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Making a Difference
1. Can you tell me a little about your different organizations?
I go over to different countries to help people who are less fortunate. Through Doctors without borders I became interested in humanitarian work. Some of the work that I have done includes going to Guatemala as a medical surgeon and construction worker, volunteering in a medical mission in Greenville, South Carolina after hurricane Mitch hit, working in Honduras on a medical team, working in Nigeria doing projects to help different diseases including Malaria, HIV, cholera and the measles. My brother lives in LeMars, Iowa and is a part is The Gehlen Catholic Church. We do many projects together. The church focuses their attention on Honduras, Central America. We have brought food, water, and medical attention to these people. I have worked with Kids against Hunger which is a food packing and distribution program that is distributed to people all over the world. I have taken over fifty humanitarian trips. On these trips I have served as a team leader, team member, logistical coordinator and planner for other trips.
2. How did you and your bother get started with this organization?
I was into Emergency Medical Services in Minneapolis. I wanted to be in the surgical part until I went to Guatemala with a team out of Saint Paul and built cement floors for people with out floors. My brother Dick wanted to get high school students involved and wanted them to be able to put what they hear every Sunday into their lives. At first we just brought one high school girl to Honduras on the medical team. Then as time went on we added to the number of high-schoolers that could go at one time. This coming year there will be seven different high-schools that have students coming along. Since 1999 twenty three teams has went on these mission trips and twenty five of the people have been high-school students.
3. What has been your most memorable moment?
In Honduras, a seventeen month old boy who only weighed about ten pounds, was blind, had visible sores throughout his body caught my attention. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with him, but we knew that he had a very rare medical disease. I helped this young boy’s family bring him over to The Mayo Clinic in the United States so that the doctors there could do some testing. The boy still only weighs about thirteen pounds but he has gotten his vision back and is slowly and steadily improving.
4. What has been your saddest experience?
My saddest experience would have to be seeing these people and creating a bond with them but having to accept that after you leave a lot of the people will most likely die. This is true is especially Africa and Asia. Women and girls have a huge disadvantage because they get less food, little to no protection and get raped.
5. How long have you been doing this?
6. What are some of the countries that you have been to?
Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Asia, Africa, Latvia, Kenya and Nigeria
7. Where do you stay when you are over in other countries?
High schoolers stay in rooms that are attached to different churches. The medical teams stay in houses with host families. The cooks and the rest of the teams, like myself always stay up in the mountains.
8. Do you feel like the way that your parents raised you or your education prepared you most for what you see in other countries?
The Emergency Medical Service prepared me to see a lot of the different situations. I had to realize that my teams could not change the world; I am driven by the fact that we can change one person’s life, one day at a time. And ma always raised us to always be willing to help.
9. What do you hope to leave with these people when you leave them?
I always want them to know that I care, that’s why I come to help them and bring other people to help them. There are always going to be other people who are willing to face the challenges in life. We do it because we care. We want them to realize that we are here to help. I take this way beyond myself. The really poor people are always the most grateful.
10. I heard that there was a paste that is being made to help starving children; can you tell me more about that?
Doctors without Borders use Ready to Use Food (RUF.) Kids under six months cannot eat everything that we bring over so RUF is targeted to these small children. It is a peanut based paste that comes in a foil and is ready to eat. There is 500 kcals per bag.
11. Are there any similarities between what you see in the United States and what you see in other countries?
The United States has programs that can help poverty and the countries that I mainly work with do not. In the US there are different diseases. The United States does not really have any starvation, or not as severe as I see in the places I travel to. Other countries have much high infant fatality rates.
12. What has been your favorite country to travel to? Why?
I would have to say Honduras because I this is where I go most often. My Brother Dick’s programs are based out of this country.
13. What has been your biggest reward throughout this whole experience?
My biggest reward would be just knowing that my different teams’ hard work makes a drastic change in the people who were dealt less fortunate lives.
14. Have there been any changes in your job since when you were first starting?
There have been a big incline in the starving people. There has been a tremendous violence increase. We now have figured out a system where we focus on one spot instead of traveling to different random spots.
15. How do you spread the news about the different organizations you work with?
The food programs are out of different schools. We have given many talks in churches and have been the topic of discussion. The T.V. and news have helped us out over the years.
16. How do you get people involved in these organizations?
It is all based on volunteering. There are people always being put on waiting lists who are always waiting, willing to go. Because of the surplus in volunteers, a lot of people do not get to go over.
17. What has been your biggest road block while doing these organizations?
Money! Shipping food, buying medical containers to ship stuff in, and getting the medication is all a very spendy process. We pay for everything almost, out of our own pockets. Safety is also often a struggle. It is also hard to find drivers and people to help in those ways.
18. Can you tell me a little about your background?
I graduated from Elkton High School in 1963. I then went to Nettleton Business College until 1964. From 1966 to 1967 I served our country in the United States army. After the army I attended Dakota State University where I earned a bachelors degree in business administration. After school I worked at many places.