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Blog

David’s Blog – 2018 Benin Africa Mission

Well, my first Bourget Foundation Mission is under my belt. I hope to participate in another mission at some point.

The team that Dr. Bourget put together worked very well as a group. It seemed that even non-medical volunteers were able to contribute to the foundation’s work.

A number of things that stood out to me over the week in Zinvie will remain with me for a long time.

The medical team performed 51 operations and 45 dental procedures over a 6 day period. Beginning at 8 am and regularly finishing after 8 pm with only a 30 min break to refuel with some lunch. They didn’t skip a beat. The hospital would frequently lose power mid-operation and it didn’t stop the team from pressing on to complete their work. We struggled to keep the Air conditioning running to keep the doctors and anesthesia team from overheating. The lowest temps we could achieve was about 24 degrees Celsius which began to feel cool after the first few days. Add operating gowns, gloves, hats and equipment running that generated heat, one can only imagine how warm the doctors were while performing their tasks.

We constantly monitored the AC units to ensure they were operating as efficiently as possible. Then it occurred to me that just maybe the staff at the hospital didn’t know how to operate the units and maybe they found that 24 degrees c was too cold for them to work. It also occurred to me that the AC units had the English language to control them. We frequently went into an operating room to find an AC until on dehumidify (raindrop symbol) and not cool (snowflake symbol). It began to make sense to me that the staff probably didn’t even know what a snowflake was. To them, raindrops may indicate cool. What would a snowflake symbol mean to someone who doesn’t know what snow is?

Believe it or not, some of us gained weight while we were in Africa. Most of our food was high in carbs. Very few fresh vegetables were available. I want to thank Sarah for doing such an amazing job keeping us (17 team members) fed during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We brought our own food to the mission to minimize the chance of developing a foodborne illness.

Although we were in a third world environment, the bureaucracy of trying to make the change and get things done is not much different than what we experience at home. It took us 4 or 5 days to figure out the hierarchy of the hospital. So getting access to some areas were a challenge in the beginning. A title may indicate a person is the head of the hospital but it becomes very foggy when an individual’s status in the community sometimes trumps the title……enough said about that. We now have it figured out.

One of our team members was 14 years old. She was given time off from school to attend this mission. You could go to school for 100 years and not gain the knowledge and experience one receives when you participate in an opportunity like the Benin Africa Mission. Renee Bourget was outstanding in her contribution to the mission. With little sleep, uncomfortable environment, bugs to deal with (and there were some big bugs) and of course very little internet, many 14-year-olds would have been defeated under those conditions. Renee handled herself with great maturity, professionalism, and confidence. Hmmmmm….I wonder where she gets that from. Dr. Bourget should be very proud of his daughter Renee.

Some of the younger children in the village have never seen a Caucasian Person. This was a new experience for me. Some were afraid of us ghost-like people and some laughed at how different we looked to them. Another new experience for me.

While the people in this village and many villages like this one are painfully poor in possessions, they are wealthy in a sense of community, huge smiles, friendliness and the family unit. I didn’t see one sad face in that community unless they were in pain from an injury or sickness. Simply WOW!!

Finally….. We take so much for granted. Being a team member of the mission certainly, put things in perspective.

David Clark
General Manager
Atlantica Hotel Halifax

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