Friday, January 8, 2010

Abie from the old slave shacks 1-7-10

Tonight we traveled into the era of slave shacks - extreme poverty. We were literally practicing bush medicine. Passing meds hand over hand across mud and through rain to get from shack to shack. Students were scribbling BP readings and vitals on their arms by flashlight. We were amid the shacks in darkness but could not dismiss the children pulling at our arms to see their mothers. Half the students went home; they made and waited with dinner until we got back. Brenda R. from Kenya did a nice blessing before our food. Now we are trying to resurrect our intake forms from the numbers written on boxes, scraps and arms. Then, we will offer reflections and get some sleep.
Friday 8am we start in Steer Town. Then we will lunch in Ocho Rios and purchase breads to use as tonight’s Shabbat challah. We will make a brief visit to the Falls and then return for Shabbat dinner. And unbelievably - it's over. Our students have had hands-on medical experiences with over 500 patients - infants and elderly, well and terribly sick. And, they have had hands on human experiences with the exact same people. Did we see Jamaica? Maybe more than any tourist ever has. Not a hint of a tan or beach sand in anyone's shoes. Incredible.

Fariba from Jamaica January 7

I would have to say that one of the most memorable points of this trip happened when we went to a small girls' home the other day. I was told the girls living and studying there are victims of sexual abuse. They were removed from their homes and families and placed here for safety and ultimately hope for a better life and future. These girls were not here out of choice, rather because someone or, in some cases, multiple people put them through pain and harm which forced them to leave everything and anything familiar. It was heart-wrenching to hear some of the stories of what these girls had been through. I became very close to one girl in particular; she opened up to tell me she had been raped three times in her sixteen years of life. I froze when hearing those words. I have never been in such a situation and I honestly did not know what to say. So I listened. She told me she isn't going to let those things affect the rest of her life in a negative way. She was going to keep smiling and rise above all the negativity and suffering. She said that what she really wants to do is speak the word of God to those around her. She wants to be the one to give strength and wisdom to others during their times of difficulty. I couldn't believe it. This sixteen-year-old girl who had been through things I could never even imagine was looking to move beyond it and remain strong and faithful. This was the highlight of the day for me. At that moment, I felt so honored and grateful to be where I was. I am so thankful that I spent a little more time talking with and getting to know this young girl. It's during moments like these that we realize how important it is to not only talk but also just listen to others. By opening our ears and hearts to other individuals, we give so much. And, we get so much. Sometimes, all someone needs is a friend to talk to and share their thoughts with. What I will take with me from this trip is that, in addition to continuing to work hard and pursue my goals of becoming a physician and helping those less fortunate in similar situations, but I will also remember to be a good listener along the way and when I do reach that point. I want to be a physician to whom my patients are comfortable revealing themsleves and with whom they will share aspects of their lives. This is my goal thanks to the experiences I have been so fortunate enough to have here in Jamaica.
Fariba K.

Amber from Jamaica January 7, 2010

The people in Jamaica never cease to amaze me. I have enountered a lot of hardship over the past couple of days and have experienced the uncanny ability of the Jamaican people to count their blessings in spite of that hardship. Today I was blessed to be at the prayer station for the whole afternoon. Praying with so many people for so many hours was a wonderful experience for me, and afterward I realized how much the Jamaican people have helped me grow in my faith. Person after person taught me how to pray. Earlier this week when I was at the prayer station, I gave those who came through the option for me to offer the prayer or for them to offer it, and each time they asked that I offer it. Today I began to just ask them to say a prayer and I listened and prayed with them silently. I was deeply moved to hear the gratitude they felt to God for all of the blessings in their life and how thankful they were that we were there to serve the community. In their prayers they never forgot to pray for their community and to praise God for his mercy and love. be so thankful when you have so little. It was a reminder for me to never cease to thank God for the tremendous blessings he has given me and recognize that everything that I have is a wonderful gift from God.
Amber B.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Abie on 1-6-10

We are truly an interfaith group. A Rabbi is leading a mission from a Jesuit Catholic university. IsleGo, our Jamaican service host, is non-denominational Christian. Our first visitor for a presentation was a Rastafarian. Our clinic was set up today in a Methodist church in Golden Spring. Tomorrow we are in a Baptist Church in Liberty. Sunday, we went to Catholic Mass in Ocho Rios and tonight spent ywo hours in the mosque in Ocho Rios with their Imam. Friday night we will have Shabbat dinner in St. Ann's, the parish near Ocho Rios. Perhaps a first, since the island's 200 Jews live in Kingston. I see it's a small world every time I travel it.
The Imam tonight was erudite and eloquent, raised as a Catholic by parents who thought he might be a priest. He went London to study and the rest is history. Truly a model of devout Islam with genuine interfaith knowledge. A fascinating experience for our students.
We have been resolute - every minute has been filled with medical service and interfaith. Xavier's name is really being broadcast for good. We will see over 500 patients. At this point, 4 patients have been sent to the hospital with very serious conditions. Of the 500, but a handful have not accepted our students' invitations at the end to join them in a prayer for healing.
Nice food treat today. I walked down the dirt rural street during a rain break and bought two fresh coconuts. The owner's son cracked 'em and all of us had delicious coconut for an afternoon treat.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Xavier University Students Begin 2010 on Interfaith Jamaica Medical Mission Trip

From January 2-9, 2010 before classes resume at Xavier University in Cincinnati, thirteen Xavier students will cut short their holiday breaks and travel to Jamaica on an interfaith/medical mission trip. Dr. Richard Fry, Obstetrics/Gynecology, and Paula Niederbaumer, RN and nurse practitioner from TriHealth Cincinnati will join the group, as will Bonnie Herscher, a nurse from California. The founding director of Xavier’s Office of Interfaith Community Engagement, Rabbi Abie Ingber, is leading the group. The students will shadow the medical professionals in the mountain health centre in Steer Town, Jamaica and will meet with theologians of different faith traditions common in and native to Jamaica.

“In the midst of America’s passionate debate about healthcare,” says Ingber, “Xavier students will come face to face with a Jamaican community desperate for medical attention. The students will shadow professionals from TriHealth in serving hundreds of impoverished residents of Steer Town, Jamaica. While immersing themselves in Jamaican culture, they will also reflect on the multicultural and interfaith diversity of their own group members. Not only will our college students to do good, they will grow professionally in the process. As we spend our week in the midst of this poverty, I want them to reflect on the diversity of this world and on how their different faith traditions brought them all to this same place to use their education to serve an impoverished community. Simply put, we are trying to develop the next generation of American leadership both at home and in our larger world community.”

About Interfaith Community Engagement
Xavier's Office of Interfaith Community Engagement works to create and strengthen a sense of community among those of diverse faiths on campus, in Cincinnati, and on regional and national levels. Interfaith Community Engagement is a student-centered initiative that allows individuals to both deepen their personal faith and enhance their understanding of other traditions. It serves the larger community in areas of social justice, shared religious teachings and leadership development.

TriHealth (the community partnership of Bethesda and Good Samaritan Hospitals) is the Mission Sponsor of the Xavier Medical/Interfaith Service Trip.

Xavier students head to first day in the clinic at Steer Town Jamaica.

Children of Steer Town Jamaica.

TV Jamaica recording the action in Steer Town on Tuesday 1-5-10

Kevin with a young patient.

Amber checking a patient's pulse.

Mena and Jenna from Jamaica January 4

10:12 pm
This is Mena B. and Jenna H. from the Jamaica Interfaith Medical Mission Trip. We would like to offer the following reflection to keep everyone in Cincinnati updated on the work being done here in Steertown.
Jenna: "Today was our first day at the clinic. All in all I would say things went well. We were able to treat 140 people today. I was truly touched by the people of Steertown's joyful spirit. Despite their unfortunate situations, they still greeted each of us with smiles. This spirit and hope is what drives me to continue on my path towards working in a healthcare profession. It is also what deepens my faith and trust in humanity. In the small amount of time I was with each person, I was able to form a relationship with them and feel a common bond between us. I am so thankful that I have been given such an amazing opportunity to experience the interconnectedness of human nature. I am unbelievably touched by the experiences and relationships I am forming here. I know that this is only the start of mission work for myself, and look forward to the days when I can lead one of my own trips. "

Mena: "As Jenna mentioned, today was a beautiful day, and as Rabbi and told us earlier, today was the day we would truly get to experience Jamaica. There are many ailments that afflict the people here. From diseases such as AIDS, parasitic infections, hypertension, a plethora of STDs, to malnutrition and lack of education. However, we all felt that in seeing Jamaica we gave hope to the people here, and in turn were given it. We were able to help treat patients, while getting to know them and their families, and this is what truly provided that sense that we were finally seeing Jamaica. Through the people we treated, we all seemed to find a looking glass into the essence of humanity, and thereby came to appreciate more fully Jamaica, the medical practice, and humanity as a whole. We now look forward to another day of intense experiences and reflection."

Brenda from Jamaica January 3

10:38 pm
Jamaica, Day 2
My roommates woke me up this morning at 7:50am. I was so surprised. I had slept like a log the entire time. I am normally able to wake myself up and considering that I slept for 8 hours instead of my normal 5-6 this time round. The day started well, the breakfast was sumptuous and whole with uncanned fruit and one of the yummiest bananas I ever ate. We immediately left for church, and on the way, I couldn’t help but notice tiny shack shops and small buildings: hair salons, clothes stores, supermarkets, you name it, it was all there; it kinda reminded me of home (Kenya) because of the set up. A couple of people mentioned this is like going back a couple of years; to me it was like going home, a very humbling experience to draw such similarities across thousands of kilometres of sea. We got to the church itself which was beautiful, with glass windows directly facing the beach. It was hard to imagine how anyone was able to concentrate on the service with the beautiful waves beating down on the shore right behind the priest. There was more, the church was bright inside with colorful writings on the wall. Being there gave me 'happy vibes.' It was not a big church as I had expected, but it was big enough. It was the second Mass I had ever attended in my whole life. The people were extremely friendly. The music was the best part of it I must say. There were drums, a flute and a jiggy piano tune. They almost had me going on a little dance there. The whole day was really good, but my highlights came later on. The first, when we were handing out flyers to the surrounding community at Steer Town letting them know about the clinic. It was very surprising how welcoming and friendly they were, welcoming us through their gates right to the compounds of their houses. The place is very hilly so we had to climb some slopes and descend some valleys to the houses, but the people were very happy to see us. There was one woman I met, she had been diagnosed with pneumonia a few days back, but she was still ill because she had no money to purchase the medication. Of course, I urged her on to come to the clinic, thinking to myself this is the reason why we are here. For me, I am looking forward to meeting the people, learning about them, their life here in Jamaica, their perspective on life. That is one of the main things I am looking forward to in the coming days. They talk really fast in 'Patwa' broken Jamaican, so it is difficult to catch what is being said, but that is not a problem as they are pretty comprehensible in what they say. In the words of David, our Rastafarian friend who came to address us: Jamaica is about getting to know the Jamaican people for who they are and it may be very different from what is presented to us at face value.
Brenda R.

Brittany from Jamaica January 2, 2010

10:45 pm
Hello from Jamaica! I have never been to a country where so many of the people are like me. That is the first thing I noticed when I deplaned. Yet, when I turned to my peers I saw the same thing. Although we are not the same physically I saw in them the same motives that I have. We are all from so many different backgrounds, ethnic groups and religions, but we are all here in the name of service and God. Even though we have just begun our week journey I already see God and good faith in our actions. I am anxious to get my hands dirty; I am ready to learn and actually physically contribute. All of my years of biology and chemistry do not compare to what I will learn in this week. This trip is surreal. I have high expectations and at the same time, I have no expectations. Yet all the while I do not know what to expect. I hope to help a lot of people but I also know that there will be hundreds we will turn away. Whether they are turned away in lieu of a sicker patient or whether they are turned away when we have to close our doors on Friday, still we will have to turn them down. It makes me feel like I am only making a small dent in much larger problem. Contrastingly, I know that even helping one person makes a difference and that gives me hope for our mission. When we started our day at 4 am this morning the town of Steer Town seemed so far away and distant. However, after only being here a few hours and being so warmly welcomed by the people I feel comfortable and like we were destined to come here.
Brittany B.

Kevin in Jamaica January 2

11:05 pm
We landed in Jamaica around 3pm. Customs was quite the ordeal. Thankfully, we were able to smooth over one of the customs officers with our first medical handout of albuterol. We drove about an hour and a half east to Ocho Rios, but the view made us want it to never end. The condo where we are staying is equally beautiful. It’s a stone’s throw from the beach and the back patio turns any meeting into a resort get away. We sat down to discuss the plans for the week and are now heading to bed after a long day. We hope to have one or two people writing you a day. Please let us know if there is anything specific you would like to hear about. Yea man!
Kevin C.