A note from Emily in North Sulawesi:
We are off to a great start! Yanti and I are super motivated by all of your support and we are making it happen! Got up early to meet Dr. Levie, and our driver, Serfie, and head to the Health Minister’s office with Hanna, the assistant to the Governor of North Sulawesi. Hanna is in charge of putting international helpers like Learn To Live in touch with the correct government contacts. We met with Hanna’s boss as well as Dr. Maasje Pantouw, head of maternal and child health care in North Sulawesi. We discussed LTL’s goals and everyone seemed very excited to help us, and even asked us for help in specific areas. Dr. Pantouw was especially happy to know we would be focusing on helping expectant mothers and had brought along a fetal heart monitor (Doppler) for each village. We are excited that she wants to come with us to Bunaken to observe and help out. We had been curious about whether or not LTL would be able to take blood samples to test for malaria, TB, and HIV, and actually get them read locally so we better understand the demographic we are working with, and she assured us that it could be done. She also expressed a need for expectant mothers to know their blood type in case they need a blood transfusion, and would like us to test for that as well. We made an appointment to meet with the rest of the government health staff tomorrow morning at 8am and give a presentation about LTL. I thought it was amazing that in Indo we could just roll up to the office building, with little notice and just chat with people. I would never dream that that could happen back in the states.
Throughout these talks Yanti has been expressing that we aren’t like other groups who just run in, give some superficial medical care, and then leave forever, still as outsiders, never truly connecting with the community. We will continue to be an obvious part of these people’s lives after we return home through telemedicine, and through the local contacts with doctors and hospitals in Sulawesi, and will be building a program that lasts and is effective for the rural people of the area. It is very important for us to work with the locals to assure that we are working within a framework that makes sense to the people of Indonesia, without just imposing our Western ideals upon their culture.
Last night I was speaking with a group of Indonesian men at our hotel, including the hotel’s owner about our program and they were particularly interested in the fact that LTL is not affiliated with any religious group. Most groups they see come through here are religiously affiliated missionary health groups and the gentlemen were expressing resentment about that. They also told me they were very surprised that a young white girl would travel all the way to Asia unpaid to help poor people in Indo and told me I had a good heart. I almost cried ( for the 20th time since I’ve been here). I’m full of emotion about so many things in my life and I’m so happy to be here helping Yanti do something that means the world to her, not to mention the people here who will be getting medical attention and education. They are not forgotten.
Tomorrow we are on to Sapa and Beringin to touch base with the chiefs of each village before our team arrives. We have a long day of travelling ahead of us, wish us luck!