Jericho Road and D’Youville Team Up for a Medical Mission Trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo
“The challenges of this century are borderless. We must prepare students to live and
work in a global community, with global fluency and full engagement.”
~ Lorrie Clemo, PhD, President of D’Youville College, 2017 Inaugural Address
Buffalo, New York – November 22, 2017 – Over the past two decades, Jericho Road Community Health Center, headquartered on Buffalo’s West Side, has opened its doors to countless patients from diverse backgrounds. Many are longtime residents of the city; others are recent arrivals from places as far away as Burma, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A few years ago, inspired by their clinical work with Congolese refugees, Dr. Myron Glick, Chief Medical Officer, and Dr. Paul Violanti, Global Missions Director, were eager to establish a clinic in the central African nation. Through conversations with Rev. Robert Tice of Buffalo’s RiverRock Church, they learned of an opportunity to partner with New Hope Center for Grieving Children, an NGO located in the DRC city of Goma. In December 2016, Jericho Road opened a wellness clinic at New Hope, and Violanti, who also teaches as an adjunct professor in D’Youville’s School of Nursing, was already envisioning a unique educational opportunity for his students. With the support of the College, he began plans for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a beautiful country with a complicated history.
A former Belgian colony, DRC was known as Zaire during the 30-year reign of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who rose to power after a successful coup in 1965. In 1997, the country became the Democratic Republic of Congo, and since 2001, Joseph Kabila has ruled as president. During the past decade, clashes with militia groups from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, economic instability, and corruption under the Kabila regime have created misery and chaos for much of the Congolese population. New Hope, located in the eastern part of the country, offers support and safety for families and children who have been ravaged by war, disease, and poverty. With its focus on prenatal and maternity care, Jericho Road’s clinic is a welcome and vital addition to the center.
In September, Violanti and three students in D’Youville’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program — Emily Anderson ’17, Abby Grainge ’18, and Kathy Marcotte ’17 — gathered up badly needed supplies, including medication, bandages, intravenous tubing, and a pulse oximeter, and made the long journey from Buffalo to Goma. For two weeks, the Jericho-D’Youville team volunteered at the wellness clinic, where they conducted in-service training and worked alongside local staff.
In one of several emails sent from abroad, here’s how Violanti described this important mission:
On Friday, September 16, we left the Buffalo airport at 6 in the morning, and arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, 28 hours later. We slept over in Kigali and then drove another four hours through lush and pristine jungle mountains (where gorillas and chimpanzees live) to the border city of Goma.
On Monday morning, we finally arrived and got our first glimpse of the New Hope Wellness Center. The clinic is located in the outskirts of Goma and nestled between one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes, Mount Nyiragongo, and beautiful Lake Kivu. As we drove through the front gate, Madame Chantal (Director of the Clinic) warmly greeted us, along with Dr. Daniel (Chief Medical Officer) and the entire Wellness Center staff. Two years earlier, I had been at this very same spot, where weeds and lava rocks once covered the ground. Now there stands a majestic, brand-new modern medical clinic that cares for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
It didn’t take long to realize that the Wellness Center is not your typical African NGO medical clinic, but rather, a close-knit family serving this traumatized neglected community together as one. Every morning the entire clinic team would meet at 7:30, and one of the staff members would share a devotional message. Then, before seeing any patients, they would come together in prayer and pray for the day. Next, Dr. Daniel would lead the entire group into the inpatient ward, where each patient’s case would be discussed in front of the entire medical team, including the nutritionist, nurses, medical assistants, pharmacist, and lab technicians. After rounds were completed, another busy day of seeing patients would begin.
For Violanti, the most memorable patient was an 11-month-old baby girl named Juliana. Weighing just 8 lbs., she arrived at the clinic severely malnourished because her mother couldn’t produce enough breast milk. Thanks to meals and nutritional supplements, she was able to put on a few pounds and gain some strength.
D’Youville student Abby Grainge plans on working with underserved and refugee populations after she graduates either in the U.S. or abroad after she graduates spring 2017. Grainge offered this account of her experience at New Hope:
Every Saturday they have a malnutrition clinic, where mothers bring their children to get weighed and receive their weekly ration of Plumpy'Nut (a protein source full of vitamins, minerals, oil, sugar, condensed milk, and peanut butter that is designed to help those severely malnourished). It is hard to accurately paint a picture of that experience. We saw four-year-old kids who weighed 6 kilograms, and babies with congenital disorders, big bellies, red/blonde hair, and signs of dehydration. Many moms try to breastfeed but due to their own malnutrition, the act of breastfeeding has become a mechanism for soothing without the ability to nourish . . . During our time in the clinic, we saw many cases of typhoid, malaria, parasitic infections, STIs, uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, gastroenteritis, and skin infections. In Western medicine we take for granted the ability to tell a patient to go home and increase their fluids and rest to get over a viral respiratory or stomach infection. Here, where so many don't have access to clean water, IV fluids become all the more lifesaving.
The way the clinic staff interacts reminds me of Jericho Road stateside. Everyone relies on each other for emotional support, and by the end of our time at the clinic, we were part of their family. Everyone treats each other, and their patients, with humility and respect. They work diligently to provide excellent care to Goma's most vulnerable . . . I am thankful for the unique experience to serve these people while simultaneously learning and growing as an individual.
Her message concluded with a Swahili phrase, Bakiya Mazuri, which means “stay well.”
In her 2017 inaugural address, “The Purpose of Our Being,” President Lorrie Clemo reminded the D’Youville community that “a meaningful education requires both knowledge and service; you can’t achieve the first without living the second.” The autumn 2017 trip to New Hope Center in Goma is a shining example of how these two concepts can come together. And on the heels of Jericho Road’s first official global mission trip in partnership with the College, Paul Violanti is indeed encouraged. “God really puts all of these pieces together,” he says, knowing that it then becomes our responsibility to put them into action.
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