Somos Amigos Medical Missions Meets Challenges, Looks Ahead
A year has passed since Christ Church parishioners who volunteer with Somos Amigos Medical Missions have been allowed to travel to its clinic in the Dominican Republic. Frank Brightwell, the nonprofit organization’s executive director and CEO, described the January 2020 trip in a recent newsletter to supporters: “It would be, what we thought then, a routine trip to staff our clinic in Naranjito. I still remember, as we had access to tidbits of news, that we heard of a virus outbreak in China. Little did we know what would unfold in the following weeks and months.”
The good news is that Somos Amigos has adapted by employing a local team to serve patients in the rural, mountainous region where residents otherwise have little access to health care. “Formidable obstacles had to be considered and overcome, but what would have been our April, July, and October trips evolved into month-long ‘experiences’ whereby we were able to provide medical care to hundreds of our patients, all while following the strict Covid-related protocols,” he wrote.
“And I am also happy to announce that our medical workers (two physicians with support) will also be joined by at least one dentist and maybe two. This will be the first time we are able to offer dental services since last January… we wanted to make sure we could do so safely, and we are now confident that we can, “ he wrote.
In ordinary times, several parishioners would be making plans to travel to the Dominican Republic during the coming year, joining dozens of other volunteers who provide medical and dental services four times a year in collaboration with residents of Naranjito. Members of Christ Church learned about their work and heard stirring success stories as recently as last March when Brightwell delivered the sermon at worship services in New Brick. Those were pre-pandemic times, and he was able to join parishioner and long-time Somos Amigos volunteer Mary Keath at an adult forum in Old Brick.
Looking ahead during 2021, Brightwell anticipates a hybrid team of local providers and volunteers might be a possibility in July, assuming a robust vaccine rollout by then. But the most likely option for Christ Church volunteers to return might be next October. In the meantime, Somos Amigos hopes to take other meaningful steps:
● It expects to complete the purchase of a parcel of land next to the clinic;
● It plans to supplement the on-site lab’s capabilities with new diagnostic tools;
● It plans to introduce HPV and Pap co-testing;
● It will continue to amplify the reach of its insulin distribution program and the women’s health initiative.
● Once local pandemic restrictions ease, it will assemble a council of representatives from feeder communities to help make plans.
Brightwell noted that none of the steps he outlined would be possible without the continued generosity of donors, at Christ Church and elsewhere. For information about Somos Amigos, feel free to speak to parishioners Dione Mahoney and Shahra Toth, who also regularly volunteer at the Naranjito clinic when circumstances permit.
Outreach Invites Parishioners to Attend Its Feb. 8th Zoom Meeting
As members of the Outreach Commission look ahead to 2021 activities — many of them virtual due to the pandemic — we invite parishioners to join in the discussion. The next meeting will be held at 8 p.m. on Monday, February 8th. The Zoom link can be obtained by emailing us at email@example.com.
CCC Continues to Seek Items, Recruits Volunteers for Indoor Sorting at a Pantry
Parishioners who help Columbia Community Care (CCC), the all-volunteer effort that came together in Howard County in response to the pandemic, are asked to continue collecting diapers and personal care items. Also, the organization has put out a call for volunteers who are willing to sort items indoors at one of its two pantry locations.
As of the first week in February, CCC organizers revised the volunteer shifts at the pantry at Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church, 3165 St. Johns Lane, Ellicott City, MD. There are now two shifts available to allow more people to sign up and to practice social distancing: a morning shift from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an afternoon shift from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Volunteers can sign up here to come in the morning or afternoon but do not have to commit to remain for the entirety of either shift. The sorting takes place five days a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Regarding the donated items, the Christ Church drive seeks diapers in all sizes and baby wipes, women’s sanitary care products, soaps, shampoo, deodorant, and other toiletries. Please put them in the yellow bin, marked “CCC,” just inside the Parish Hall door. You can drop off items on weekdays until 2 p.m., but we ask that you call the church office at (410) 381-9365 to let them know when you are coming.