Four Hi-Line residents will embark in July on the trip of a lifetime when they travel to Africa to take part in a month-long medical mission.
In early July, the volunteers will board a plane and begin a 36-hour trip to the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, where they will operate a clinic for the residents of the isolated village of Sakelia in Tanzania.
They are volunteering to provide basic medical care to the residents of the remote village. They will bring with them medicine and medical supplies donated by area residents.
Judy Neely of Havre will be traveling with Dr. Carley Robertson of Northern Montana Hospital, Jason Hagen of Havre and Sharon Robertson of Big Sandy.
They are going under the auspices of International Evangelism Outreach, which aims to help improve the lives of the residents of the isolated, poverty-stricken village.
For Sharon Robertson, the idea began when she attended a talk by Dr. Robertson and Ben Miller of Missoula, an official with International Evangelization Outreach, at St. Jude Parish Center.
The doctor explained the program, and talked about Sakelia and the medical and social problems its residents face.
"I thought to myself, if I'm ever going to do something like this, I should do it now," said Sharon Robertson, a Box Elder teacher..
The participants are collecting medical supplies, cash and other necessities to help them during their stay, in July.
When looking for a new job. Neely said she wanted something that was interesting, challenging and would make a difference.
"This sure does that," she said. "Only this job doesn't pay," she laughed.
"I'm so excited, I can hardly see," she said.
She is learning about Tanzania, its people and its culture, she said.
One of the health problems people have, she said, are orthopedic-related.
"People have to walk long distances to get water," she said. "They carry it on their heads."
That sometimes causes medical problems, she said.
Sharon Robertson said many people have feet problems because they walk so much and few residents have shoes.
So many Big Sandy people have donated shoes — some have gone out and purchased new shoes to donate.
Dr. Robertson will provide the medical care, while the others will be taking patient histories and helping out in other ways.
Neely said community organizations have already come forward with donations. For instance:
• Northern Montana Hospital has donated $1,500 worth of medical supplies — including over-the-counter pharmaceutical products, such as artificial tears, ibuprofen, anti-fungal cream and acetaminophen, as well as multi-vitamins for adults and children.
• Western Drug donated a large container of medicines.
• Havre Lions Club will donate used eyeglasses that have been donated to the club by patients of local optometrists.
On Friday and Saturday, raffle tickets will be sold for two quilts at Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods.
And soon, a central location in Havre will be set up where people can donate medical supplies and medicines.
Sharon Robertson said her church and other people in the community have helped out with supplies and donations.
The program began more than 20 years ago when a Sakelia resident attended seminary in San Diego, and became interested in doing the Lord's work in his hometown, she said.
He set up the clinic, and an entire compound that includes a pre-school, grade school and high school, along with a trade school and a farm where people learn new techniques in farming.
Although the Hi-Line people will be working in the medical clinic, they will be accepting donations for the other aspects of the mission, she said.