Boots on the ground! Once we arrived at our host village at an undisclosed location to get settled in, we struck out on a road march to another Karen village to deliver some medical aid and do some work on the village well. The terrain was nothing short of beautiful with miles and miles of a corn plantation between the upper village and lower village, the heat slowly rising to the point of unbearable by mid-day.
Our team ended up making several trips to and from the lower village for recon purposes before we joined forces with the locals to help them re-build the village well, installing a new pump in the process while simultaneously delivering medical aid. We usually could make the 4 hour round trip by foot, but occasionally we had a little help from local farmers and their hand made tractors. Some roads were simply impassable for the machines due to the rainy season and high river levels.
For security reasons, our team members were rarely allowed to travel anywhere outside of our home base without an armed escort. With the jungles of Burma being one of the most heavily mined areas in all of Southeast Asia, it’s wise to listen to your escorts and stay on the same trails when traveling by foot cross country.
The first order of business that the team focused on was the rebuilding of the village well, which we found in considerable disrepair. After the team did a thorough recon on the water supply, it was determined that the best approach would be to simply tear the entire well down, dig it out, and rebuild the site with a hand pump supplied by TR and a cover to keep out contaminants.
As we came to learn throughout our mission, the Karen work ethic is beyond compare and their attention to detail and military precision were a welcome sight. On the second trip, when team members Rob Swain and John Long returned to finish the project, the village chief brought in a new supply of teak wood. His workers had managed to dig out the entire well, draining the water in the process, in order to give the well the teak lining that would help assure clean drinking water for his people.
On the other side of the village our medical team set up camp in the Chief’s home as numerous men, women and children streamed in throughout the day to have their ailments looked over by the medical staff.
Even in the jungle the use of a little bit of technology can go a long ways. Below, Dr. Eisner cross checks symptoms through various programs that she uploaded onto her Google Nexus Tablet before leaving the U.S. In addition to the medical aid, our team managed to train several KNU health workers on everything from prenatal care to anesthesia to use in the field.
After several trips to the lower village, over 20 patients treated, 1 newly built water supply, and 1 new hand-pump, the first part of our mission was finally over.