The WellSpan Spotlight

Bright spots

WellSpan BrightSpot: Offering medical care, education, and love to Ethiopia 

WellSpan BrightSpot: Offering medical care, education, and love to Ethiopia

Who: Nine WellSpan team members joined a 30-member team, organized by Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, on a 10-day trip in July to provide medical and other services to residents of Sendafa, Ethiopia. The WellSpan team included: 

  • Dr. Ed Nelson, family medicine physician. He directed the medical team on the trip.
  • Andy Seebold, senior director of physician and advanced practice provider recruitment. He directed the logistics on the trip.
  • Heather Barr, speech therapist.
  • Dr. Bill McGuinn, anesthesiologist.
  • Nancy Miller, retired nurse.
  • Dr. Bora Park, family medicine resident physician.
  • Nicole Snelbaker, case manager.
  • Dr. Joseph Uwazota, family medicine physician and faculty member in the family medicine residency program.
  • Isabella Wise, nursing assistant. 

What: Working with 76 Ethiopian medical volunteers, translators, and other support people, the U.S. team provided medical services, educational support, and home visits to more than 4,000 residents of Sendafa, a town of about 25,000 residents with limited access to medical care, clean water, sanitation and other basic services. Less than half of the population has access to bathrooms. 

The medical team did primary care visits, vision exams, dental procedures, general surgeries, and cataract surgeries. The WellSpan members focused on the primary care visits and simple general surgeries, which including hernia repairs, removal of benign tumors and cysts, and other procedures. Earlier, WellSpan helped to fill a 40-foot shipping container with medical supplies, which were sent to the village in the spring and used during the trip. 

Other team members taught English to more than 250 middle school students in the mornings and visited village homes, helping to place sheets of vinyl on dirt floors, where some family members sleep. 

Working through an organization it founded called Project Adopt a Village (PAAV), the Living Word Community Church has been sending medical and educational volunteers to Sendafa since 2006, with regular participation by WellSpan team members (halting for the four years leading up to this trip due to COVID-19 and political unrest in the country). Overall, PAAV's goal is to help improve medical care, public health, and educational opportunities, and foster economic growth in Sendafa. The next trip is scheduled to take place in July 2024.

Words to live by: "We have a passion for helping people. It's hard to find people with greater needs, quite honestly, and yet there is also great hope," says Seebold, who also is a member of Living Word, and serves on its board. "We love the people. When you are in their presence, it feels like a family. It's almost an indescribable experience. As much as we are there to serve, we are the ones being served."

Dr. Nelson, a Living Word member who has been going on the trips since they began, says, "We are there to show love and compassion in a practical, meaningful, and tangible way. The team that works there year-round reaches out to the poorest of the poor and the marginalized, and we come alongside them and work together with doctors, nurses, health care workers, and others. There are tremendous needs and we are there to serve them."