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Habari Gani?
(Swahili for “What’s the news?”)

John Linsley ’04 (KSP fall ’02)
169 Perkins Row
Topsfield, MA 01983

Brian Hetzel ’02, M ’04 (KSP fall ’00) reported on his work with the non-profit medical group Jambo Tanzania. Based in western Massachusetts, they travel to the town of Bakoba Tanzania, every two years. Brian explained, “Our main mission is to set up a free medical clinic in Gera, a small farming village near Bakoba.  About 15 doctors, nurses and volunteers make the trip. We lug all of our medical supplies from the States in what seem to be countless boxes. Everything that we bring is donated or purchased with donated funds, and every volunteer pays his or her own way.  I was nervous about my Kiswahili, even though I had retained a good amount of it from the KSP, or so I thought. I certainly was not ready for the speed and grammar that awaited me in Arusha! Wanasema haraka kabisa!  I was able to get by in conversation at the clinic and even serve as a translator toward the end.” 

Brian said the clinic was an old run-down school house, with a triage area made of a cloth draped over sticks. They saw 200 to 250 patients per day with everything from severe burns to HIV/AIDS and cancer. “The doctors and nurses treated everyone; not a single patient was turned away,” said Brian, who was the “pharmacist,” taking orders from the docs and filling prescriptions. “We literally saved lives every day, often with nothing more than a little Gatorade. I watched a young girl, limp and barely responsive from a massive fever, come right back to life with a bag of IV fluids and children's Motrin.  There was no question that she would have died had she not seen us that day.

“The most troubling case for me, by far,” Brian continued, “was three young girls about eight to 10n years old, who walked 17 miles from their village, none in shoes. They didn't say a word, didn't cry, smiled briefly after they were given a few pieces of candy. Their temperatures each read over 104 degrees, the highest being 106! I am not a doctor but I know that one should not be upright with a temperature like that, let alone walk 17 miles with no shoes in the equatorial sun.

“These girls were so resilient; not even a sniffle. They were treated with just about everything we had, not knowing if it was malaria that was causing the fever. Two responded immediately, but the third child crashed hard. The founder of Jambo Tanzania, a doctor from western Massachusetts who grew up in Gera, wrapped the child in a blanket and just held her for hours. We offered to take her to a local hospital but her mother refused. There was not much we could do. I had never felt so frustrated and helpless in my life. As luck would have it, she rebounded overnight, and returned two days later with her cousins, and a perfect temperature.”

During their three weeks in Gera, Brian also did some teaching; his group has rebuilt the village school and added a library. “The kids ran after our bus as we came down the driveway each morning,” he said. “Never in my life have I seen kids so fired up about going to school!  A few of the volunteers teach a section of English.  I brought my laptop and I was able to show the kids New York and Los Angeles on Google Earth.  Watching those kids try to wrap their heads around what they saw made me realize that I need to dedicate myself to this line of work, especially in East Africa, where I have had such life-changing experiences. So, when I returned to the States, I talked to the administration at the small private school where I worked in Connecticut. The result was a huge fundraiser which included an all-night ‘dance-athon’ for Jambo Tanzania. We raised over $56,000, which will be put toward construction of a permanent clinic in Gera! Can you believe that?  Imagine the possibilities.”

In a school that the group he’s affiliated with helped rebuild, Brian Hetzel ’02 showed the children of Gera, Tanzania, some of the wonders of the world through the magic of his laptop.

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