(This blog entry was written by Jim Loeffler, Director of Medical Equipment Services here at International Aid, after he recently returned from a two week trip to Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo. His firsthand perspective describes his experience in the Congo.)
I was invited by Mercy Ships to teach in a Biomedical Equipment Technician course. I taught Biomedical computer applications and instructor training to 12 Congolese Biomedical Technicians. These technicians are responsible for the maintenance and repair of medical equipment throughout the country. Many of these technicians were just recently assigned to their respective hospitals to provide much needed technical support.
The knowledge (and skill) to repair and maintain medical equipment is severely lacking in developing nations. Very few mission hospitals have qualified people available to repair any broken equipment.
I had the honor of teaching my students the art of using their computers, and the internet to find valuable information to do their jobs. The internet is a huge resource of information. The students learned how to find information on all types of medical equipment including how to find technical support and spare parts (one of the things we take for granted here in the states).
Just teaching someone how to repair a piece of equipment isn’t always the solution, that person also needs to be able to pass on the knowledge to others to broaden the knowledge base. It has been said many times, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That phrase can be applied to this situation and the benefits of it can be amazing.
I also taught a week long class of instructor training so the students would be able to pass on what they learned in a logical and motivating. The idea of passing on information is somewhat of a foreign idea to many people overseas. In most underdeveloped countries, knowledge is power and is not shared.
My students were very interested in learning how to teach others, they understood the importance of sharing their knowledge and training others.
The trip to Pointe-Noire was an un-eventful but grueling 24 hours+ with connecting flights in Detroit, Paris, and on to the Congo. While there, I stayed in mission group’s guest house and my hosts Carmen, Larry and Judy were awesome. I had my own air-conditioned room (except on blackout Thursday!) and bathroom (complete with plenty of hot water). Our dinners in the evening were prepared in advance by a Congolese chef. Lunch was delivered by a caterer, I ate what the students ate during the day which was mostly fish, rice and plantains, chicken, rice and plantains, fish, rice and plantains, chicken, rice and plantains rice, fish and rice, chicken and rice – you get the picture. Once we had something the students told us was chicken, but Larry and I were not convinced. We also had tripe one day – something I’ll not soon forget. It had solid, gelatinous texture and consistency of the meat of a large mushroom. Tasty, but not something I’d enjoy often (hey, when in Rome…).
Over all it was a very rewarding trip, and I can see God working through the training of this program and the communities that will benefit from it. Please continue to pray for this group of students, the people in this community and International Aid. Together, we are doing amazing things to reach the world for Christ!