The Tanzania medical service volunteer team of the School of Medicine 2021
The Tanzania medical service volunteer team of the School of Medicine, Fu Jen Catholic University (Fu Jen TZ Team for short) was established in 2011 under the joint guidance of Father Johannes Long of the Society of the Holy Spirit and the Taiwan Africa International Service Association. From the original mission of "improving the health of pregnant women and children from remote tribes in Tanzania", the team has expanded to the current mission of "improving the overall health and disease prevention of the local population" by providing medical volunteer services in Tanzania, East Africa. This year, the members of the team are faculty and students of the School of Medicine, Fu Jen Catholic University, who hope to enhance the students' experience in medical practice through the overseas volunteer experience, and to cultivate a passion for serving people and becoming a health care professional who values holistic medical care.
The Fu Jen TZ Team will have served in Tanzania for ten years. The team's mission has expanded from "improving the health of women and children from the Maasai tribe" to "improving the overall health and disease prevention of the local population" and has also started to provide public health related services. The Maasai tribe is not the only one served, either. In 2019, the team took its services to the Bagamoyo area on the east coast to continue exploring the possibilities of how the Fu Jen TZ Team could serve there. The Fu Jen TZ Team will take the accumulated results of each year, what the senior students have seen and heard, and their experiences and suggestions to revise and continue the projects. This year, different lesson plans were designed according to the different areas served so that the whole health education can be more adapted to the local conditions and closer to the local life. In addition, in terms of health checkups, this year, the focus is on teacher cultivation so that schools can routinely conduct health checkups for the whole school. This year, the biggest goal of the Fu Jen TZ Team is to establish a safe and hygienic drinking water system in the areas of Engaruka and Nanja, so that the local residents can have safe and clean drinking water to use, and further improve the overall health of the residents.
Safe and hygienic drinking water
Having safe and hygienic drinking water is very important in public health. In the past, we found that the water quality in the Engaruka area was unstable and there was sediment from time to time; in the Nanja area, there was not enough water to use during the dry season, and the water in the nearby ponds was also very turbid and even shared with livestock. There were also many cases of diarrhea among the local residents. For these reasons, we hope to introduce the concept of safe and hygienic drinking water as well as homemade water filtration equipment made from local materials, so that the local community can have clean water to use and further improve the overall health of the residents.
Cloth sanitary pad project
According to overseas studies, providing nutritious lunches or building toilets can increase the enrollment of girls in elementary schools. Still, the rate of going on to high schools drops dramatically because sanitary pads are not easily available to local girls. Most women rely on absorbent towels as a physiological product, resulting in menstrual blood leaking out and staining their uniforms, thus discouraging them from attending schools. This project is intended to teach local girls in Engaruka how to make cloth sanitary pads to address the problem of inadequate physiological products and to teach them menstrual period related knowledge through this project.
In 2019, the Fu Jen TZ Team reorganized the first-hand data collected from Engaruka in the past using the community assessment framework. Also, it consolidated the questionnaires and health education contents from previous years. This year, this project will be continued and updated with the local situation to make it more complete. This will not only allow us to better understand how Engaruka functions, but also to identify its advantages and disadvantages and to ask questions about the local context.
Midwives and health education for high school students
Based on the team's past service experience, we adjusted the contents of the teaching materials. We developed different lesson plans according to the hygiene conditions and prevalence of diseases in different areas. Subjects include prevention and treatment of lung diseases, gender education, nutrition and chronic diseases, family planning, etc., to raise local awareness of health and promote exchanges between the two places through sharing Taiwanese culture. We will also provide health education on safe birth delivery for tribal midwives so that local pregnant women can have a safe environment for childbirth even when transportation is inconvenient. They cannot get to a clinic in time for childbirth.
Touring health checkups
Early detection and treatment of diseases can significantly reduce the damage caused by illnesses. The health checkups conducted by the team started in 2014 in Tanzania, which is a sparsely populated country with low accessibility to medical care and little awareness of the disease. The golden period of treatment is often missed before going to the doctor. The local people seldom have health checkups unless they are sick or for newborns or vaccinations, and they do not have the concept of having regular health checkups. Therefore, we hope that through simple health checkups and the distribution of health education leaflets, we can raise the self-awareness of local residents about the risk of illness, and hope that they will develop a long-term habit of regular self health control.
Clinic equipment upgrade and medical supplies donation
The only clinic in Engaruka is poorly equipped and lacks medical resources. In response to the shortage of medicine and advanced examination equipment needed to treat the residents with diseases, we solicited medical supplies for local use in Taiwan from all walks of life as we had done in previous years.
Improve the overall health of the local community→Look at the world through the lens of Maasai→Service for learning and self-growth. "Improve the overall health of the local community". We hope to improve the quality of life and overall health of the local residents through the establishment of safe and hygienic drinking water, the collection and proper operation of equipment in the maternity ward, the upgrading of clinic equipment, and the health education and health checkups of the general public and high school students, with the hope that the local community will receive equal medical care and have a better public health environment. “Look at the world through the lens of Maasai.” We hope that after this mission, the community assessment of Engaruka will be improved, local problems will be identified, and the future direction of the mission will be determined so that the services can be more closely related to the local needs. In addition, by understanding the medical plight of the Maasai tribe, we can figure out the similar difficulties that other remote areas may be suffering from, and we hope to expand this experience to contribute to remote areas in Taiwan and other poor areas around the world. "Service for learning and self-growth". We hope to integrate the service spirit of humanistic care into the professions we study in all departments of the school of medicine. "Learning" and "service" are both stressed together with "reflection", cultivating sound values to accept the differences of different cultures and individuals. Well-developed social concern and civic consciousness enable us to be more aware of the needs of society and to believe that we can make a difference to it. We believe that every glow of life and every smile of the people of Tanzania that we encounter there will awaken and strengthen the spirit of love and dedication that has always existed in the hearts of our medical students, echoing our goal of cultivating quality health care professionals with respect for life, a passion for service, a broad vision, active learning, and a full range of abilities.