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PMI Nicaragua | Staff Spotlight

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When you walk into the clinic at El Viejo, one of the first smiles to greet you is Ligia Junieth Baquedano Martinez.

As one of our triage nurses, Ligia is often the first face patients see when arriving at our clinic. As a volunteer, I’ve learning that she won’t hesitate to walk right up to you, kiss you on the cheek and put you to work! She is also the one who does all the bulletin boards and decorations you see adorning the walls. She is known as the outgoing, fun, full-of-personality employee who always has everyone laughing. Ligia has been a nurse for 4 years but she used her skills for volunteering and outreach until the she found a job that was the perfect fit for her- Clinica Iniciative Medica El Viejo (the PMI Nicaragua medical center)! She has been working at the clinic since it opened on February 4th.

We took some time to sit down with Ligia to learn a little more about the woman behind the nursing station.

How did you hear about PMI, and what made you want to work for us?

After I finished nursing school, I decided that I didn’t want to get a job until I knew that it was the job God wanted me to take. Every time I would get a job opportunity, I would go to my pastors and ask them to pray about it with me. I never felt like it was the right job, so I decided that I would do volunteer work until the right job came along. In December of 2013, I volunteered with a PMI team for the first time, and I loved it! At the time, I didn’t know that there were any plans to build a clinic here. Then one day I was walking in El Viejo and saw construction on the building. I asked the man working if this was a PMI clinic, and he said yes. I told him I was a nurse, and he gave me an application. I was really excited and went straight to my pastors, and we prayed about it. I knew this was the job God had for me before I even got the position! I want to work at this clinic as long as God will let me.

Nica-Select-Volunteer-05.smallLigia taking a patient’s weight during a PMI medical outreach in December 2013.

What do you do in your spare time?

Whenever I’m not working, I’m spending time with my family. I have a husband, a 12-year-old boy and a 2-year-old little girl at home. We usually stay at the house and just spend time together.

What have you learned since you started working with PMI?

I have learned so much since I started working here! First, I’ve learned that people can help each other. We all have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life just by showing them that we care about them. Second, I’ve learned that to be a nurse, you really have to have a calling. There are many days that I’m sad, frustrated or angry, but I have to remember that I have a purpose. I ask God every morning for strength and to remind me that it’s not about me.

What is your favorite thing about working with your PMI team?

I love working with this team because we all have the same goal- we just want to help people.

If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

(Laughing) Maybe Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Donald Trump or Ronald McDonald. I don’t know, I can’t decide!

Written by Megan Garner

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PMI Uganda | Staff Spotlight

PMI highly values our international staff, and we know that our efforts would be in vain if it were not for the talented, committed individuals we have working at each of our project sites. Today we are privileged to introduce Bernard Isingoma, one of our senior nurses at Masindi Kitara Medical Center (MKMC).

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Bernard has been working with us as a nurse for the past three years at MKMC. As an enrolled comprehensive nurse, he is the charge nurse in the general ward. He has worked with us for the past three years as a nurse. He is one of our most dedicated senior nurses with a passion to help the most disadvantaged. He not only provides excellent care to patients, but he also focuses on patient education to enable the patients to make healthy changes in their lives at home. Bernard also provides strong leadership for the nurses he works alongside in the general ward.

Earlier this week, we took some time to chat with Bernard and learn a bit more about this great nurse.

How did you hear about MKMC, and what made you want to work for us?

I heard about MKMC from the community as one of the new health facilities providing quality health care to the people of Masindi. I developed an interest in working for MKMC because I saw that it was the only way I could better serve my community of Masindi – in terms of provision of quality medical care at an affordable cost.

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What do you do in your spare time?

I play football (soccer) and am a member of the MKMC Corporate league.

What have you learned since you started working at MKMC?

I have learned new ways to care for patients, new treatments, and have been able to mature in my leadership capacity.

What is your favorite thing about working with your MKMC team?

My favorite thing about working at MKMC is participating in ward rounds with the clinicians and doctors, as it is a sure way of learning from them and improving my skills.

If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

I would wish to have lunch with the Pope to have spiritual blessings.

Written by Patrick Byamukama, Project Administrator MKMC

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And our next project site is….

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You may have heard that PMI Nicaragua is expanding!  Under the leadership of Bill Rose and our incredible Nicaraguan Executive Team, we have seen great results in El Viejo and are excited to expand our services in Nicaragua. Over the past 6 months, we have been conducting a variety of feasibility studies to determine the best place for our next project. We are thrilled to announce that we have started the implementation process for PMI Nicaragua’s second location in Sébaco. Last week was spent working with our local partners to identify property and creating long-term plans for investing in quality, accessible care in this amazing town.  We are currently in the process of working with our legal counsel, architect, and engineer to finalize our plans to acquire a building in the heart of Sébaco.  We cannot wait to bring you more updates as progress continues!

Situated Northern Nicaragua at the junction of the Pan-American Highway and the Rio Grande de Matagalpa, Sébaco is the largest city of the agricultural Sébaco Valley, one of the most fertile areas in Nicaragua. From Sébaco, vegetable fields extend beyond the horizon when looking west (source). A lush area, and a central location with easy accessibility, we are excited to call Sébaco home to our fourth project!

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Dr. Sara Franzen on her time at MKMC

As a Pediatrician I have had many experiences with sick children that get my heart racing, but as a Pediatric Resident, one of the most nerve-wracking moments I had was the first time I attended the delivery of a high-risk newborn by myself. The time I had spent doing simulations on resuscitating newborns with experienced physicians and nurse practitioners, however, made me feel confident that if necessary, I would know what to do to help that baby breathe.

Recently at Masindi Kitara Medical Center I had the privilege to provide a similar neonatal resuscitation simulation experience for MKMC staff and government health center midwives. The hope was to polish their skills and increase their confidence in helping babies breathe.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed an amazing curriculum called “Helping Babies Breathe,” designed for teaching neonatal resuscitation in developing countries.  I attended a training in California to learn how to teach it, gathered the needed supplies including 5 simulation babies (complete with a heartbeat and respiratory efforts), and then taught a 1 day workshop to 8 midwives from the surrounding health centers and 8 MKMC staff.  Although they all had basic knowledge in what to do to help a baby who is not breathing, we were able to review the steps of what to do in a variety of situations and practice the most important skill of bagging (breathing for) a baby.  Throughout the day, I saw not only their ability to successfully get the mannequin to “breathe” improve, but I also saw their confidence in their abilities increase.  We were also able to provide them with new equipment to suction and ventilate (breathe for) babies to take back with them to their own health centers.

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Sister Doreen, second from right, works with one of the simulation babies.

One of the most encouraging things was being able to leave behind the training equipment for Sister Doreen, the head nurse of the Labor and Delivery Ward at MKMC, to do refresher trainings with her staff or hold more outreach training with district health center midwives or other trained birth attendants.  The second day I was there, Sister Doreen and I reviewed the curriculum and how to use all the simulation equipment.  One of the goals of the curriculum is to not only to train healthcare workers, but to empower them to train others so the knowledge continues to spread.  I hope that she and the other staff at MKMC can continue to reach out to their community both through direct healthcare provision and through skill dissemination to local healthcare workers.

One in ten newborns needs some sort of resuscitation at the time of delivery, but in almost all of these situations, the resuscitation needed does not require any advanced technology.  It simply takes a skilled provider.  To have the opportunity to help provide training that reinforced and strengthened the skills these health care workers need to save a newborn’s life was such an encouragement to me and such a rewarding experience.

Sara Franzen, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas/Fort Worth Texas

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On the Ground :: Edward in Burundi

I have been in Burundi for about one month now. I arrived on May 11th with a team of medical practitioners from the U.S. Upon our arrival in the capital Bujumbura, we headed straight to Bugarama in Muramvya Province, about an hour’s drive outside of the capital. We spent 1 intensive week serving the population in Muramvya Province in Burundi. In that one week the medical team did over 1,100 consultations in various churches and community centers in the province. It was a very exciting and thrilling experience both for the medical team volunteers and for our local partners which included, Partners Trust International (PTI), Harvest Mission, Hope Africa University (which provided us with 4 physicians, one American and 3 Burundian doctors) and the local church and community leaders with whom we worked.

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Edward with PMI Volunteers, Dr. Chris McCarty and Morgan Hudgins, in Burundi

Muramvya is the province in which the town of Bugarama is located. Bugarama will be the site of our first medical center to be built in Burundi about which we are extremely excited. Bugarama was chosen as the site for the PMI clinic due to its strategic location and capacity to host a sustainable health program. It’s located on one of the most frequented highways in the country that also serves as the gateway to several provinces in the east, north and center of Burundi.

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The road that runs through Bugarama is one of the most frequented highways in the country, making Bugarama an ideal location for a PMI medical center.

Before embarking on the building adventure though, there are lots of administrative issues that must be handled and authorizations to be obtained from the Government of Burundi. First and foremost, PMI must be duly registered as an international NGO in order to conduct business in Burundi. This is a process that can at times be lengthy, but we pray that it will be done quickly. Most of my time after the medical team’s departure has been (and will continue to be for some time) concentrated on putting together all the paperwork necessary in order for PMI to get registered and accredited in Burundi. I have been meeting with various members of the government in key ministries such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Health and HIV/AIDS as well as some members of parliament who can be instrumental in expediting our registration process.

On a personal note, after weeks of searching for a house while living out of a suitcase (well in my case, many suitcases), I have finally found a house. I moved in earlier this week and can’t wait to bring my family here in late July or early August! It’s very quiet now, but I’m sure will be a lot more lively and vibrant (not to mention noisy) with 4 kids running around in it.

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Edward’s family (pictured above, minus the youngest child) will be joining him in Burundi later this year.

As far as the transition to Burundi goes, it hasn’t been very difficult for me as I’ve had the privilege of working in Burundi on three previous occasions. The first two times, in the late 90s and early 2000s, was during the civil war so it was a lot more tense and difficult then. The third time was during the political transition right after the first elections and peace was returning to the country. It is now entirely different as the country has been at peace for a number of years and there has been a lot of economic and infrastructural development evident in the country. The country and the people are both much more open than they used to be and I’m optimistic for the future. Though there are still challenges, it seems that Burundi is on a very positive upward trend. We pray that the peace and stability continue as they are necessary for development and to improve the standard of living of all Burundians.

Edward Kibiridge
PMI Burundi Project Director

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Responding to Extreme Infant Mortality Rates through Education

All the midwives in Masindi district had the chance to participate in a one-day training in neonatal resuscitation. This training was facilitated and sponsored by Dr. Sara Franzen, a pediatric hospitalist and assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, TX.

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Dr. Franzen conducting training with the midwives

Dr. Franzen used the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) curriculum developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is an evidence based educational program to teach neonatal resuscitation techniques in resource-limited areas. This training proved exceptionally valuable given the many maternal problems we face here in Uganda. In this country you often find an inadequate number of midwives coupled with inadequate skills possessed by the few midwives we do have. The unfortunate result is a nation with one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the world. Being driven by our core value to educate and empower, we decided to invite all midwives working in lower government facilities. By investing in midwives in the region, we can positively impact our community as a whole and strengthen our partnerships within the region.

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Our staff had the opportunity for some hands-on learning

On behalf of Masindi Kitara Medical Centre staff and the entire community of Masindi, I take this opportunity to say, “THANK YOU, Dr. Sarah Franzen.”

Patrick Byamukama
Project Administrator

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Volunteer Spotlight :: Caroline Nelson

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with PMI volunteer Caroline Nelson to chat with her about her experience with PMI. The things you experience on a PMI trip often demand a response, and Caroline knows that to be the case. She just didn’t know how drastic a response she would make when she first found out about PMI in 2012…

Ever since childhood, Caroline Nelson knew she wanted to travel and help people. It was during high school she began her globe trotting explorations. Her first trip overseas was during her 10th grade spring break, where she and fellow classmates travelled to Belize and Guatemala. They were separated into several groups, each group containing a doctor and a teacher, and travelled to different villages. It was there she visited the Good Shepherd Clinic in Belize. Caroline was so enthralled by the work done, she and a good friend, decided to travel back in the summer. She lived in a hut, and volunteered in the clinic during that summer. She spent her days testing urine and blood samples and doing community outreach. This was just the beginning to her humanitarian endeavors.

She began her career as a teacher specializing in English at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston and went on to be a buyer for the interior design firm, Elizabeth Stuart Design. Because of her philanthropic passion and hopes to travel to Africa, a friend introduced her to Son Trask, a PMI board member. Trask quickly saw the desire that Caroline had for helping others and invited her on the next PMI trip. It was in March of 2012 in Masindi, Uganda that Caroline “caught the bug.”

She witnessed the inspiring success PMI brought on its short-term trips and felt the connection to a career that she had longed for. Once back from her first trip with PMI, she quit her job as a buyer and went back to school at the age of 37. She has now finished two years of prerequisites with plans to become a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

Caroline joined PMI in May 2014 for our trip to Bugarama, Burundi. She holds true to the ideals of having new experiences, meeting new people, and keeping an open mind. She shared, “I learn something every time I go there. Most things in life I try to see with a little side of humor and embrace them.”

We asked Caroline if she might have any advice for people who are interested in being a part of a PMI trip. She shared, “I always ask myself, ‘What can I learn about myself?’ We are all people. We all have the same struggles even if on the outside, they seem different. But their energy over there is just so amazing. Just talk to someone who has gone before you.”

Are you interested in having your eyes opened to new experiences, your status-quo challenged, and your world changed for the better? Check out our trip info page and see which PMI trip is best for you! 

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Five Projects by 2015 :: Thanks to You!

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PMI is thrilled to announce we have exceeded our $1.5 million goal for the Revolutionizing Global Health Capital Campaign! Two years ago, we launched a capital campaign to expand the number of PMI medical centers throughout East Africa and Central America. We exceeded our $1.5 million goal with the help of many generous supporters.

The capital we raised in the campaign will build, or make significant progress toward, five completed projects by the close of 2015.  We plan to add a second Nicaragua site this year and a second Uganda site in January 2015. With your help, we’ll provide quality healthcare to hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.

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MKMC Ambulance Enables Emergency Response

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When we received our ambulance eight months ago many people, including our staff, underestimated the impact it would have on our emergency response capacity. This has now been proven as many people’s lives have been saved by the availability and quality of service provided by this ambulance.

One of these people is John, a 36-year-old man, whom we picked from Murchison Falls National Park last Sunday around 11:00 pm. John was going to enjoy the park when his condition deteriorated, and he needed external breathing support. Paraa Safari Lodge, where they were located, is about 185 kilometers and a three-hour drive from Masindi Town. Within two hours after the call, we had reached John and put him on oxygen. Our team of dedicated medical professionals worked tirelessly to stabilize him before finally transporting him to the clinic.

This kind of quick and effective emergency response is not common in many parts of Uganda, and it came as a surprise to the caretakers of John (three Americans) and the national park authorities. The quality of care we extended to John for the three days he was admitted to our facility was greatly appreciated. After receiving their modest invoice, they told us John had been treated in the US in the past six months for a similar condition. At that time, they had paid close to ten times what they paid at our facility.

Inspired by the positive impact we were able to have on John and many like him, we are now in better condition to confront health care needs with vigor.

Thank you for the support you render to PMI.

Patrick Byamukama
Project Administrator

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You have all our thanks, Emily Clouse Kugonza

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For the past two years, Masindi town and Masindi-Kitara Medical Centre have been graced by the presence of Emily Clouse. Emily has served at MKMC on assignment with the Peace Corps and is closing her service this month.Emily has made an immeasurable impact during her time in Uganda. Not only was she able to help MKMC on multiple levels, but she developed a public health curriculum that has been shared with communities all across the northwest region of Uganda. Among her long string of accomplishments over the last two years, Emily has:

  • Taught family planning education to villages with MKMC
  • Worked with Father’s Heart Mobility Ministry and Free Wheelchair Mission to give out wheelchairs around the district
  • Began an income generating brick maker program for local day care, funded by The Pollination Project
  • Built a latrine and got piped water to local day care through Appropriate Projects
  • Secured funding to install a rainwater harvesting system at MKMC
  • Led a ReUsable Menstrual Pad workshop with different primary schools in Masindi

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The lessons she has left behind and the work she has done will far extend her two year sojourn with the town of Masindi. We are forever grateful for the lessons she has taught, relationships she has built, and progress towards a healthier future she has made.

On behalf of MKMC staff and the entire community of Masindi, we want to thank Emily Clouse Kugonza, a Peace Corp volunteer who has worked with us for the past two years. She joined us in June 2012, and her work has greatly impacted the local community here in Masindi. Through her efforts we acquired oxygen concentrators and a CBC machine for our laboratory, among other things. Her community health outreaches have led to the growth of deliveries at MKMC, in addition to increasing the number of mothers seeking family planning methods at our facility. We are very proud to have partnered with you Emily, and we wish you the best.

MKMC Staff

If you have the joy of meeting Emily on one of PMI’s medical trips to Uganda, please send her some encouraging words as she transitions to live on American soil for the first time in two years. We are grateful for the time we were able to share with Emily, and we know bright things are ahead for this one.

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