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HELPING HANDS Medical Missions in Ghana
A team of 20 medical missionaries and a Legionary priest served those most in need in Ghana, Africa.

Dr. Jimenez, DDS from Cleveland, OH providing dentistry care to a patient in Bibiani.
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.

To watch 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 Government Hospital.

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
The HHMM team with their chaplain, Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC and the pastor of St Theresa’s Church, Fr Simon Assamoah.
The HHMM team with their chaplain, Fr Jeffery Jambon, LC and the pastor of St Theresa’s Church, Fr Simon Assamoah.
cannot afford medical care.

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.

Fr Assamoah’s request was also taken to heart by Tom and Julie Clements, the founders and directors of an Atlanta-based non-profit
Julie Clements teaching children how to pray the rosary during a door-to-door visit.
Julie Clements teaching children how to pray the rosary during a door-to-door visit.
organization called “Clap for Jesus,” which is already building a Catholic high school in Ghana, not far from Bibiani.

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.

Eight 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.
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.

DAY 1:
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… slept.

DAY 2:
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.
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.
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.)

After 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, about the missionaries’ gifts to the local hospital can be read at this link.

In the afternoon, the missionaries set out again on home visits, this time to care for the sick and housebound.

DAY 4:
On Monday, 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.
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.”

DAY 5:
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.
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.

DAY 6:
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).

DAY 7:
Medical care 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.
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 49 patients.

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.

DAY 9:
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.
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:
On 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 and serve.

“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.
Lupita Assad with patients at the triage clinic in Sui.
treated, and we need more doctors and nurses willing to serve.”

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 serve others.

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.

The missions have served over 105,000 patients so far.

Generally, 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 people.

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 in:
• Itacoatiara, Brazil from June 19 to July 2, 2008. Portuguese translators are especially needed.
• San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala from October 17-25, 2008
• Sonsonate, El Salvador from October 31 to November 8, 2008
• Santiago Texacuangos, El Salvador from November 7 to 15, 2008

For more information about volunteering as a medical missionary, click here.



Related links web site
Mission Network
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and the Center for Family Development
Changing Hearts
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Helping Hands Medical Missions

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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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