A serendipitous encounter

Guest post by Carlyn Kerney, a Watsi volunteer alum

This summer, while doing development work in Tanzania, I had the opportunity to visit Watsi's Tanzania medical partner, Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (ALMC), and their rehabilitation center, the Plaster House.

First, a quick backstory… Two days before we went to ALMC, I gave my brother a $10 Watsi gift card for Father's Day. He sat with his four-year-old daughter and together they picked out two patients to which they would donate. Immediately following, he sent me an e-mail sharing the names of the patients they donated to: Joseph and Emmanuel.

When I looked Joseph and Emmanuel up, I was thrilled to see they were both in Tanzania. Strangely enough, my brother had paid no attention to where the boys were from while he and my niece were choosing patients. Although I thought it might be a long shot, I told him I would look for the two boys when I visited ALMC and the Plaster House.

On my tour of ALMC and the Plaster House, I met three Watsi patients: Naomi, Lamerus, and Joseph -- the same patient who my brother supported. They were each recovering from recent procedures for spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. I spent quite a bit of time in their rooms, loving on them and talking with their mothers.

Equally as incredible as just being there with them was knowing that only two days prior, my brother had donated to Joseph's procedure, and I was now seeing him in recovery.

Experiencing the direct impact of Watsi in real time brought my year of volunteering with Watsi as a storytelling content writer full circle.

After ALMC, we went to the Plaster House, one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited. The Plaster House defines itself as "a home in Arusha that enable children, from all over Tanzania, to recover after they have had corrective orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, or neurosurgery for a disability." This is where all Watsi patients who receive treatment at ALMC (as well as other ALMC patients) stay while they are recovering and awaiting their follow-up appointments.

While talking with Sarah Rejman, the director, I learned that approximately 70% of patients staying at the Plaster House are fully funded by Watsi and that without Watsi, the Plaster House could not manage to treat, care for, and house as many patients as they do.

The Plaster House is a magical place to visit. Rehabilitation is built in to the facility and the way in which it functions. Each time a child climbs out of bed and walks to the bathroom, they are receiving physical therapy. As they climb the play structure in the center of the facility, they are receiving physical therapy. Unlike many rehabilitation facilities, the Plaster House is a positive place, full of smiles and laughter.

Yes, there are difficult and dark days for the children, but the facility is built in such a way to support them during those times. In the center of the Plaster House is a large lawn and play structure and all windows face this area. If a child is in bed, feeling defeated, they can't avoid looking outside and seeing their friends playing and running around. This encouragement pulls them out of bed and back out with their friends.

Visiting children like Joseph and experiencing the Watsi model from start to finish was a very special addition to my trip. Check out this page to support a patient from the same Watsi partner organization that treated Joseph!

Katya Lavine

Katya Lavine

I manage medical partnerships @ Watsi