate care, to check on the children’s health progress (including the HIV status of future orphans that may move to the centers, and perhaps some residents that may volunteer to know more about their health), and to train staff in order to offer basic health services. Lastly, the medical team would want to provide some basic medical care to local residents near-by the orphanage centers in order to strengthen TOUCO’s place within the local communities and provide a more cohesive environment for the children.
In conclusion, Erin, BreAnna, Margaret, Martha, and Amber are so grateful and humbled for the opportunity to partner with Father Bruno, his amazing friends and staff both locally and in Tanzania, to further assist in the amazing work of caring for the children, matrons, and staff of TOUCO!