The April 2010 Vision and Hope Clinics in Mali

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Legend Treks created the Vision and Hope Clinics program in January, 2010. We were more comfortable with initiating the clinics in Mali because we were most familiar with the Malian people and countryside and already had persons identified in Mali who were qualified and willing to coordinate the clinics. We selected the Dogon ethnic group for participation in the clinics because there are over 400,000 Dogon and there is no organized approach to eye care for the Dogon. In addition, Pays Dogon (Dogon Country) is one of the most fascinating areas as a Legend Treks destination.

Early in the planning for the April Vision and Hope Clinics, we added an excellent young man to the Legend Treks Dogon Team. Line Poudiougo is a member of the Dogon ethnic group. He is a nationally certified tourist guide who specializes in the region of Mali which includes Pays Dogon. He is also a university student studying English. He is intimately familiar with Pays Dogon, including the traditions and culture of the Dogon people.

Line joined the Legend Treks team after studying the missions and goals of Legend Treks and, particularly, the goals of the Hope and Vision Clinics. Since the beginning of his participation, he has exhibited initiative, hard work and excellent diplomacy. He conducted meetings with local and national officials in order to secure their approval and active support for the clinics. He recruited key members for the team. Raphael Sawadogo is a medical doctor who has twelve years' experience serving the Dogon. He now resides in Mopti where he is forming a private medical clinic. He continues to have a special place in his heart for the Dogon. In fact, his wife is Dogon. Karim Diarra is our driver and logistician. He has over ten years' experience transporting tourists throughout Mali. He and Line have worked as a team for several years. Doussou Sidibe is an advanced practice nurse who specializes in diseases of the eye. I quickly became very confident in her skills, including surgery. She also quickly gained an appreciation of the Legend Treks mission and relished her role an an integral member of the team.

We arrived in Pays Dogon on April 16 and settled into our Sangha accommodations and conducted an important meeting with the mayor and chiefs in Sangha. They voiced appreciation for our coming so far to help the Dogon and pledged their complete support for the clinics. That afternoon we toured the Sangha Clinic after meeting the clinic's lone doctor, Ibrum Oulogem and his only staff nurse, Mebo Perou. These two men serve a community of over 25,000 people.

The next morning we arrived at the Sangha Clinic for the first Vision and Hope Clinic. We had done alot of planning to get to this point, but we had no firm idea of how many patients we would see. We were very pleased to find over 100 men and women sitting on the ground outside the clinic in 100 degree weather! During the day we examined 154 persons, 54 more than we had planned. The clinic went very smoothly thanks to the planning, the team's skills, the cooperation of the clinic staff and the patients.

The next three days were held in three different villages, Tereli (88 patients), Amani (38 patients) and Ibi (99 patients), all within an hour's drive of our base in Sangha. We conducted these clinics outside due to the hot temperatures (average 100 degrees) and the lack of any air conditioning. The heat presented challenges for our equipment and our un acclimated bodies. But it was very satisfying work. Most of the people we assessed had never had a physical exam. They repeatedly voiced amazement that we had come so far to help them.

We thought we would find people suffering from diabetes and/or high blood pressure. In fact, in those problems were almost nonexistent. We did, however, find many eye problems resulting from the harsh sun, blowing sand and poor access to basic health care. We were looking for cataracts and we found them. Over 150 persons had advanced cataracts, cataracts that we hope to address with appropriate medical interventions on our next trip, planned for November. Other eye problems were addressed immediately. Our advanced practice nurse performed two surgeries and over 200 doses of Tetracycline eye ointment were distributed to treat infections.

In summary, some would say we could have done more if we had waited until we had perfect weather, more advanced equipment, more highly trained personnel. Instead we planned well, had excellent coordination with local authorities and focused on patient safety. We knew our limitations and did not exceed them. Ask the people we treated if they wish we had waited longer to come to Pays Dogon. In this type of these challenging conditions, you will never start if you are waiting for perfect conditions and are not willing to get out of your comfort zone. But you still focus on patient safety.

The last day in Pays Dogon we had another meeting with the mayor of Sangha and two local chiefs. They voiced their enthusiastic support for Legend Treks and its commitment to the Dogon people. We left Pays Dogon with increased confidence in our mission and excited about the future. We invite you do join us.

Larry Boyd Nutt
Founder and Fellow Trekker

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