By: Alex Guinney and Feli Anne Hipol
Try and imagine going to a refugee clinic where individuals have minimal options and this place is their last hope. Well, Dr. Cynthia’s Mao Tao Clinic is exactly that place, where the Thai people allow the clinic to help those who are fleeing from the chaos in Burma. The clinic is located in Mae Sot, Thailand where our school group is currently located and where we had the privilege to go visit and take in a greater understanding of this community on the border and the medical needs of the many refugees.
Nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had while being toured around the clinic and it’s many facilities each with a specific focus. I found the dental care room and the prosthetics room to be the most interesting, because of the tools used or lack of tools used and the craft associated with them. There was only one dental chair that was simple and looked aged and not much supplies stored within the area, and with looking around at the many numbers of children and adults, I wondered if it met the needs for the community. And there were prosthetics I have never seen before so I was very intrigued by the craft,and how they go about meeting the needs of the refugees whom many had been injured by war and basically all patients were male. They did simple leg prosthetics, as to which I was able to see a refugee who was the owner of two prothetic legs and was able to get around rather efficiently.I think that the hardest part of the whole visit was the surgical center and the children’s care center. They were not very crowded when we where touring through, but the presence of those there was hard to see. I myself am struggling with the heat and lack of clean water supply so to imagine people who are sick and injured having to be in pain while sitting in a hot humid semi dirty room is unfathomable. I have seen photos of the lifestyles of the poor Thai in general but never have I imagined a medical facility setting. I had no idea of the luxuriousness of the hospitals I have visited at home. I’m fine with blood and guts scenarios but when I see others in physical pain and suffering I just feel so much empathy to where I would want so badly to just wish away there pain for them or help in any way I could but there was nothing i could do except continue my tour with my school group which was hard. In the children’s care center there was a baby boy being treated for malaria, hooked up to so many tubes and shaking while his mother sat by his side just trying to comfort him as much as possible. It hurt to just watch them go through that, where I am standing there watching in my nice touristy clothes and money in my pocket holding a nice camera doing nothing but soak in the scenario. I know that I get to go back to a clean hotel with air conditioning and they get to spend the night there on a mat on a tile floor hoping for better days. Again I wish I could have made a difference in their day even if it was just a moment of happiness but I could think of nothing I could do except for to get out of their hair and give them one less person who was invading there space during their time of need. Someday I hope to be able to be the person that can have a positive impact on those who are in dire need, so as of now I will simply remember this experience for the rest of my life and continue my education so I can have the knowledge and ability to take action next time.
Feli Anne –
Today was an incredible experience To tour the Mae Tao Clinic and it opened my eyes to a true humanitarian’s work. It was touching to see the volunteers that work at the clinic and to hear the stories of the patients being treated there. It was very inspiring for me to learn about the clinic and the many conditions they treat with the minimal resources they have. There were times during our tour that were difficult to see but I wanted to learn more so I made myself get near the patients and see the conditions they were in. The most shocking site for me was the same as Alex’s, the baby struggling with malaria while his mother and possibly his aunt were by his side brought me near tears. The volunteers and staff are very strong people to be able to treat these children and patients with life threatening illnesses. It’s a service someone chooses to do, and good hearted people from all over the world come to Mae Sot just to volunteer their skills in the Mae Tao Clinic. I’d like to do some humanitarian work after I finish school, I may try to do it at home because of the large refugee population in Utah that needs volunteers to help them adapt to American culture, language, and resources. I think as a volunteer for the Hser Ner Moo Welcome Center, I’m on a path to helping refugees with their education and to find resources so transition to American life a little less difficult, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
An amazing person I met today was Maung Maung Tung, who is a staff member and artist of the Mao Tao Clinic. His art was amazing and can be viewed online at http://www.burmesepaintings.org. Each painting has a story of the people depicted in it. It’s very touching and also brought me near tears when he showed Peter and I his favorite one. These people go through so much hardship and he shares their stories to the world. He was truly an unforgettable artist and it was a memorable day.