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I am sitting in my dingy little office with a stingy ray of sunlight….. thinking of Bangladesh.
It’s been a few months since my second trip. It’s a rare privilege to work with such a great team and basically live for a period of time with some great people.
What words come to me? Intense; lots of hard work; some great meals; lots of laughs; blackouts; great Bangladeshi people; fantastic countryside; extraordinary poverty; people everywhere – can’t get away; visits to little villages; brick making by hand; some extraordinary anaesthetic equipment; committed people in Rotary; great friends.
Try it if you dare …. Or just help out!!!
Morgan Howard (2010 visit)
My enduring memories are the commitment and cheerfulness of the local hospital and health staff, the graciousness and strength of the parents and relatives of (mostly) children undergoing surgeries and the bravery and smiles of the children themselves.
I also wish to thank all local Australian donors and contributors to the Aussi Bangla Smile project – the work could not have happened without you.
Damien Boyle (2010 visit)
I’m married with two children. One daughter at university and a son with Autism, which keeps us very busy. It was not easy to leave my family for 2 1/2 weeks.
Being part of the Aussi Bangla team has been the most rewarding experience of my life, both professional and personal. I feel blessed and humble being born and living in a country that has so much, compared to the poor people of Bangladesh. The povery of Bangladesh is in your face the whole time, and you would see every medical conditon there just walking around Dhaka.
We worked very long hours to get 96 cases done and had lots of laughs along the way, as only nurses can.
I also value the friendships that I made from the lovely Bangladeshi people..
I would do it again if I could.
Christoph Pautke (2010 visit)
good to hear that you arrived safely back in Syndey.
It is fantastic, that you did a follow up of the patients and that only few and minor complications occured.
It was a great experience for me to join your team and to help underpreveliged people in bangladesh.
Actually, I cannot tell you what or how to improve you service, because I think the organization and the implementation of the mission was very very good and professional. The atmosphere in the team was fantastic. The conditions in the two hospitals visited were very good, better than expected. The documentation of the patients was properly performed. And the head of the team was the one who worked the hardest ;-)) What can you expect ?
In future, I would definitely like to join you team again – probably not on a more yearly basis but may be every second or third year.
Again, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to join your team.
It was great
Lauren Elliott (2010 visit)
Being part of the Aussi Bangla Smile Team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was able to experience another country in a very different way. Seeing the poverty and hardship in Bangladesh was difficult and very emotional, but the work we did and the places we visited made it so memorable. Visiting the burns hospital gave me mixed emotion, anger at the people involved with the acid burns but pride and admiration for the victims of acid burning. Their courage and strength is unbelievable. They can still smile and tell you their sad stories.
The Mother Theresa Orphange was awesome. The care and love the children receive and the encouragment the mothers get was great. They integrate all religions there. I loved the work we did at the hospitals – 96 cases. The little patients were so beautiful, they were so tiny. To see them post op was the best, their happy faces and their mother/carers so thankful. It was an awesome feeling that something so little we did will change and improve their lives forever. Thank you Barb & Hassan, without you this wouldn’t happen, you’re awesome. Thank you Puna (Hassan’s neice) you were an important part of the team. Thank you to all the hospital staff that looked over us so good over there.. And thank you to the team, you made my experience so much better, we made it fun and never stopped laughing.
We are all “Doushdo”.
Matt Rimmington (2010 visit)
In 2010 I had the privilege of going to Bangladesh with my collegues and the lovely medical staff we met in Bangladesh. As a father of two I would only want the best for my children. So when given the opportunity to make a difference to good hard working people, it was a privlidge . What they do not have in wealth they make up for in thanks, graditude and overwhelming appreciation. I will miss the people of Bangladesh but not the traffic. I think that it was a honour to be involved in Aussie Bangla Smile and look forward to another trip in 2012.
Sandy Burrow (2010 visit)
Overall the 2010 trip was well organised, thanks to Barb, Hasan, Rotary Australia and Bangladesh as well as Impact. What a combined effort and obviously good communication.
Impact cared for us at both Jibon Mela then Jibon Tari making things easy as far as finances, care and safety of the Aussi Bangla Team and efficiency in setting up provisions for a second theatre set-up, not done before at Jibon Mela, it seems. This all lead to many cases being completed.
Overall, our team worked well together and very efficiently and enthusiastically to get as many patients treated as possible. The success rate was 100% I heard, and under some conditions such as lack of certain monitoring, everyone survived, staff included!
Cleft Palate surgery is a far more risky procedure than lips and burns contractures surgery and I feel better overnight monitoring and closer observation is required. Basic Post-op care education would benefit local staff and therefore patients, as that seemed to be lacking, although the staff were mainly very helpful. There was one instance where I had checked on a post-op 3 yr old patient, and quickly returned her back to Recovery for the rest of the day (another 6 hours).
We need improved pulse oximetry with paediatric probes, ECG and NiBP monitoring. These could run on mains power as the blackouts are only of very short duration. Another portable suction unit would also be nice.
The hospitality of the Impact Doctors and Directors of each facility was very good, our needs were all met and we were given a tour of each local area after we completed our work. This made the trip very special, gave us an appreciation and new insight into Bangladesh and the people who we’ve helped.
The accommodation and food was far beyond what I had expected, so we were fit to operate the hours we did. We had a lovely meeting with both Rotary Dhaka and Impact in Dhaka, so were well cared for.
This is my first trip with the Aussi Bangla Smile Team and I am very happy with it.
Thanks from Sandy Burrow
Project Summary 2010Following the great success of the latest trip, the Aussi Bangla Smile Project has now been responsible for 306 brand news smiles.
The November 2010 team completed 100 of these. That team consisted of two surgeons: Dr Hasan Sarwar and Dr Christoph Pautke (who joined the team from Germany), and two anaesthetists: Dr Knox Low and Dr Danny Briggs. There were six nursing members, Damien Boyle, Sandy Burrow, Lauren Elliott, Morgan Howard, Heike DeNeef and Matt Rimmington, and one medical student, Nicholas Spooner. Bangladeshi surgical staff took part as on previous trips.
The team flew out of Sydney on Thursday October 28 to arrive in Dhaka the next day at 12.30 pm. They were greeted by the Rotary club of Dhaka and taken to overnight accommodation.
The following morning the team visited the Acid Burn Survivors Foundation. Here patients, mainly women and children, receive treatment for burns acquired through violence. Then the team visited St Theresa’s Orphanage, original home of conjoined twins, Krishna and Trishna.
The next day brought an eight hour road journey to Impact’s land hospital, Jibon Mela. Here the team operated for 3½ days carrying out 45 operations, which included 16 cleft palates and some burn contracture surgeries. They worked between 12 and 14 hours the first two days and from 8am to midnight on the last day, to accommodate every patient who had presented. The staff at the centre were amazed at the number of cases completed. This exceeded the number carried out by any previous team at their hospital.
Back to Dhaka and one day to catch a breath before an overnight ferry trip to reach the mooring point of the Jibon Tari Floating Hospital. Here the team lived with the patients for four days. Working from 8am for 12 to 14 hours each day they completed 51 cases – making 96 successful outcomes for the team!
After returning to Dhaka they attended a Rotary dinner and also a function with Dr Hasan’s family and friends.A little time was found for shopping and a look around the city before leaving on Saturday November 13 to fly into Sydney on the morning the next day.
With the assistance of his Bangladeshi colleagues Dr Sarwar completed 4 more cases after the team had left Dhaka.
All patients were presented with gifts bags donated by the Trefoil Guild in Australia and school backpacks filled with school supplies purchased by the team.
One of the greatest factors to the success of this project is a self sufficient team mix. Other such organizations often have aneasthetists as well as surgeons but do not comprise of anaesthetic, scrub and recovery room nurses. All work in conjunction with each other to form an efficient and tight-knit team. The nursing members can swap roles where necessary and with the medicos can offer complete pre to post op care of patients.
These visits could not go ahead without the generosity of donors who offer financial support, companies who donate surgical supplies for the team and Rotary groups under whose banner we fly and who offer assistance both in Australia and Bangladesh.
The project is gearing up for this year, 2011. We plan to fly out on November 10 and return on November 27. There is a new team of willing volunteers and our fundraising is lifting off with a Trivia Night on Saturday, June 4.
We are in the process of sorting the supplies remaining from the 2010 trip and sourcing supplies for the next trip.
The combination of the Jibon Tari Floating Hospital and Jibon Mela land hospital has proven to be a winning one and these are the destination centres for the next trip. Operating and accommodation facilities at both are ideal for carrying out this most worthwhile work.
Again, thank you for your continued support.
Barbara Mitchell on behalf of:
The 2010 Team
Dr Hasan Sarwar Dr Knox Low Dr Danny Briggs Dr Christoph Pautke
Damien Boyle Sandy Burrow Heike DeNeef
Lauren Elliott Morgan Howard Matthew Rimmington Nicholas Spooner
The story of Robiul (2009 visit)
This is little Robiul and his father Ghazi who is a widower with two other children.
Ghazi’s wife died when Robiul was three months old. There is no Centrelink in Bangladesh for financial assistance and Ghazi’s brother helps him so Ghazi can care for his three children. Little Robiul had a smile on his face from day one until he left.
Ghazi had borrowed a mobile phone. It was one of the two in his village. While on the boat, the phone was dropped and broken. The team paid for a replacement and Rotary organised the purchase for us.
Ghazi and all the team were in tears when he walked down the gangway on his long journey home with his little Robiul.
Journey Overview (2009 visit)
The team headed off to Bangladesh on Sunday October 7th (2009) farewelled by family friends and Nepean Rotary. We were greeted at Dhaka by Michael Long from the Aussie Embassy for customs clearance. After being awake for 25 hours, a two hour nap and a three hour minibus trip to the Impact Jibon Tari floating Hospital, we set to work and operated until 12 midnight. The following day – up at 6 am and operated until 9.30pm. We completed 15 cases with the help of local anaesthetist, surgeon and staff on the boat. We ran two cases simultaneously in the one theatre. Two action packed days at Square Hospital in Dhaka and with the assistance of their staff and Ann Mitchell, an Aussie nurse in charge, we completed 23 cases. We visited the Acid Burn Survivors Foundation and various places of interest around Dhaka on the Eid public holiday. From October 15 to 20, the team carried out 55 cleft lip/palate and burn contracture cases at Dhaka Community Hospital with the help of their regular staff. Some of the surgeons and anaesthetists who had joined us at the Jibon Tari and Square Hospital fronted up for a second sitting to help complete our task. We managed to run three cases simultaneously here to achieve a total of 93 cases, mostly children between the ages of 12 months and 9 years. The team are grateful to have been part of this worthwhile project. We have made lifelong friendships with team members at all the treatment centres and were sad to say goodbye to them. We feel we have changed some lives for the better with the help of all the people who gave us moral, emotional and financial support. After paying all the expenses for the patients and their families, food, surgical and medical supplies, transport costs and wages for theatre staff we have some funds left to put toward the trip next year. All the team members have come home with a greater appreciation for this lucky country in which we live and the benefits afforded to all in Oz. We also cherish the time (24×7 for 15 days) we spent together – laughing, crying, sharing, discussing, planning, late night chocolate eating, and simply counting our blessings. We returned to our awaiting loved ones on Sunday October 21, better for the experience. Thank you to all who supported us.
Dr Hasan Sarwar’s Reflections (2009 visit)
It is my great pleasure that our 2nd trip went so very well – 89 operations .. A great achievement for the team. All this success is only possible with the help and support of our colleagues, friends, families and our generous Australian people and Bangladeshi community.
All members of the team have great feeling for the Bangladeshi people and did much hard work to organise everything.
Thanks to my friend Cliff (Barbara’s husband) – a great man always working for us behind the scenes.
Chris Duckworth, another great supporter who organises our website.
Amanda and Quintin Hampshire, great friends of the Aussi Bangla team, with their great idea of “child sponsorship” – 50 more operations due to this scheme.
Well done everybody. Please keep up the good work with such great feeling for humanity.
Dr Alf Coren’s Reflections (2009 visit)
My reason for travelling to Bangladesh in March 2009 with my Nepean Hospital Colleagues was to acknowledge my respect and admiration for the tremendous work and committment of Dr Hasan Sarwar in helping the underpriviledged people of his country. The different surgeries gave these people an improved quality of life which would never have been possible without him, our nurses and anaesthetists, who all contributed greatly to their wellbeing. Dr Sarwar is a great humanitarian and doctor, not only for the people of Bangladesh but also the many Australians he has treated. He is an inspiration to us all.
Dr Knox Low’s Reflections (2009 visit)
To be invited on the March 2009 AussiBangla trip was a great privilege. I had originally intended on joining the 2007 trip but was not able to as I was unable to get the leave at the appropriate time. I was very disappointed at the time and I was glad to be able to fulfill the promise I had made to Dr Sarwar.
The fundraising, planning and logistics of the trip were superbly organised, principally by Barbara Mitchell and Angela Brady on the Australian end with many things on the Bangladeshi end organised by Dr Sarwar. Overall the trip was a great success and we all felt that we had made a significant change to the lives of the people we operated on. Not everything went to plan as you would expect, especially if you have had any experience with the general chaos that is life in Bangladesh, but the team all pulled together and supported each other through the challenges that were presented to us. Giving a safe level of anaesthetic care in a difficult environment with much more limited resources than we are used to in Australia was challenging but at the same time rewarding. With the experienced team that was present, you knew you could rely on everyone doing their job well. Without experienced assistance the whole job would have been much, much harder. The fact that we were able to complete 89 operations in 10 days without serious complications speaks volumes about the dedication and professionalism of those involved.
The Bangladeshi people were overwhelmingly generous to us despite their poverty. It certainly wasn’t a holiday, with long days and challenges at every turn, but we all got more out of the trip than we put in.
Dr Knox Low, Anaesthetist
Barbara Mitchell’s Reflections (2009 visit)
For the second time I found the Aussi Bangla experience very overwhelming – a barrage of mixed emotions. I was overcoming with waves of happiness, sadness, exhaustion, energy, wonder and empathy.’ Often there were feelings of total uselessness while mingling with these quiet, gracious and very poor people who were appreciative of anything we could do for them. We can never do enough.
There was also a very special bond among the lovely team with whom I shared my life for 18 days. Again we laughed, cried and consoled ourselves after each tiring day with a cup of tea and chocolate.
The last day on the Jibon Tari we sat out on the deck and each told the story of meeting our life partners. I feel honored that these wonderful people allowed me to be privy to the most intimate and touching details of their lives. What a special bond we share.
We all think ourselves lucky to have clean drinking water, hot showers, fresh air and blue skies.
How lucky am I to have had this wonderful experience with such wonderful people
Judy Barlow’s Reflections (2009 visit)
This trip was wonderful. It was well organised, the team functioned smoothly and we all enjoyed each others company very much.
The experiences of Bangladesh life was a constant source of awe to us all everywhere we went. The only thing I wont miss is the car horns blowing all the time!!!
One of the most beautiful things for me was how every parent showed so much love towards their child. They could give them so little else. Also, how quiet and still the people always seemed to be, mothers with their babies, husbands just sitting waiting, visistors etc with endless patience and so grateful for any kindness shown to them. It was a very humbling experience for me to have so much and be there to see these people with little and having to work so hard yet be contented. The beautiful smiles and their laughter when we tried to speak in Bangali. It was a pleasure and I hope I can go on doing something as memeorable. Jude
Lorraine Clarkson’s Reflections (2009 visit)
To be invited to take part in the Aussi Bangla Smile Project in Bangladesh was a great honour and an exciting journey I looked forward to with eagerness and trepidation. I was eager to undertake it because it is privilege to work in a profession where you can travel to places of tremendous need and make a major difference to other peoples’ lives. I was also apprehensive because I knew the project would be confronting and disturbing and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the despair of some lives.
What I found will remain with me forever. Most of the people are very poor but they smile and laugh, love each other and treasure their family. They walk along holding hands, sometimes with their arms around each other, even the men. I saw mothers or fathers calmly care for their children in the wards and in Recovery, without fuss or disquiet. They placed complete trust in us, a tribute I will treasure. Words can’t describe how it feels to be part of such a momentous change in their lives. A cleft lip is an imperfection that is so visible, so confronting and so life changing to Bangladeshi people. We changed the lives of some people and my contribution will forever be valuable to me.
The camaraderie within our own team and the wider Bangladeshi teams was wonderful. The days were long but the time flew as we all had lots of fun and laughs along the way. It was great to get home to be with family and friends again however the memories are heartwarming and the rewards were many. Life changing for our Bangladeshi patients and life changing for me.
Angela Brady’s Reflections (2009 visit)
Each time I return to Bangladesh, I’m faced with experiences that I will remember and treasure forever. From the countryside (beautiful) to the city (hectic) to the wonderful, warm and humble people.
Yes, the work is hard, the hours long and very testing, but I think that it is all part of this challenge.
To know that we have changed someone’s life forever is a wonderful feeling.
These little malnourished babies, so small and fragile, now have a chance to thrive and grow. That’s what it’s all about.
Maria Kells’ Reflections (2009 visit)
First impressions of Bangladesh were of a shale-grey sky; dense, hazy, burnt air; shanties and lean-tos and closet-sized shop-sheds crouching against walls; dust and horn pumping roads covered by a teaming swarm of dented, over-loaded, creatively wheeled vehicles somehow squeezing and oozing their way forward; and people. People everywhere! Imagine walking out of the exit of the SCG at match-end, there were that many people….everywhere. It was over-whelming and one’s feelings of individuality and pathetic “specialness” began quickly to fade on seeing such a mass of humanity. I felt demoted to a mere prop on “the stage”. Then a young Bangladeshi noticed me! The look on this beautiful child’s face was…..shock! His mouth gaped and then this blank stare froze his features. I smiled, waved, put on my most-friendliest face but there was absolutely no reaction. Self descriptions such as “an expensive but unusual prop” then entered my mind!
This vacant reaction usually greeted us whenever we stepped into the enterprising, vivacious life on the streets of Bangladesh. In the hospitals where we worked though, all barriers disintegrated and the Bangladeshi people opened themselves to us. There was touching, hugging, laughing, questioning, body-talking, crying, comforting, loving and always, so many, many smiles. The huge array of emotions from grief and pain to unbridled joy illuminated the faces that surrounded us. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to hold hands with the team and with so many people in Bangladesh through the Aussie Bangla Smile Project and even though my mind is still trying to find a place for me on that elusive stage, my heart blushes with my memories.
Project Overview 2009 Visit
The Aussi Bangla Smile team comprising of the team leader surgeon – Dr Hasan Sarwar, two anaesthetists – Dr Knox Low and Dr Danny Briggs, six nurses – Angela Brady, Judy Barlow, Lorraine Clarkstone, Heike DeNeef, Maria Kells and Barbara Mitchell left Sydney on March 12, landing in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 13 where we met Dr Alf Coren who was working with us for our first three days in Dhaka and had arrived the day before us. We were greeted and assisted through customs by Australian Embassy Secretary, Michael Long, and members of the Dhaka and Dhaka Downtown Rotary Clubs.
The next day we visited the Acid Burn Survivors Foundation where we met patients recovering from burns sustained in violent attacks. The Foundation provides medical, surgical and psychological care for men, women and children in their hospital. They also have a rehabilitation network for their patients. In the afternoon we visited Mother Theresa’s Orphanage in Old Dhaka run by the most gracious Sisters of Charity. There we found many clean, happy and well cared for children aged from birth to teenage years. There are also facilities for mothers unable to find lodgings. Later we sorted and organised our supplies for the coming two weeks work.
From Sunday March 15 to wednesday march 18 the team commenced work At Begun Khaleda Zia Medical college Hospital (Dhaka Shrawardhy Hospital) with collaboration of local surgical and nursing team. They were very nice and friendly. This public Hospital is a very big service oriented hospital for the local people,they are working with a minimum sterilization facilities and minimum equipment. Out team provide few surgical equipments and pulse oxymeter as a souvenir. Thanks to Principal Prof.A. Kader khan to organize all of our paper work.
The age of the children was younger than we had anticipated and their nutrition was questionable. Luckily we had anticipated this and brought more adequate suction equipment and resuscitation equipment with us this trip. Nevertheless we were able to successfully carry out 21 operations with the help of the Bangladeshi staff. Three of these were very complicated facial fracture procedures – two taking 8 hours and the third taking 12 hours by Dr Alf Coren. Four procedures were the more complicated cleft palate operations each taking around 3 hours.
Late March 18 we waved goodbye to Dr Coren who was returning to Australia and set off on the 6-hour, very hair-raising and anxious, minibus trip to Chandpur to meet the Impact Jibon Tari Floating Hospital. To our great surprise some of the staff members from the last trip greeted us with open arms. We coped well with 9 blackouts a day. The team spent a most hectic and enjoyable four days living with and caring for 39 patients and their parents. The staff were most accomplished in their roles and conditions here were very clean.
Many families had travelled hundreds of miles, everyone taking ages to reach us by ferry, tuk-tuk, bus, train, rickshaw or combination of transport – one group of people arriving at 3 in the morning following a 24-hour bus journey. Many had seen the advertisement in their local papers months before to register for surgery. The team organised school backpacks to be purchased, containing pencils, exercise books, geometry sets, maths and English text books, torch and medications for each patient. These were to compensate for travel expenses. We replaced a phone lost in the water by a patient. It was one of only two phones in his village and imperative for outside communication.
Two of the babies here were too malnourished to have their procedures done safely at this time – one 11 months old weighing 4kg and the other 8 months old weighing 3kg. Dr Sarwar organised for us to pay for the admission of these babies to a Dhaka hospital for building up on high-protein feeds and to be healthy enough for surgery when he returns in November.
Each of us shared special moments with all these lovely people who were most grateful for the new smiles and greater opportunities now open to their little ones. We sadly waved them all goodbye. – tears from both parents and members of the team. We were also sad to say goodbye to our gracious and much loved staff on the Jibon Tari
While at Chandpur we had the opportunity to walk through a local village. Seeing their hard working conditions and very meagre living conditions, what continually surprised us is that everyone seems happy. We were also surprised at the large number of patients who came from single-parent families – one parent being deceased. As there is no social security, relatives friends and neighbours provide financial assistance.
Unwilling to risk our lives again on a road trip back to Dhaka we opted to take the ferry. If it sank we reasoned we had a better chance of survival in the water swimming than in a massive bus accident down an embankment. This proved to be a great eye-opener. All the boats were overloaded. People carrying supplies to and from the boats were also overloaded. There is great water pollution from factories and hard living conditions of those living on the water’s edge.
Our next experience was at the Square Hospital, a very well-equipped centre. There were also some welcome, familiar faces from the last trip. The team was able to complete some further complicated cleft palate procedures here. With the help of visiting surgeons and Bangladeshi staff the team carried out another 26 procedures, bringing the total to 86 operations for the project.
Every patient received a parcel containing a koala badge, coloured pencils, paper, Aussie stickers and tattoos, map of Australia with comparisons to Bangladesh, and animal postcards which were supplied by the team and our work colleagues. The project also donated suction equipment to the Jibon Tari and torches (to cope with blackouts and security).
The team minus Dr Sarwar returned on March 29 to waiting friends and family. Dr Sarwar stayed one extra week to follow up as many of the patients as possible.
Everyone would like to thank the visiting Bangladeshi doctors and the staff of all three centres for their contributions. Our lovely friend Urmee was our interpreter last trip and gave her time to work also as a very valuable member of the recovery team as well as helping organise patient lists at the hospitals. Dr Jack who assisted and organised patients pre- and post-op. Dr Bodi and Dr Taariq who operated at all three centres again this trip.
We are most grateful to all who supported the team by donating funds, collecting equipment, supplies, and presents for the children. We would also like to thank the companies who supplied donated equipment. What we didn’t use we left to be distributed among the poorer hospitals. We also appreciate the great support we received from our colleagues.
The team also owes a great debt of gratitude to the Rotary Club of Nepean, Rotary Australia World Community Services, and Rotary Club of Dhaka for their great support both in Australia and Bangladesh.
Mostly we would like to thank our friends and families without whom there would be no project.
Thank you for your interest and support,
Dr Hasan Sarwar
Dr Alfred Coren
Dr Knox Low
Dr Danny Briggs
Project Overview 2008 Visit
Dr Hasan Sarwar visited Bangladesh in February for two weeks and with the help of his Bangladeshi friends completed 22 cases at a total cost of $3,344.00. This brings the total from the Aussi Bangla Smile funds to 115 new happy smiles.
Dr Sarwar also revisited some of our patients from October 2007. They are all very pleased with their new smiles and we have posted some photographs.
The previously planned mission in October this year has had to be postponed due to the upcoming elections in Bangladesh. The team all have holidays booked for March 2009, taking off on March 11 and returning on March 29. The team consists of six nursing staff, Judy Barlow, Angela Brady and Barbara Mitchell from the last team and welcoming Julie Hammond, Heike De Neef and Lorraine Clarkstone to our next trip. Erica Agius is the lovely anaesthetist joining us.
We intend to spend three days on the Impact Jibon Tari Hospital ship, two days at Square Hospital and five days at Dhaka Community Hospital. Many of the surgical personnel who joined us previously are anxious to help again this trip. Dhaka Community Hospital had so many enquiries after our last trip they have set up their own scheme to continue the work
Thanks to many generous people for their donations following Anna Coren’s Today Tonight program we are well on the way to funding the project in March. Thanks also to the Rotary Club of Nepean and RAWCS who continue to give us moral and practical support and forward receipts for donations.
The Aussi Bangla Smile Team.
Hasan Sarwar’s Story (2007 visit)
Leader of the October 2007 Mission
Bangladesh is my homeland.I was born and brought up over there. I am currently working in Sydney for further Plastic and Paediatric surgical experience. There are about 150 Million people in Bangladesh. About 200,000 cleft patients are still untreated. I am actively involved in cleft surgery from 2000. Every patient is challenging. Minimum effort will change their life. A few operations are really complicated which is beyond my expertise and need a lot of support. My recent visit was the best experience which I ever had. My team was excellent. All of my Australian colleagues were excellent – they worked very hard every day 7AM to 10 PM. Of course they enjoy this noble work. It is a great pleasure that we could do something for humanity for the under-privileged people. We did 93 operations. Every operation went well – no major complications. We really appreciate the help of all of our team members and their family members for their hard work to organize donations, and raising funds for missions. I am also grateful to my colleagues from the Hospital, and to the Rotary Clubs both from Bangladesh and Australia for their continuous support. I am really grateful to my Bangladeshi Plastic surgeon and Paediatric Surgeon, and Anaesthesiologist who operated with our team and also the local organization who collected patients from different villages. It is a great pleasure when a child becomes ‘normal’ just after an operation. Their parents’ beautiful smiles make me cry. This pleasure is not only for me – it goes to all who support this program from top to bottom. Some people may think all credit goes to the surgeon – I never believe that. I think all credit goes to every body, surgeon is just one of the team members. Some of the operation was very complicated – we couldn’t operate on these due to lack of resources in Bangladesh – but these operations could be quite possible if we had all resources required. Parents have requested of me a thousand times to do these operations but I can’t operate with this lack of resources. I feel very bad. Now it is my dream that, with the help of all modest Australian people, we will establish a Modern hospital where we could have all resources necessary and we could do all operations requested. If we could organize all the old reject instruments and hospital stuff which has no value in Australia but which has a great value in a developing country, by this support we can establish a big hospital in Bangladesh. Lets work together for better smile for better world through Aussi Bangla Smile.
Thanks to Mr.Chris Duckworth for his continuous support for managing our website.
Frances Cook’s Story (2007 visit)Registered Nurse Scrub nurse on the Bangladesh team. What a great honour and absolute privilege it was to be part of the Aussi Bangla Smile team going to Bangladesh as pioneers for this very worthy mission. From humble beginnings, almost eighteen months ago just committing that I would like to be part of a group should go to something that got very big. The fundraising was great fun and it was truly heart-warming to experience the support of family and the generosity of the community. The group worked very well together as a team and although we worked very hard we still had great fun. Barb did a great job organising it and without her input things would surely not have gone as well as it did. I am very grateful to be a part of a project that brought a smile to those who were not able to smile before, who were outcast, different, not able to go to school or find a job. Changing their lives forever by an operation at a cost of AU$150 dollar, these children will be able to develop like every other child in the community, with dignity and a better chance in life. Thank you to all the team members, all the Bangladesh Drs’ and nurses, Ann Mitchell, Debbie, Urmee, Nelli, Rotary, family and friends. What a great, awesome experience, making a difference in someone’s life.Thankyou. Fran.
Barbara Mitchell’s Story (2007 visit)
Scrub nurse on the Bangladesh team.
From day one, I was enthusiastic to join the group of eagre volunteers for this trip under the encouragement of our fearless leader “oh captain my captain” and friend Dr Hasan Sarwar. We totally pulled together to raise funds encorporating the help of our wonderful friends and families without whom none of this would have been possible and to whom we are all most grateful. We supported each other through reams of paperwork and redtape to find ourselves amazingly on a plane to Bangladesh. The experience of the Jibon Tari floating Hospital was just amazing. It was like a little family unit. We were close to the patients for the entire three days. Visiting them in the early morning before we operated and late at night when tucked in their beds. In spite of the very late nights, early mornings and long hours in between on our feet, I enjoyed every minute. A great sense of achievement, pride and comradery with the wonderful people with whom I shared fifteen days. We spent every minute together. Laughing, crying, talking, reviewing the days events over tea and chocolate, discussing what crisis might come to bare on the following day, but enthusiastically running headlong into the next day. We were all overwhelmed by overtaking our target of 80 patients to accomplish 93 cases and happy that we may have made some difference, even as small as a drop in an enormous ocean. Every one of us acknowledges that this could not have been possible without the wonderful help of many hands. Doctors, anaesthetists and all the staff at all three centres. Some of the doctors even came back from the Jibon Tari and the Square Hospital to help us at Dhaka Community Hospital. We must have made some sort of impression – these boisterous , cheeky Aussie nurses. We were as sad to leave them behind as they were for us to go. I have a new appreciaton for patience, clean drinking water, fresh air, clear blue skies, my health and a million other things I have previously taken for granted. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been part of such a special undertaking and to have shared it with so many special people . Here’s to Aussie Bangla Smile 2008.
Thank you all. Toujour amour. Barb.
Fadia Campbell’s Story (2007 visit)
Registered Nurse Anaesthetic/Recovery Nurse
Since starting my career in nursing some 25 years ago, I always entertained the thought of doing something more to help mankind. Although I derive much satisfaction from my job, I believed that there should be more one can do to help people. I believe that I am lucky to have been born to a reasonably financially secure family and have been fortunate to live in a country such as Australia. I have seen many people suffering from hardship and often wondered what it would be like to be given the chance to have an improved life. Having had such feelings, it was no surprise that when the idea of the Aussi Bangla Smile project came about, I was very excited to be a part of this project. It certainly was a very satisfying journey starting from the creation of the team to the great experience we have all had in Bangladesh to the time we landed back home in Sydney. I was amazed by the courage, determination and selfless attitude of my teammates. We managed to organise fund raising activities, for most this was a first, and was surprised by the generosity of people from all walks of life. So much so we raised much more than expected which I am sure will support this project for a long time. Although I was apprehensive at first about going to a place I have never visited previously and to a culture I knew very little about, once there I felt very comfortable. The three hospitals we operated at were of different standards, however we were made welcome and were assisted by the staff and management of all hospitals and to our surprise we managed to beat our optimistic target of 80 patients achieving 93 procedures in total. In spite of the long hours and the pressure the team operated under, it felt great to be part of the team, and to see the smile on children’s faces and the reaction of parents after the procedures made it all worthwhile. I know that what we achieved is very little, however I hope that the momentum of what was started continues for a long time to come in order to help those who are less fortunate than most of us. I know that I will remember this experience and what it had taught me forever, and now more than ever, I know that I am a very lucky person – lucky to have been part of this great team, lucky to have fulfilled a long held dream and lucky to have had the opportunity to give something back to this wonderful planet we live in. It goes without saying, had it not have been for a wonderful group of dedicated friends, this experience would have never been possible.
Thank you to each and every one.
Judy Barlow’s Story (2007 visit)
Registered Nurse Anaesthetic/recovery nurse on the team.
About the trip. – Firstly the fact that we had a year to get used to the reality of it and then see it come together under your wonderful captaincy was alone very inspiring. Your drive, enthusiasm and such spirit is beautiful. The fun in the fund raising and the community interest was terrific. Hasan reassuring us that we could make a difference as a team under his guidance in reality, proved to be awesome. I loved the Bangladeshi people. They were so still, quiet and patient and their heartfelt thanks was very gratifying and humbling. Their beautiful smiles and perfect white straight teeth, and the simple quiet tilt of the head to mean yes was beautiful. The fact that we kept driving forward to meet and even exceeed our goals was very satisfying, showing that we were totally patient-focussed. I loved our debriefs at the end of the day and the laughs we all enjoyed despite all being weary and then enthusiasm every morning for what the day would bring was there right to the very last day. The patients were a pleasure to nurse, both young and old, while the relatives told their story to us through an interpreter. We in turn were a facination for them and every aspect of our lives totally unreal to them. We all left with warm hearts knowing we had made a difference, to many people and touched many lives. En route home there was eager lengthy talk about all the things we will do next visit, which says it all! Roll on Aussi Bangla Smile 2008
Phil Goyen’s story (2007 visit)
Producer Today Tonight
(Phil went to Bangladesh with Anna Coren, Jason Hinch, and Andrew Cichanowski, to do the story on our October mission which aired on Wednesday 7th November 2007)
Reflections: Poverty, real poverty, smells – that’s what hits you first, it then takes over every part of your body, physically and emotionally. Visiting a third world country is confronting, it always is. That was the case when I recently visited Bangladesh in South Asia. I was there to produce a story about the “Aussibangla Smile” team, a group of remarkable medics who volunteer their time and expertise to change the lives of some of the worlds poorest people. They were in Dhaka, the countries capital city, to operate on close to 100 children who were born with cleft-palates and hairlips. For most those deformities are a life sentence, they can’t go to school and will never marry, simply because of what they look like. One by one the patients passed through the doors at Dhaka Community Hospital. Inside the operating theatre our Aussie angles, nurses and an anesthetist carefully rebuilt each face. Some procedures took 20 minutes, others took many hours, every one was handled with so much love. Watching the team work together was impressive – the way they comforted each terrified patient and the methods they used to teach local nurses how to operate using safer practices. It was easy to forget their was a language barrier. I’ve always been a big supporter of nurses. They are under-paid and certainly under-valued. We live in a country where we can afford to acknowledge them, so let’s do it. Let’s be grateful for what we’ve got. Look around. Look at what you have. Smile. Because you can.
Phil Goyen Producer Today Tonight
Dr Steve Cooper’s Story 2007 visit)
I am a 50 year old middle-class fat-cat who gets pretty well paid to do stuff that I find fairly easy. Sure, life was harder in the early days and sometimes my work is a bit stressful and/or exhausting but overall, I’m on easy street. La dolce vita. About a year ago I found a computer memory stick lying on the OT change room floor at Nepean Hospital. Easy, I’ll just plug it in and find outwho it belongs to…….It was Hasan’s and had an early version of his proposal for Aussie Bangla Smile complete with photos. After returning the memory stick I got to thinking about some of those photos………… Surely it is not right that a person must go through their entire life with something like an ugly gaping cleft lip and palate simply because they were born poor in a remote 3rd world village. Maybe it was about time in my life that I did something for someone else without any prospect of reward or personal gain……hmmm. Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Barbara and her many helpers, as well as the generosity of all those who donated, I was able to join the team. The work was tedious, conditions primitive and obstacles frequent……welcome to Bangladesh! I cannot say that I had to be dragged onto the airliner for the homeward flight. I was pretty glad to have finished my tour of duty. I can say that I found some of the nicest people I have ever met and have seen some of the most beautiful children. Hasan, you are a true hero of your people, good luck with future plans. Thanks girls for putting up with a grumpy old Aussie bloke. I recommend this trip to any anaesthetist who could use a boost to their self-esteem .