3 Ways to Succeed in International Development

Bugarama, Burundi
Bugarama is a beautiful town in the Muramvya province of Burundi where PMI’s clinic will be located.

As we spend time working in international development and implementing successful projects, our expertise on operating in the developing world has grown. With that experience, we are always learning new lessons based on the circumstances surrounding us. Some of our most recent lessons were learned this past August in the beautiful country of Burundi.

We sent a team of 18 eager volunteers to provide medical care to hundreds of people in the Muramvya province, just an hour and a half east of the capital, Bujumbura. The team arrived with wide eyes and eager excitement to serve the people of Burundi. The trip began without a hitch and everyone loved getting to know one another and preparing for a week full of medical outreach. All was business as usual when we arrived at our first clinic site, set up, and enthusiastically began seeing patients on our first day of outreach. That is, until the Ministry of Health (MOH) arrived.

After examining our program, we were told we did not have permission to conduct medical clinics. Months of excitement, weeks of training, and unbridled anticipation all came to a screeching halt. Throughout the next week, we pushed and pulled and tried and failed to acquire final approval for our team of medical volunteers to operate. We were unable to accomplish the one task we came to do. We always tell volunteers to be flexible, but never had expectations so vastly been unmet. While natural inclination might be to do things our own way, pay a bribe, or just go home, we knew each of those measures would bring highly undesirable ramifications. So we did the opposite. Taking a look at the three things you should always do to succeed in international development will align your vision with that of your partners and position you for long-term success in your efforts.

Work within the system.

No matter what country you are operating in, there is a pre-existing system. If you’re in agriculture, there is a market. If you’re in healthcare, there is a hospital. If you’re in education, there is a school. The quality of that system is not the issue at hand. We are talking about the local leadership, customs, and structure. If your intention is to operate within a certain economic system, you must act within the preexisting boundaries. Part of the goal of your project might be to expand those boundaries, but understand that will happen with time and you must meet your partners where they are. Change takes time. In order to create lasting change, you must gain the trust and respect of local leadership. They are the experts. Walking into a space assuming you already have the answer is the wrong answer. Take time to listen and learn to gain a full understanding of context. Doing so will not only make your program stronger to meet targeted needs, but you will also build a wave of support from the very community you wish to serve.

Work with integrity.

Through each of our projects, we are resolved to build a positive reputation and conduct business in an honest, exemplary way. This may mean slowing down timelines and spending additional time getting to know all stakeholders. Our goal is to build a reputation of integrity in the regions we serve, and every choice we make as an organization builds our reputation for years to come. If you want to be held in high esteem and trusted by your colleagues, partners, and patrons on the ground, you must maintain the integrity of your process no matter what the cost.

Keep going.

If you’ve worked in international development for any length of time, you have undoubtedly hit a wall. Right when it seems you are making progress, there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This is not the time to throw in the towel. This is the time to step back, examine the situation, reevaluate your methods and keep going. Your evaluation of the situation might alter your approach and you could learn some very valuable things during this time – things that would have never been revealed without the stark wake-up call. Rather than swearing off ever returning to Burundi with another medical team, we conducted a thorough debrief with our partners on the ground. We spent time assessing what went wrong, learning what we could do to avoid those obstacles in the future, and planning our next trip.

As we move forward in the country of Burundi, we are thankful for the relationships that were strengthened in August and the excitement of our partners as we continue to bring quality medical care to our friends in this beautiful country. The people we work alongside are worth every effort, and that is why we will keep going.

You can learn more about our projects by clicking here, and you can help us build more medical centers across Central America and East Africa by donating here.

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Start at Home

We don’t want volunteers on our trips who don’t volunteer at home.

Do I have your attention now? Good. Let me explain.

The root of our short-term volunteer participation is hinged on our assumption that individuals will feel called to serve. We love our volunteers, and we love engaging them with the opportunity to reach out, touch need, and give their hand in bringing relief. It’s tangible, it’s overwhelming, it’s immediate, and it’s exhilarating.

When our volunteers return from a PMI trip we ask, “What is your likelihood to continue doing humanitarian work now that you are home?” In the back of our hearts and minds, we hope everyone would shout “I couldn’t imagine anything else!” with the enthusiasm of a lovestruck groom walking to meet his bride.

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Our Team is Growing!

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We highly recommend you take advantage of our new office hours and stop by between 10am-2pm because this congenial face will be the one to greet you! Claire Kendall recently joined the PMI US team as our Office Manager, and we could not be more excited to have her. Claire’s eye for detail and knack for organization is just what we need to keep the wheels running smoothly around here. Check out what we learned about her during lunch today…

Why did you want to work for PMI?

When I changed my major to Communications in college, I knew I wanted to work for a social enterprise or a nonprofit that had a sustainable model. It didn’t matter if it was a for-profit or nonprofit – I wanted to be a part of something that was doing good work, producing results, and benefitting people. I tailored my studies to that end. I also like people. I found that even before I became a Christian, I loved to volunteer with people – being able to help them in some way. Everything that PMI stands for is what I wanted to work for.

What inspires you?

I’m really inspired by Jesus Christ, and the way he lived his life. How could you not be? The way he formed relationships with people, the way he lived life with others, the way he loved, they way he spoke truth, the way he offered sacrifice for them – and none of it was conditional on getting anything in return. I’m just trying to live my life for him everyday, even though I’m a flawed human being.

What are your favorite things to do when you aren’t hanging out at the hottest office in Charleston?

I like to travel and go places I can do something active like hiking or extreme sports.

What is your favorite extreme sport?


What’s your favorite place to travel? 

That’s hard – it’s between out west, like Colorado or Utah, and the North Shore of Hawaii.

What’s the first thing people say when they learn you got married at 23? 

They take the Lord’s name in vain. It surprises people that I’m married because I look like I’m 17. But hey, when you know, you know. Plus, I married a hunk.

If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and what would you want to learn?

I would love to have a cup of tea with Jesus. I would also like to meet Charles Spurgeon. His ministry looked a lot like Jesus’s, and I’d like to learn how he did that. He was a very influential person and lived a very selfless life.

What are you most excited about in your new job? 

I am excited to form lasting relationships and deepen relationships with my co-workers. I am hoping to use my gifts to serve other people, and I’ll be excited if I get the chance to speak Spanish to some people.

(FUN FACT: Claire studied Communications and Spanish in Spain where she became fluent in the language.)­­


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Behind the Scenes :: On Tour with NEEDTOBREATHE

1411474857684_900pxPhoto by Paul Kim

If you’ve been around PMI for any amount of time, you may have heard of us brag about our friends, NEEDTOBREATHE. They wrapped up their last tour promoting their newest album, Rivers in the Wasteland, on Sunday. Their soulful, honest music has grabbed the attention of multitudes of fans across the world. Whether you’re tapping your toes to “The Heart” or swaying rhythmically with your loved ones to “Brother,” they have created an anthem for everyone.

Their music would be sufficient for a lifetime of admiration, but the soul of this group does not end with their encore. If you attended a concert, you might have noticed $1 from your ticket sale was donated directly to PMI. Thousands of dollars were raised for our life-saving projects in Central America and East Africa all through the generous initiative of the band.


But that’s not all. While the audience blissfully enjoyed the music from stage, band members Bear Rinehart, Bo Rinehart and Seth Bolt decided they wanted to do more. Seeing tour as a unique opportunity to engage people with a cause they care about, they gave PMI VIP access at each of their concerts. Then they let us bring friends – creating a special space for fans to meet the band while learning more about PMI. This introduced new relationships, sparked meaningful conversation, and spread the work of PMI across the East Coast. These guys put on a great show, but they choose to make it about more than the music – using their platform to help us spread ours.

Bear, Bo, Seth, Steve, John, and everyone who made this happen, thanks for letting us tag along.

1411133231.162186.IMG_2291_900pxPhoto by Katie McKenzie

Like NEEDTOBREATHE? Like golf? Then join us for the NEEDTOBREATHE Classic Golf Tournament on March 23, 2015! Click here to register today!

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Peace Corps + MKMC

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We are thrilled to welcome the newest addition to our team at Masindi Kitara Medical Center. Lynda Krisowaty will be spending the next two years with us in Masindi growing our public health curriculum through the Peace Corps.

Lynda hails from New York, and has a rich history of experience across public health and education sectors. Most recently having received her Master of Health Science in Mental Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she is interested in marrying her interests of mental health and the developing world. Through the grassroots experience she gains in working with the Peace Corp and MKMC, Lynda hopes to gain experience that will help her work on behalf of those with mental health issues in the developing world.

As soon as she arrived in Masindi Lynda dove in and joined PMI’s August medical team at outreach and worked with Village Health Teams (VHT) to teach about proper nutrition along with other public health initiatives. Part of her role with the VHTs was to review the curriculum together before presenting the material to the patients. As she continues to gain an understanding for the preexisting programs in Masindi, she will be able to strengthen and expand our initiatives.

We are thankful to have Lynda on our team for the next two year, and we will keep you posted with updates on her projects!

Patient Spotlight :: Baby Tumwesige

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It was the August Uganda team’s second day of clinic when a 6-month old baby named Tumwesige was brought in with a fever of 102.5 and a rapidly growing, unidentifiable mass on her abdomen. The child’s mother said that she first noticed the mass on Friday, which had since grown in size to its current baseball resembling state.

After a thorough assessment by the PMI team, it was determined that the abscess was a threat to the child’s life and needed to be removed. Without appropriate equipment in the field, the team immediately referred the child to MKMC for further examination and an IND (incision and drainage). The child’s family agreed to go to MKMC with their referral, and that they had sufficient funds to pay any medical bills incurred.

It was not until the next day the team received news of Tumwesige’s status. With great excitement Dr. Godson Senyondo, MKMC’s Medical Officer, reported that the baby had arrived, been assessed, and the abscess had been removed. Tumwesige’s fever had left, and she was recovering wonderfully in MKMC’s Inpatient Department. Later in the week, the doctors who had initially assessed the baby in the field were able to stop by MKMC and see how well she was recovering.

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PMI Volunteers, Dr. Greg Barabell and Henry Gass, were happy to pay a visit to their little friend and her thankful mother.

This story highlights the valuable synergy between PMI’s short-term teams and our long-term presence. In sending quarterly teams of medical volunteers, we are able to blanket large areas with medical care and identify patients who need follow-up at our clinic. Having a long-term presence on the ground allows for cases like Tumwesige to be cared for to the full extent of their need. Tumwesige, along with many other patients we have had the privilege to treat, would have died had it not been for PMI’s intervention.

Uganda Team :: Free Day

Waking up in Masindi this morning, our team had a sense of accomplishment from the hard work each of us put in this week.  Breakfast was at 7AM this morning, a little later than usual which means we had our first day to sleep in.  After breakfast, we packed up the vans and hit the road to have our day of fun and relaxation.  Our destination was the Para Lodge in Murchison National Park of Uganda.

We arrived at the front gates of the national park after about an hour drive.  We then proceeded through a forest with dirt roads and miscellaneous animals on the side of the road.  Finally, we got to see some monkeys!

We reached the Nile River after about 1 more hour of driving through the beautiful hills.  The vans loaded onto a barge to cross the river, where we happened to see a family of hippopotamus lounging in the shallow water.  On the other side of the Nile River, our hotel was located the top of a hill about a quarter mile away.  The front view of the hotel has a waterfall and an architecture that resembles something out of Jurassic Park.  We entered the lobby and were greeted with mango juice and a cool towel to wipe off sweat and dirt from the car ride.  Since there was no real agenda, everyone split into their rooms, took naps, went to the pool, looked around the hotel, and got massages.

A delicious buffet was served for lunch where we gluttonously stuffed our bellies.  I don’t think anyone waited, per historical doctor myths, the recommended 15 minutes before swimming.

Our safari started at 4PM.  Two land rover-like SUV’s and one of our trusty vans were used to take our group though the protected animal kingdom area of the park.  We saw a family of elephants about 5 minutes into the journey.  Everyone started snapping pictures and “ewing and awing” at the incredible sights we were witnessing.  We went on to see giraffes, elk-like animal, deer-like animals, reindeer-like animals, bambi’s, water buffalo, monkeys, muskrats (Timone), hippos, and a couple other miscellaneous animals.

Two of the cars finally found a lioness at dusk and came close to nearly blinding her with an escapade of flashes, headlights, and flashlights.  Good thing she had a small appetite and lots of patience.  After she worked the camera, we moved on to go save our brethren in the 3rd SUV that had a driver straight from Ricky Bobby’s drivers ed class.  “Shake and bake” was his style of driving in an eager attempt to find the lions before the other cars.

At this point in the safari, it is pitch black out with an illumination of stars and the Milky way above.  The tire got changed within a few minutes and we began heading back, whilst still riding on top of the van.  About 20 minutes pass, and we come across a mama elephant and her baby elephant on the middle of the dirt road.  She felt threatened and stood her ground, stomping and making noises that elephants make.  We felt rather vulnerable on top of the van with no protection and a frightened elephant in our path.  After a minute stare down, she directed her baby elephant off the road and we continued back to the hotel.

We are back at the hotel and have had a wonderful time in Uganda.  Thank you for your support and prayers throughout this journey.  Godspeed.

Michael Pruitt & Megan Jamison

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Burundi Team :: Final Day

Hello all! My name is Charlotte Basala and I am 15 years old. I am on this trip with my mother and grandmother and experiencing Africa for the first time. This trip had overwhelmed me in so many ways. The people here are wonderful and have truly changed my life forever. I have made so many new friends on this trip so far, some from the states and some here on the ground in Burundi. I would like to share with you all the fun day we had today with the team and translators at Club du Lac. The club we went to was very nice and a good closing activity to a challenging trip. Upon arrival we learned that some, if not most of the translators had never been to a club like that in their entire lives, so it was fun to be able to share a new experience with them. Once we arrived and got some lunch while relaxing under the Burundian sun, the real fun began. Some of the other team members and myself taught the translators how to swim. This was no easy task. So as we all splashed around in the pool, we were able to teach everyone to try to float and almost successfully do a handstand. All in all it deemed to be a great learning experience for all and we got to bond over something that seems like such a normal life skill to most Americans. I will truly miss this team and am already having a hard time writing about them. There were so many different personalities intermingling on this trip and it was a blessing to see how we all brought out things in each other that we normally wouldn’t see. I have seen different sides of everyone on this trip that few people get to experience and I am glad for it. Tonight at dinner, our last dinner together, everything felt normal and it was such a cool experience for me to be able to look around the table at the faces of people who I didn’t know a week ago and smile at the way we all connected on a certain level and to know we have all been through the same adventure and will be changed somehow. Maybe we wont see it now, in ourselves, or in others but eventually something that we learned on this trip will change something within us and my biggest hope is to be able to translate that over to my everyday life and the people that I surround myself with everyday because we know that trips and life experiences like these are rare. Thank you!


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Nicaragua Team :: Clinic Day Five

Hey everyone,
Today was our last day of clinic here in Nicaragua and it was a wonderful day; we finished strong by seeing over 200 people. That brings our total to over 1,000 people cared for by one amazing team!
Today we split into two teams. Michael, Meredith and Roxanne went to PMI’s clinic in El Viejo to perform surgeries and procedures for patients who waited a long time for their skilled hands. The rest of the team traveled to a church nearby and treated numerous Nicaraguan locals. We had a productive and joyful day at clinic as we all tried to soak it all in before our time here comes to an end.
This week has been such an eye opening experience for the whole team. We have been so blessed to be a part of such a positive change in such a beautiful country as Nicaragua. This week we have surgically removed a young woman’s congenitally deformed thumb, separated a mans webbed fingers so he could wear a wedding ring for the first time, pulled dozens of decaying and infected teeth, cleaned hundreds of mouths, provided therapy and assistive devices to those in need, treated acute and chronic life altering diseases, prescribed countless vital medications to so many individuals, and prayed for, healed and blessed so many lives.
In the process we have all become closer to one another, became friends with our interpreters and local helpers and strengthened our faith. It is truly amazing to see all the happy faces leaving our clinic just by providing what is considered basic health care in America. We have all made some sacrifices to be here however they have been far outweighed by what we’ve each gained personally and will be taking home full and grateful hearts. We are saddened to see our trip coming to an end but know the impact we have made will be long lasting. It’s off to a day of much needed R&R before a long day of travel back home.

Lindsey and Matt

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Burundi Team :: Clinic Day Five

The team enjoyed another wonderful day in Bujumbura.  A group of us were able to visit a home for elderly ladies.  We learned that in Burundi there are often situations in the countryside where older ladies who have never married or their husbands have died, and their children are too poor to care for them, are often left to die alone in a hut. A Burundian lady named Petranea, who had a vision to care for ladies in this type of situation, began to start a home in Bujumbura that would provide for them.  Currently there are seven ladies living in the home together.  Her dream is to have a large home that will house fifty.  The ladies appeared to be in their late seventies to early eighties.  They were so happy to receive visitors and welcomed us at the gate with smiles, hugs and dancing.  Some of them had poor eye sight due to cooking in the home and the smoke damaging their eyes.  They also suffered from hypertension, arthritis, and acid reflux.  Unfortunately, there are no financial resources available at this time to treat their current ailments.  Their spirit for life and their beautiful smiles, despite their adversity,  are precious memories that we will always carry in our hearts.

In the evening we shared our last meal together with our Burundian friends who have been so gracious and helped us throughout our time in this beautiful country.  Many more stories were shared about the difficulties they have overcome in their lives, but they are filled with hope for the future.  One of the Doctor’s shared that when he was growing up there was one doctor for the 400,000 people that lived in his village. This is something that we as Americans cannot comprehend.  Some of them were refugees who have lived through the atrocities of war and genocide, but through their strong faith, have been carried to a place where they are able to bless and help others who have suffered alongside of them. As we bid them farewell, we will keep them in our prayers and ask that God’s grace and mercy been shown to them.  As the Burundian’s say, “We do not say goodbye but instead we will see you soon!”

Judy and Tracey

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