Shayla Roberts, second year nursing student at  Medicine Hat College, assisted in the initial assessments for mission patients.

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Shayla Roberts, second year nursing student at Medicine Hat College, assisted in the initial assessments for mission patients.

October 1, 2012
ERIN MORAWETZ
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

After a successful three-week medical mission trip to Tanzania in August, Chalice Canada is already planning two further trips, as well as a significant fundraising project.

Chalice, a Catholic charity that runs sponsorship programs in the developing world, sent a group of 22 Canadian medical professionals – including doctors, a dentist, nurses, teachers and students – to two sites where Chalice also runs programs.

The TANCAN Medical Mission provided medical training and aid at the clinics and in the communities. It was in partnership with the Sisters of Visitation and the Vincentian Fathers in these communities.

Chalice plans to repeat the mission for the next two years while also raising money to build a maternity ward for the clinic run by the Sisters of Visitation.

Shayla Roberts, a second-year nursing student at Medicine Hat College in Alberta, said her experience on the mission trip was life-changing.

"It was phenomenal," she said. "Very eye-opening. It was amazing to see how the people live and experience the culture."

Roberts said she knows she wants to include similar trips in her future career, and wanted to get started as a student.

"It was a really good growing and learning experience for me," she said, describing her duties as part of the baseline team, which completed the initial assessment of patients before sending them off to different areas of care.

Dr. Elizabeth Tham, a family doctor specializing in women's care, and her husband, emergency-room physician Dr. Francis Sem, were the two doctors on the trip. No strangers to medical mission trips, Tham and Sem brought their three sons with them to Tanzania.

"It's . . . a wonderful family time together," Tham said. "(It's good) for them to see how other people live in the rest of the world."

Tham said the whole team worked incredibly well together, something Roberts also noted.

"We had people of all ages, all backgrounds, all walks of life," she said. "It was great to see how we could all relate to each other and work together and work as a part of a team."

For Roberts and others on the trip, an added bonus was making a stop to visit the child she sponsors through Chalice, four-year-old Edina. She describes their meeting as a really unique experience.

"It was really cool to actually meet (her) and put a face to the name," Roberts said. "Now when I get updates, I'm able to relate more."

Chalice mission trips co-ordinator Joanne Albrecht said Tanzania was strategically picked for the three-year initiative because it's a place where Chalice can have an impact.

"The idea is over the three years, we'll raise money to (build the maternity ward) and bring in professionals who can share their knowledge with the Sisters there."