14 September 2010

any given tuesday...

I have been making a weekly pilgrimage to Portland for six weeks now. I won't get into all the reasons why here as I have another purpose for this post. Suffice to say on one of these occasions I ran into a man in the library I knew I recognized but given the years I needed a moment to recall his name. Finally it came to me and I went to say a proper hello and ask him what was really burning in my mind to know; "have you heard from Ysu?"

Imagine my surprise when he said he had received an email from the long-scarce Dr Umbalo not three weeks ago and that he believed our old friend to be in town as we spoke. I was early for my engagement so I asked for the number where he might be reached and made the call. After a moment he came on the phone and the shock of seeing my old roommate who has not been on the North American continent for over six years set in.

I drove out to his sisters house and we grabbed a cup of ice cream, then dropped him off at a meeting he had previously scheduled and went to mine. Of course he was in the northwest for more than just a whirlwind tour--there was an agenda afoot in fact--so I was able to see him a few more times before he flew back to the DRC (in Southern Africa). Still, greater than the joy of seeing an old friend I thought I might never see again there is the renewed purpose we had spoke about several years ago which he has been already undertaking in the years since.

Dr Yumba Umbalo is a family practitioner in the Lubumbashi, Dem Rep of the Congo. He established the M Soma Clinic there in a city of approximately two million people. Think of Lubumbashi as the San Antonio of the DRC. It sits about an hour from the southern borders and is about as densely populated. However, the city (last I heard) had only three hospitals and limited medical infrastructure supporting the practice of doctors like Ysu.

There are many dreams Dr Umbalo and I share for his work there. I have had tentative plans to go help him expand sustainable diagnostic testing in his clinic (and perhaps for other practitioners nearby as well) as well as training personnel to see that through. He would also like to see his clinic grow from a small practice (two physicians and a few nurses) that already operates 24-7 to a more fully equipped urgent care center to providing trauma care and perhaps eventually becoming a multi-service medical center.

Many of these dreams are a long way off, but the need exists now to expand access to treatment for HIV, TB, Malaria, and enteric diseases to name a few. Prenatal care is also often neglected by the poor and remotely located populations.

I will be helping Ysu write as many grant proposals as we can in the next year and beyond to target as many of these needs as possible, but I also hope to spread the word now that the M Soma Clinic is open and in need of your support. While in the US, Ysu shipped a 20 foot container with donated equipment and supplies from Portland to Lubumbashi and that need will continue. We hope to raise another $10,000 specifically to send a completely full 40' container around the end of the year. The network already exists and the supplies are waiting stateside for a new home, all that is needed is the ability to transport them to the other side of the world.

I also want to send you to the Mercy and Care International blog where you can follow their work directly and make donations anytime you are able. Stay tuned for much more to come...