Medical missions are popular with many healthcare professionals. When done well, they provide significant benefits to patients in many parts of the world. When done poorly, they can actually do more harm than good.
At Amina’s Gift, we have sought to reimagine the medical mission—to build on its strengths and correct the weaknesses. Our goal is to provide a more educational approach to healthcare during our travels.
We believe in educating individuals about their bodies and their health. We empower individuals to make choices that will improve their lives, prevent future illness, and provide people with a sense of pride in making informed decisions about their health.
Transfer the Stethoscope
When we visit school children, we give them the stethoscope and let them listen to our heart and lungs. They are examining us. They listen to our heartbeat and then their own. With this simple reversal, they realize that we have so much in common. As they reach with their hands to listen to our heart, we are no longer foreigners, but friends.
This simple act has a powerful impact on young children, many of whom could not previously imagine a career in medicine. With the transfer of the stethoscope, they realize it is possible for them to become a nurse or doctor.
Establishing Trust and Cultural Regard
For the relationship between doctor and patient to be meaningful and effective, it must be reciprocal. The doctor provides care to a patient, who then (often) gets better. That is understood.
Less well understood is what the patient gives the doctor. On this side of the relationship, the reciprocity is a bit more abstract and nuanced. For the relationship to be effective, patients must give the doctor their trust. Since the traditional medical mission is a short-term event, it’s important to establish trust quickly.
Menstrual Cup Training with the Mina Foundation
During the medical tours, we train girls and women how to use a menstrual cup. The training educates them on reproductive health and the anatomy of their bodies. They are given a menstrual cup and taught how to use and care for it. The cups usually last for 5-10 years and save them more than $100 per year.
A remarkable adjunct to the menstrual cup training is educating the boys. Many boys don't understand menstrual cycles and don't have the proper respect for women. The Mina Foundation has demonstrated that this training is just as important as the training for the girls. With understanding comes respect and fewer teenage pregnancies.
Not only is the Mina Foundation very skilled at educating young women and men about menstrual health, it originated in Africa. This organization is a superb example of the skills of local companies solving healthcare issues on the continent.
Visits to Rural Hospitals and Clinics
During the tours there will be visits to hospitals and clinics in a rural setting. Visitors will be introduced to types of pathology found in rural Africa and learn how these issues are diagnosed and treated. In almost every case, resources are extremely limited. This tends to be very eye-opening for the folks visiting.
Visit to a School with Students with Disabilities and Hearing Impairments
The Amina’s Gift visit to the Danhiko School in Harare, Zimbabwe, is a remarkable introduction to how students with physical disabilities can be assisted in their learning process. The visitors meet the students and talk with them about the challenges they face in connection with mobility and learning. Physical therapists and social workers assist the students and get remarkable results. Students who previously were a burden to their families have the opportunity to be breadwinners for their family. Those with hearing impairments are remarkable for the variety of sign languages spoken. Each region of the country has a different signed language. (Be careful what you sign, for surely you will get into trouble!) Through the use of interpreters, the students learn a full curriculum.
An Immersive Experience
When done well the experience of traveling with a medical mission can be remarkably rich. We believe travel should be immersive to facilitate exposure to local people. Our guests stay in local homes and lodges. Our drivers and guides are all local individuals who offer insight into the day-to-day life of the region. If travelers understand a culture, they can better understand the people and the health issues within that community. Immersive travel allows you to establish trust with patients and provide better care.
Cultural Exposure Creates Better Care Back Home
The impact of an international medical tour can be significant for patient care in the United States, where there is a multicultural society and a wide variety of patients. The open-mindedness resulting from a tour will allow for a greater understanding of cultural differences, strengthening trust and ensuring better care.
Benefits to the Patient:
-A better understanding of their own healthcare
Benefits to the Teacher:
-Respect for other cultures
-Empathy for patients who are culturally or ethnically different from the healthcare provider
-Appreciation for the value of hard work