|Dr. Jimenez, DDS from Cleveland, OH providing dentistry care to a patient in Bibiani.|
May 16, 2008. Atlanta, GA. HELPING HANDS Medical Missions
set out for Ghana, Africa from April 24 to May
4, 2008 to offer 8 days of free medical service
in the towns of Bibiani, Subiri, and Sui. The missionaries
focused their efforts on those most in need, mainly the
poor in outlying regions who cannot get access to the
hospital in Bibiani.
During their stay, the team of missionaries
treated over 1,500 patients and performed 5 urology surgeries.
a You Tube video of the Ghana mission, click here.
Thanks to the generous sponsorship of American
donors, HELPING HANDS Medical Missions was also able to donate
$200,000 worth of hospital equipment and medicines to the Bibiani
A Team Venture Is Born
HELPING HANDS Medical
Missions was first created in 1996 to offer free medical
care and evangelization to the poor in rural areas who
cannot afford medical care.
|The HHMM team with their chaplain, Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC and the pastor of St Theresa’s Church, Fr Simon Assamoah.|
With this in mind,
Father Alvaro Corcuera, LC, the general director of the Legion
of Christ and Regnum Christi, had encouraged HHMM to undertake
a medical mission trip to Ghana, so the goal of
going there was already on the horizon when Fr Simon Assamoah,
the pastor of St Teresa’s Catholic Church and vicar general
of the diocese of Bibiani, visited the States last year
to ask for support and sponsorship from American Catholics. One
by one, the pieces began to fall into place as
several groups came together to provide the sponsorship, leadership, and
missionary manpower for the trip.
The mission found generous
sponsorship in Msgr Hugh Warren, the pastor of St Andrew’s
Catholic Church in Roswell, GA, and his parishioners.
Assamoah’s request was also taken to heart by Tom and
Julie Clements, the founders and directors of an Atlanta-based non-profit
organization called “Clap for Jesus,” which is already building a
Catholic high school in Ghana, not far from Bibiani.
|Julie Clements teaching children how to pray the rosary during a door-to-door visit.|
Through a Legionary priest named Fr Peter Devereaux, Tom
Clements came to know about HELPING HANDS Medical Missions and
invited them to carry out a mission in Bibiani. Dr
Phil Kelly, the Regional Coordinator of the Atlanta Chapter of
HHMM, took on the task of organizing the mission with
his team. When it turned out that Dr Kelly was
unable to travel to Ghana, Dr John Petros took on
the position of Mission Director and the team of 20
missionaries prepared for takeoff.
A team venture was born: St Andrew’s
Catholic Church, Clap for Jesus, and HELPING HANDS joined forces
to meet a need and fulfill a mission.
Days of Intensive Giving
The team of 20 medical missionaries, including
Tom and Julie Clements, set out along with the mission
|Dr Harrison giving a pediatric consultation at the hospital in Bibiani.|
chaplain, Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC on an 8-day giving extravaganza
that began in the capital city of Accra.
After their long flight to Accra, Ghana, the missionaries boarded
a bus for an 8 hour voyage to Bibiani, a
town with a population of 13,000. Upon arriving to the
residence of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, they greeted the pastor,
laid down their baggage, went to Mass, ate dinner, and…
On Saturday morning, the primary care
team prepared the medicine for the clinic that was to
be opened on Monday. The surgical team checked the hospital
wards, pharmacy, and operating room in preparation for the surgeries
that would be performed on Monday.
In the afternoon, they divided
up into 7 teams for door-to-door home visits to evangelize
and share their Catholic faith with the people. Most were
Catholic families, but there were also some Presbyterians, Evangelicals, and
|A child in triage with an infected scalp wound.|
Pentecostals. The missionaries prayed with each family, gave rosaries to
the children who knew their prayers, and shared the message
that “the family that prays together, stays together.” For the
people who received their visits, this was “the event of
the year.” It was also a highlight for all of
the missionaries. DAY 3:
On Sunday morning,
the missionaries started their day of rest with a half-day
retreat. Bishop Joseph Francis of the Waioso diocese arrived for
their commissioning Mass at 9:30 a.m. The three hour Mass
was “beautiful beyond comprehension” because of the contagious happiness of
the people as they sang and danced in their worship.
One missionary observed, “They love Mass and give
it all they have, like the widow in the parable
who gives all that she has to live on.”
The bishop’s homily was on the Acts of the
|Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC with some new friends in the town of Sui.|
Apostles, which he likened to the missionaries’ outreach among his
people. He gave each missionary a cross, as well as
their team of local translators. (In addition to English, many
of the people speak their native language, Twi.)
Mass, the missionaries went with Bishop Joseph Francis for the
official opening ceremony at the hospital. The bishop blessed the
medical equipment, and Fr Simon, Dr Petros, the hospital administrator,
and several government officials made brief speeches for the event.
An article in the online newspaper, www.GhanaDistricts.com
missionaries’ gifts to the local hospital can be read at
In the afternoon, the missionaries
set out again on home visits, this time to care
for the sick and housebound.DAY 4:
the team of doctors and nurses began their work in
the hospital with urology surgeries, dental care, and physical therapy.
|Dr John Petros giving a consultation to a urology patient.|
Meanwhile, the primary care team travelled to the village of
Subiri, about 45 minutes away. The makeshift clinic there was
crowded and the needs of the people were overwhelming. They
suffer especially from hypertension, diabetes, hypotension/dehydration, worms and parasites, and
various kinds of infections.
One five-year old boy
had a deep wound on his scalp. Another young woman
had been suffering for over 3 years from undiagnosed hyperthyroidism.
The most common adult ailment was “mesisi” or “waist pain.”
The primary care team travelled 90 minutes to
the village of Sui, where they found many of the
same physical ailments. The town’s primary social problem is the
number of young, single mothers. One missionary observed that in
spite of their sufferings, the Ghanian people radiate great simplicity
and happiness. The women, in particular, work hard for their
families, often beyond the point of physical exhaustion. There is
|Long lines outside the clinic.|
a great capacity for sacrifice among the people.
One missionary noticed
a beautiful “Kodak moment” when Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC taught
the children to sing “Amazing Grace”. Then Tom Clements entertained
them while their parents waited to see the doctor.
The hospital in Bibiani had just
opened a brand new building, and the medical missionaries were
the first to use it. Many of the supplies had
been donated from the States, from examination tables, anesthesia machines,
dental examination chairs, clutches, and surgical equipment to antibiotics, pain
killers, and blood pressure and diabetic drugs.
At the clinic, the
medical team treated more cases of hypertension, c/o palpitations, and
mesisi (waist pain).
continued, and the team was swamped with more requests than
they could take. The work in pre-triage was critical, as
the nurses had to identify the acute problems and hypertensive
|Tom Clements giving out toothbrushes in Sui.|
patients to make sure the doctors had time for them.
Dr Harrison was able to direct the clinic while debrideing
abscesses and giving knee shots. The mesisi (or waist pain)
patients were sent to the physical therapist and to the
pharmacy to pick up analgesics. DAY 8:
On the 8th day alone, the medical team saw a
total of 304 patients. The dentist, Dr. Eddie Jimenez, treated
The leftover medicines were divided into three parts
to be donated to the three hospitals in the area.
Just before their farewell dinner, the teenagers’ chorus of
the parish sang and played the drums for the medical
missionaries at the residence at St Theresa’s Church.
The medical team packed up and travelled
back to the capital city of Accra to spend the
night there. Many missionaries said that it was difficult to
|More doctors and nurses willing to serve are urgently needed.|
leave Bibiani, where they had had such an intense experience
of self-giving to the people.DAY 10:
Sunday morning, the missionaries’ flight was delayed by 2 hours,
which meant a late arrival into New York and missed
connections… all part of the missionary experience of sacrifice.Getting Ready for Ghana, Part II
So far, the HELPING HANDS
Medical Missions is planning to return in 2009 for another
mission in the same diocese.
Lupita Assad, the
International Missions Coordinator for HELPING HANDS Medical Missions, said that
doctors and nurses who are considering going on a medical
mission should listen to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to come
“Follow the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to
serve the poor in need of medical care,” she said.
“It is an enriching experience that will transform your life.
The need is overwhelming. Everyone wants and needs to be
|Lupita Assad with patients at the triage clinic in Sui.|
treated, and we need more doctors and nurses willing to
About Helping Hands Medical Missions
Helping Hands Medical Missions
is a Catholic non-profit organization that provides medical aid in
rural areas of developing countries. It offers volunteers the opportunity
to share their faith while also using their talents to
Since its first mission in 1996,
HHMM has hosted a total of 69 medical missions worldwide in
Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, the
Philippines, and now Ghana. To watch a You Tube video
about the Philippines mission, click here.
have served over 105,000 patients so far.
each mission group is made up of 20-50 missionaries, accompanied
by a mission chaplain. The medical missionaries are Catholic doctors,
nurses, and volunteers from the United States and Canada. They
work in small clinics, hospitals, schools, and churches in rural
towns, providing surgeries, eye care, consultations, distribution of medications, follow-up
of surgical patients, house calls, and Natural Family Planning instruction.
The mission is also a spiritual experience for the missionaries,
as they take part in daily prayer, Mass, meditation, talks
on the teachings of the Catholic Church in bioethics, and
door-to-door house visits to share the faith with the local
Medical equipment, supplies, and medications are collected year-round
from companies, hospitals, and individual donors in the United States.
Since ground-level support is so crucial for the success of
the mission, contributors of medical supplies are just as much
a part of the mission as the volunteers themselves. For
more information on how to donate and contribute to the
missions, click here.
The next missions will be
• Itacoatiara, Brazil from June 19 to July
2, 2008. Portuguese translators are especially needed.
Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala from October 17-25, 2008
• Sonsonate, El
Salvador from October 31 to November 8, 2008
Texacuangos, El Salvador from November 7 to 15, 2008
For more information about volunteering as a medical missionary, click