As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the many blessing we enjoy each day in America. I am writing this newsletter from the Shan State region of Burma where the average person makes less than $4.00 per day. According to the World Health Organization, healthcare in Burma (also known as Myanmar) was ranked as the worst in the world in the year 2000. Although there have been some improvements since that time, according to the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Myanmar still has over 241,000 people, mostly women and children, living in refugee camp conditions. Nearly half of these people remain displaced as a result of ongoing armed conflicts.
In response to this ongoing humanitarian crisis, Partners Relief and Development, a Christian Relief Agency, was asked to help provide Medical Training for the Shan people. In 2009 I traveled with a team from my church to Burma to join Partners as they launched a Medic training program. This year will be my 9th year teaching the Medic Students various subjects as a part of their 8 month training program. When the current class of 30 Medic Students graduate at the end of this week, some will be stationed at one of the 14 Village health clinics started since the program began and others will staff the local hospital here at the training center. Since the Medic program began, over 190 Medics have been trained. The program is managed by an amazing husband and wife Doctor team from New Zealand who oversee the 8 month training program with the assistance of visiting teachers such as me.
In the villages of Shan State where there was historically been no access to healthcare, these Medics are providing help and hope to their people and saving lives. Although they face incredible hardships, they are some of the happiest and most thankful people I have ever met. Last week while we were doing hospital rounds, a patient was brought to the hospital in a coma. While we were evaluating him he suddenly stopped breathing. While the doctors provided guidance, the Medics sprang into action immediately and following the training we had given them they put their skills to the test. After inserting an IV and administering emergency medications, the patient began breathing on his own again. As of today when we did our hospital rounds, the patient was smiling and continues to recover.
Each day when we finish our training, the students stand together with their hands folded in front of their chins as a sign of respect. They then say out loud together: "thank you teacher...see you tomorrow." On Friday when I teach the final session for their year they will say: "thank you teacher...see you next year!" I am very thankful for the team at Hospice of the Valleys who have supported my work here in Burma over these past many years and who continue to inspire me daily with their compassion and dedication. Because of their support I will be able to say to the students: "see you next year!"