Bangladesh Flood Relief (2008-2009)

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Project Brief

Bangladesh is a country in the Indian subcontinent that is criss-crossed by a network of 230 rivers, most of them tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra. As a result of snow-melting of the Himalayan glaciers and monsoon rain, the country suffers annual floods with at least a fifth of the country submerged each year. In 2008, different parts of low-lying Bangladesh have been flooded and up to 600,000 has been stranded by the flood. To help in the disaster relief, CRS sent 2 relief teams in November and December 2008 to Koligram to provide medical aid and conduct children program in the disaster areas.

Reports from the field:

28 Nov - 6 Dec 2008
13 Dec - 17 Dec 2008

28 Nov - 6 Dec 2008

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The relief team preparing for check-in at the airport

Report of Bangladesh Team 1 ( 28th November to 6th December 2008)

By Chia Shao Xiong

The trip to Bangladesh was in response to the excessive flooding situation the country experiences almost every year. The floods have caused numerous health problems to the people of Bangladesh and medical help is expensive and inaccessible to the common villagers.

The team of seven members was led by Dr. Lim Koon Jin who oversaw the entire preparation process for the trip by delegating different roles to different members of the team. Helen Yap was the assistant team leader who handled all administrative and financial matters.

Dr Angeline Yong and Lim Hui Shan (nurse) was in charge of preparing the clinical items. Chia Shao Xiong was in charge of general logistics and Rita Ng was in charge of the things required for children’s ministry.

Our last team member Stephanie Lim was not involved in much of the preparation because she was still overseas thus was put in charge of capturing the moments during the trip with her digital camera.

A typical day while we were at Bangladesh would normally involve us first traveling to the place where our clinic will be set up, which varies from a half hour walk to a two hour boat ride. The setting up of the clinic was a little more difficult in the beginning but got easier towards the middle of the trip when we got accustomed to how the clinic should be run. The clinic closes in the afternoon for lunch and in the evening before it gets too dark. The location of the clinics are normally at places that have no lighting fixtures thus we have to close before the sun sets if not we would be plunged in total darkness.

On the last two days we had children’s ministry where we played basketball with some of the older children and conducted some craft sessions with them. We also went around for house visits. That was when we discovered that the daughter of one of our hosts was seriously ill for days. Upon closer examination the doctors discovered a growth on her armpit which has to be surgically removed before it causes further complications. That very night the doctors performed a surgery on the girl removing the growth and the pus that was in it. If we had not went around for the house visits we would not have discovered about the girl’s condition.

We would think that the surgery was to be the highlight of the trip but God has more in store for us. The incident that I would never forget about the trip would be Dr. Angeline discovering that she had lost her passport just hours before we depart. It was on a Friday which was a rest day for Bangladesh thus the Singapore high commission was closed. Despite all that has happened, the team prayed earnestly that Dr. Angeline would be able to return with us on the same flight. To cut the long story short, prayers were answered and God has shown us His mercy and faithfulness, Dr. Angeline had her passport problem resolved and came back safely to Singapore with us.

I believe that God has shown me in this trip that He is the one in control of everything and that we should be dependent on Him. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and learnt many new things from this trip. I would definitely return to Bangladesh again if time allows and would encourage all who are interested to take up the challenge.

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Rita, Huishan and Helen at the breakfast table
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The ladies wearing the local Bangladesh costume
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Dr Angeline seeing a patient
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Huishan dispersing medicine to the patients
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Rita conducting the children’s program
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The trippers playing basketball with the locals
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Stephanie and Huishan with the villagers when they are leaving the village

13 Dec - 17 Dec 2008

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Happy helpers

Report of Bangladesh Team 2 (13th December to 17th December 2008)

By Reeta Ramasamy

CRS sent a 6 member team to Bangladesh on the 12th of December 2008 to render medical aid to the villages who have been affected by long standing poverty conditions as well as from flood diseases that result from the annual cyclones that frequently batter the planes of Bangladesh. The secondary focus of the trip was to conduct fun activities for the children such as colouring pictures and playing musical instruments.

Pharmacist Loh Chin Siew headed the team and her vast knowledge of medicines was complimented by a good-natured yet effective leadership style. Daryl Tan, the assistant leader, could always be counted on for his enthusiasm while Kong May Teng, our spiritual leader, was a tower of quiet strength and was ever ready to literally and figuratively offer a helping hand to anyone who needed it. Treasurer Eileen Goh was on hand to offer a warm smile and useful suggestions and Dr. Jennifer Yeo’s medical expertise was surpassed by her personal courage, compassion for others in need and irreverent sense of humour. She chose to honour her commitment to CRS and go on the trip even though her grandmother was critically ill after suffering from an extensive stroke at 93.

The preparation work for the trip mostly consisted of getting and sorting out the necessary medical and craft supplies ready for the week long trip. The relevant documentation and finances were also discussed and finalized. The team also packed medication on a nightly basis to restock depleted medical supplies in anticipation of the patients who would arrive at the clinic the following day. The team also packed stationary on some of the nights to distribute to the children on the following day.

A typical day during the trip usually began with devotion at 7.30am, which was then followed by breakfast. This was normally followed by either a 10-minute walk along a scenic route to a nearby school where the team got to work by 9.30am. The team normally started registering patients by 10 am and worked all the way, only to take a quick lunch, and resume registering and treating patients.

Several work stations were set up to allow for the smooth flow of the large number of people which ranged between 100 to 300 depending on the day. There was a registration station where patients had their ailments noted and had a number written on their hands. They then proceeded to be examined by any one of the three doctors who were present. They went on to a prayer station where their spiritual needs was attended to before arriving at the impromptu pharmacy to collect their medication.

The day usually ended at about 4.30pm as the sun began to set at about 5pm. The team usually returned to the lodge and took a brief assessment of the day before proceeding to pack the necessary medication that was deemed to be required for the next day. The day usually ended with a debriefing session where everyone shared their thoughts and feeling about the day before having dinner and turning in between 10.30 pm and 11 pm.

The team was privileged enough to invited by Pastor Akish to join about 250 widows and widowers from the surrounding villages for Sunday lunch on the 14th of December. This generous act is carried out once a month where the elderly folk are treated to a feast of rice, vegetables, eggs, chicken and sweet rice deserts. It was a humbling sight to watch wizened ladies and gentlemen relish the food that was piled onto their plates, evidently enjoying both the food and company.

The trip’s impact was noted when Daryl claimed to feel happiness at being given the specific task of de-worming the patients as he felt sense of accomplishment at the end of the day while Eileen had mixed feelings of sadness at witnessing the poor living conditions that the people have to endure on a daily basis and yet also felt blessed in being given the opportunity to contribute in any possible way.

However Dr Yeo was the consummate tireless professional who did not hesitate to see patients at any time of the day be it paying a home visit to a 93 year old missionary or a girl suffering from a mouth ulcer who dropped by the lodge in the morning or changing the dressing on a boy who suffered from third degree burns on his arms and legs when he fell into an open fire.

The team started the 16th of December by taking a 1-hour boat ride through the stunning delta to arrive at a remote village to set up the clinic in an old school. Two classrooms were cleared for the doctors and the pharmacy. The well-coordinated effort of the team and the Pastor’s extended family members allowed the team to register, treat and dispense medication to about 500 villagers. The team had to shut the clinic down at 3.15pm due to the time that was needed for the boat ride back to the camp and the early sunset. In all the team managed to treat about 1200 patients over the week with the tremendous help and generosity of Pastor Akish and his family members.

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The chaos of medicine – a nightly routine
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Elieen distributing gifts to the children
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Celebration at the end of the day
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The daily walk to the clinic
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Dr. Jennifer addressing a patient’s medical concerns
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One of Team Leader Chin Siew’s many new friends
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Dr. Jennifer changing the dressings of a burn victim
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The team with our gracious host