As mentioned in our update last week, we met with a group of about 12 medical students from the local Lutheran hospital in Moshi, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC). Initially we were reluctant to allow the students to visit the BCC centers. They seemed unwilling to perform any duties that would improve the program, so it seemed that we may be wasting the management staff’s time by allowing them to visit the centers for five days.
We met the doctors last Friday, and they were all very nice. Since they are highly educated, they all knew English very well, so we were able to communicate with them. As they visited the centers they asked us questions and made general comments that will assist us with developing the alternative medical program for the BCC children. We had a nice time, but nothing seemed incredibly worthwhile until the final day.
The final meeting was designed to be a debriefing session with the medical students. They were going to give their observations, positive comments, things we can improve, and such. We assumed it would be a general review of their observations and we would end the meeting. What ended up happening at the meeting was inspiring and led us to believe that working with these medical students was not a waste of time at all.
At that meeting, the students listed things that BCC does well. They were very impressed with the services that BCC provides to the children. They were excited about the social businesses BCC wants to develop in order to assist the parents by providing a job opportunity and also sustaining the program. They were also inspired by the advocacy work that BCC does.
The suggestions were also very helpful and reassuring. Every point the medical students made was somehow tied to the goals that BCC has set in its strategic plan. One student mentioned that he has been in Moshi for three years and that this was the first time he has heard about BCC. They suggested several ways for BCC to make the program more visible in the community. They also offered ideas on how to change the social stigma surrounding individuals with disabilities. They also made very helpful suggestions about how to put together the alternative medical insurance plan and how to instruct parents and caregivers in preventative medication.
At the end of the meeting, one student made a charge to his classmates. He said that the community needs to change their mentality about children with disabilities and that Tanzanians need to develop a culture of volunteering. He said, if foreigners can take time away from their homes and jobs then Tanzanians can as well. He said he was going to sign up as a volunteer for BCC and hoped they would all do the same. His words were very inspiring and we believe that his actions will follow.
These soon-to-be Tanzanian doctors live in communities with these children, they know the culture, they know how to treat tropical diseases, and they know the language. Who better to volunteer their medical services than these doctors! We are exceedingly excited about this possibility and believe that this is what building sustainable programs in developing countries is all about!
Several of the medical students signed up as volunteers. Their professor said that the school would be willing to regularly have medical students complete general health assessments for the children who receive services from BCC. Not only will this connection potentially save BCC thousands of dollars in the alternative medical program, but it will provide a wonderful service for the children.
We are very excited about having met the medical students. The potential relationship that could develop from working with these medical students instills a lot of hope in our hearts for the future for BCC and for the children that the program supports.