Northwest Medical Teams helps tsunami survivors become heroes
In the past two years, Northwest Medical Teams' volunteers and staff have treated thousands of people living in temporary shelters, helped to rebuild hospitals and clinics, trained new healthcare workers to replace those killed by the tsunami, and established trauma counseling programs staffed by local counselors.
Now with help from Northwest Teams volunteers, the survivors of the disaster are learning to save the lives of others.
Donnie Woodyard, an Indiana paramedic serving with Northwest Medical Teams, oversees the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) initiative in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Tsunami funds are being used to not only provide jobs, but to train people in life-saving skills.
Recently, a group of newly certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) saved the life of a seven-day-old infant. Using their CPR skills, the Sri Lankan EMTs suctioned the child's airway and breathed life back into her lungs.
"Never before have I worked with a group of EMS providers that makes such sacrifices to learn and then serve their neighbors and friends," says Woodyard. "Their love for their community, and their community for them, radiates brighter than the midday sun on this island in the Indian Ocean."
Many of the 13 people working on his crew lost their homes, their possessions and family members to the tsunami. Most still live in temporary shelters, yet come to work day after day to help people in emergency situations.
On the two-year anniversary of the tsunami that struck South Asia, our hearts still ache with the terrible loss that occurred," says Bas Vanderzalm, president of Northwest Medical Teams. "I'm so grateful for all that our volunteers and local partners have accomplished. The lives saved, hospitals rebuilt, and health workers trained are all a testimony to the overwhelming compassion of the people of the Northwest."
Northwest Medical Teams has committed more than $41 million in donated funds and supplies to disaster response efforts in the region. Current projects are focused in the following countries:
- A three-year community health program in Nias.
- A two-and-half-year community health and wellness initiative in Pidie.
- A reconstruction/capacity building initiative with a hospital in Banda Aceh.
- Additional programs focused on water and sanitation, HI- and AIDS awareness and prevention, and EMS initiatives.
Northwest Medical Teams continues work in health and medical projects along the East Coast of Sri Lanka, including Tyirai, Kuchavelli, Kalmunai and Ampara. Though civil unrest has made implementation challenging, projects continue to thrive including:
- A three-year EMS capacity-building program based in Colombo and with satellite sites in the east (Tyirai) and south (Hikkaduwa).
- A three-year community health initiative covering parts of the Hambantot and Ampara region.
- Program initiatives focused on additional community health programming throughout the tsunami zone. Depending on security and access, expansion of EMS to include additional disaster preparedness measures, and relief programs for internally displaced people (IDP) in the Eastern Province.
Northwest Medical Team is partnering with the Ministry of Health in each of the affected regions along with local healthcare providers and community leaders.
Contact: Barbara Agnew