An event, three years in the making, unfolded in Agbelouve, Togo on June 3, 2023. GPiH’s very own Jannie Price, Executive Administrator of Development, led a small team of college students to prepare for the arrival of a nearly 10,000 pound shipping container. Joining Jannie was Kate Bandel, Denver native and recent graduate of Creighton University headed for Occupational Therapy school in the fall; Liza Zaruba from Columbus, Nebraska, a senior at Creighton University, and a summer intern with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland; Katy Vontz of Omaha, a Certified Nursing Assistant and future nursing school student; and Tanios Ayoub also of Omaha, a sophomore at St. Louis University, and pre-med student.
The container consisted of medical supplies and equipment, a surgical table, a generator, and materials needed for the eventual construction of two surgical suites at the Agbelouve health center. These supplies were gathered over the course of three years; some donated to GPiH, some purchased, but all being used for the care, education, and empowerment of the Togolese people. Joining Jannie and the students two days later was a team of retired health care professionals, including Dr. Coleen Stice, Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Roalene Redland, General Surgeon, Dr. Sharon Redding, PhD Nurse Educator, and Annette Grosse-Rhode, RN Surgical Specialist.
Providing her own personal account of the trip, Dr. Stice said:
“In March a 40ft ocean container left Omaha bound for Lomé, Togo. For more than three years the volunteers with GPiH have been collecting medical supplies and surgical instruments for the future operating rooms at our health center in Agbelouve, Togo. Over a period of three days, the supplies were unloaded and distributed to the health center and to the medical university in Lomé. The supplies were then placed into the Agbelouve health center. There were five deliveries of newborns during the two weeks the medical team was there. One was a dire emergency and if the supplies and medical team had not been there, the mother and the twins would have died. The contents of the container made all the difference. All the work the two teams did allowed this family to avoid disaster."
Not only was the trip valuable for the Togolese, but it also provided an opportunity for the pre-med students to gain personal instruction from the medical staff as well as an invaluable perspective on international healthcare. Liza Zaruba, reflecting on her trip, said:
“My experience in Togo with Global Partners in Hope was nothing short of incredible. As a health policy major on the pre-medicine track, I enjoyed learning about the rich collaboration between the health facilities and non-governmental organizations to obtain, organize, and distribute health resources across the community. I was also struck by the power and necessity of these relationships to create sustainable, lasting change. The Togolese people could not have been more welcoming - embracing our presence from the moment we arrived and becoming another reminder of the shared humanity between us all. As I move into my career as a physician and global health advocate, I will carry with me these sentiments and more as I continue to work collaboratively alongside others to create a more equitable future for us all.”
Throughout the entire three year process, it truly was amazing to watch as so many pieces came perfectly together: the donations, the volunteers, the loading, the seamless shipping of the container, the addition of the pre-med students, the wisdom of the retired medical professionals, as well as the many Togolese individuals that jumped in to help at every turn. GPiH is so grateful for all the people that made this vision into a reality.
The shipping container and its contents are simply a single instrument in the full orchestra of what GPiH is here to accomplish ~ “So that women and children not only survive, but thrive for generations to come in underserved, French-speaking West Africa. Led by local partners and staff, we enable access to clean water and sustainable health care centers, powered by renewable energy.” This is the mission and vision of GPiH, and we are so grateful for your trust and belief in our cause. Thank you for supporting and embracing entire communities of people that most of you will never meet! Through you, HOPE is being restored in Togo!