Many people consider themselves trailblazers, but few use their strengths to help others in need. Team 5 does. Composed of medical professionals with a knack for overlanding, this American nonprofit foundation deploys its team members overseas to provide services and training in remote, impoverished areas,mostly in Peru and Guatemala. Team 5 offers patients everything from routine checkups and dental care to treatment for chronic diseases and serious conditions. Preventative care is also important: shoes are given to children to reduce the risk of getting worms, as well as sunglasses to thwart degenerative eye disorders.
Team 5 also trains local people in suturing, wound cleanliness, and how to determine what symptoms could develop into an emergency. Their goal is to improve conditions long-term. Identifying whom to train is the key to a successful mission though. The village’s “bone doctor” or midwife is often selected so that way the training doesn’t start from scratch and, even more important, local people already trust the provider.
“All communities have someone responsible for births, so it’s about taking that person and adding to the midwifery basic clinical medicine. We are actually trying to create a sustainable solution and sustainable change,” says David Schneider, Team 5’s director of operations, who previously served as a US Special Forces medical sergeant in Afghanistan and North Africa.
In Guatemala, the midwives turned nurses have started mentoring younger people in the village to be their assistants. “So now going forward, they have a self-sustaining capability, because they invented their own training program,” David says.
The team spends days traveling on dirt roads, hiking trails, or waterways, carrying medical supplies and equipment to remote locations. One such arduous expedition went to the Amazon River in Peru, where Team 5 ran medical/dental clinics and performed plastic surgery on cleft lips and palates. A little girl, Tatiana, convinced her mom to take her to Team 5. Since birth, she had lived with a transverse cleft palate, a defect that led her to be rejected in the village and not attend school. After Team 5 did reconstructive surgery, her life changed. Team 5 recently raised funds on GoFundMe to bring Tatiana to the United States for further operations.
Donations are always greatly appreciated through Team 5’s website (team-5.org). As for new team members, Team 5 is particularly interested in hearing from anyone with dental experience. Last but certainly not least, David would appreciate help from anyone who can contribute in a practical, logistical way. Hands-on help may involve, for instance, running a drive to collect shoes or sunglasses. If you are interested in this option or have other ideas, please contact David at [email protected]. Delta Airlineslets Team 5 fly supplies for free, which opens up many possibilities for aid.