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We will be adding to the News and Events section as our site continues to grow. We hope to make this your one-stop resource for news about STIMMA and medical missions in general.
In the meantime, please take the time to visit our Upcoming Events page where you can learn about future STIMMA events. Our events help us raise money and donations to support our medical missions, and don't forget that 93% of every donation goes directly to people who need it the most.
We've also added a links page where we can post links to sites which we are associated with or that we think you mind find useful. If you would lke to have your site included, please contact us and we will do our best to add it!
August 21 2012
STIMMA currently has a team of eleven volunteers from across Canada in Zimbabwe. The team members were going to spend 2½ weeks working at Howard Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Paul Thistle. Unfortunately, due to the precipitous transfer of Dr. Thistle, the team has left Howard Hospital to ensure their continued safety. The group of Canadians is in high spirits and has traveled to popular tourist destinations where they are better able to assimilate and avoid any persecution, as they await news from the airlines regarding the availability of earlier flights back to Canada.
We are deeply saddened by Dr. Thistle's departure, as 270,000 people woke up Monday morning to discover they no longer had access to healthcare. We sincerely hope the Salvation Army will consider reversing their decision to transfer Dr. Thistle and return him to Howard Hospital where he is much loved by the people, as evidenced by their protests, and his absence deprives them of a physician who is both passionate and tireless in his work.
For further information, please call Veneta Anand (519) 589-8852 or Linsay Buss (604) 323-6449
Download the Official Press Release in PDF
Two of our very own STIMMA members were featured in the "Local Heroes" segment on CKCO. Click the link and then look for the video segment from May 25th.
Download and view the Helping Hands article. You will see some of the hardest working volunteers and charity workers in our community. Included in that group, is our very own Veneta!
Giving your time to people who need it is invaluable.
The realization came to Falon Rife while she was on the ground in Haiti, building a house alongside other volunteers last May. Rife, an employee at Research In Motion, volunteered with Short Term International Medical Missions Abroad (STIMMA) on a 12-day trip. The team provided free care to 1,800 patients, built the first storey of a house for a family who had been living in a tent for a year and served meals to 600 families. STIMMA is a non-profit organization that was founded by a pharmacist in Waterloo.
"Volunteering can be one of the most rewarding things that you do," said Rife. "Traveling to another country is such an eye-opening experience. Getting to see the smiles and results of your hands-on contributions is unbeatable."
Rife became involved with STIMMA after hearing about it on the radio. She was one of 35 individuals from across Canada who went on the trip. Rife applied and received a grant for STIMMA under RIM's Volunteer Recognition Program.
"The Volunteer Recognition Program was an excellent opportunity on so many levels. First, it allowed me to help STIMMA in another way and also shows that RIM is a big supporter of volunteer involvement," she said.
Volunteer work was beneficial for Rife in terms of skill development.
"I learned how to work with strangers in an environment that many of us were not used to. Hot days, manual labor … it was challenging as it was quite a drastic difference from my day to day, to say the least!" said Rife.
The Volunteer Recognition Program is part of Proud2Be, a set of programs at RIM that help employees give back to the community.
When an old friend told me about her medical missions and I asked if a Spanish speaking dietitian was needed, the answer was enthusiastically “Yes!” I was part of a group of nurses, a physician, a pharmacist, volunteers and students, and translators who travelled with Short Term Medical Missions Abroad (STIMMA), an organization that runs medical clinics in developing countries. Although I had volunteered and travelled throughout Central and South America, I wondered what new challenges I would face.
The clinic was in the northern village of Arcatao, El Salvador. It is a place where people suffered immensely during the civil war. The clients are mostly people who work as labourers in the fields, farmers, cleaners, cooks, and students. Few people could read well and most struggle with food security issues. Many walked for hours to get to the clinic and had long waits once there.
When I arrived, I was curious to know what people ate. The first chance I had, I asked a translator to accompany me to a local market. I found a lot of oranges, bananas, pineapples, plantains, marañon (cashew fruit), radishes, and dark green herbs called chipilín (much like arugula). I bought some of these for just $0.25 for a one pound bag. Ripe mangoes were dropping everywhere.
At the clinic, I was responsible for conducting much of the mandatory health education and taking referrals. Over 100 people came to the clinic daily; no one had ever seen a dietitian. Most listened intently during nutrition education. I sang the praises of vegetables and fruit and tried to educate on appropriate portions of grains and starches. Staff members later told me about the many remarks they had heard that people thought they wouldn’t have anything to eat if they followed my advice.
We took random blood glucose (BG) readings for most of the adult clients. At times, there were people with very high BG who had never been diagnosed with diabetes. Most clients did not have the funds to purchase medications and had never been to diabetes education. I tried to keep things simple and easy to follow.
I observed the following pattern: everyone ate thick corn tortillas (sometimes five at a meal), coffee, and maybe ½ cup of beans, if they could afford them. Sometimes they would add some pasta or fried plantain. Some also ate three or four mangoes. No wonder their BGs were so high! Men told me they needed to be able to fill up so that they could work a full day. One man said, “I understand that I need to eat fewer tortillas and more vegetables, but I just don’t have the money to do so.” My work was cut out for me.
I decided to minimize risks by teaching about the foods that have carbohydrate and about the risks of high BG. No one had a glucometer so I suggested limiting to two tortillas per meal with no other starchy food and to carry snacks. If they started having symptoms of high BG, I asked them to think about what they ate, to decrease the high carbohydrate foods, and to assess how they felt. Although most people thought this was realistic, others struggled as they could not stop during the day to eat and couldn’t risk going to work hungry. I wonder about other options.
As I reflect upon my experience, I see the incredible need for dietitians in El Salvador, and I see the challenges for dietetic practice. Food security is obviously a huge challenge for most and limits possible interventions. While the people I worked with will continue to struggle with diabetes everyday, I am hopeful that some will take my advice and will start feeling better. On the last day of the clinic, one client came by to thank me for my help and brought me a big bag of mangoes. It gave me hope that maybe I had made a difference.
© Dietitians of Canada. Practice – Issue 51 – Fall 2010.
Download the magazine issue in PDF.