I joined the Ascovime family on a trip to Cameroon some years ago. From the moment I arrived, I was struck by the beauty of the country and the kindness of its people. Every one were warm and welcoming and smiling, both in the cities and on the country side.
We soon went on one of Ascovime’s campaigns in the south, lead by Georges Bwelle, a great man and an impressive doctor. The departure was a couple of hours after the announced time – meaning we very right on time Cameroonian time! In the bus were Cameroonians, French, Germans and a Norwegian, we made up a great team. The trip was not long, but it was my first and I was very excited to see what it was like. Getting out of the city was easy, but once we were out on the small and narrow country roads we had to drive more carefully. At one point we had to get out of the bus and walk up a steep hill on our own and for the last bit of the road we were picked up by people from the village on scooters. When we arrived in the village of AkongTang the people were waiting for us. The women started dancing and singing for us and they didn’t stop before in the middle of the night. It was a very moving and exciting moment!
The next day started of with a 20km walk to the nearest town where we had to pay a visit to the chef to show our respect for the authorities. When we got back, the consultations started. Day and night the doctors worked to help the people. I was in the pharmacy. Once again I was impressed, by the capacity of Georges and his medical team to keep it going, by the people from the village always smiling, always helping and taking care of us. The fact that we didn’t speak the same language didn’t mean anything!
The week end went quickly and it was time to leave. After a sad farewell we were on our way toward Yaounde. My first experience was made and it had made me want to do it again.
Two years later I was happy to be back, to see the same people who had now become like a family.
I travelled to Cameroon last May 2015 for a two weeks trip. I had heard of Dr Bwelle on CNN Heroes program and was an admirer but never met him. Luckily before my trip a friend gave me his contact and we met upon my arrival in Yaounde a few days later. I visited him at his office in Yaounde Central Hospital. I was really amazed by the devotion he had for his patients, his accessibility and his work ethics. I quickly sign up for his next mission trip the following weekend.
We travel to a rural area about 100 kilometers from the capital city where we met what I estimate to be over 1,000 people eagerly waiting for a chance to be treated. Some had come from other villages, I met a woman who walked 20 miles with her five year old son for a chance to finally have his sixth toe amputated at absolutely no charges, a procedure she will have never been able to afford otherwise. As a dentist I joined the Dental team made up of a single hard working and very skilled Dental Technician. Together we treated close to 60 patients in a single day with rudimentary dental equipment that allowed us to perform only the basic dental procedures. The sight of their thankfulness was the best possible rewards. Everything was done at absolutely no charges and Ascovime actually offered to pay for some services that could not be offered at the site. The team spirit was amazing and a real driving force, they were encouraging and motivating themselves with songs and dances that energized them to work continuously for 24 hours, I had never seen that level of devotion before .
Dr.Bwelle has assembled a team of highly dedicated individuals that have embraced his vision of service. I went home humbled, this mission trip ended up being the highlight of my trip and I can certainly say I was so inspired that I committed to return and join the team as often as possible. I am ever thankful for the opportunity and it changed my life.
I am a 4th year medical student from the US, and I just returned from Cameroon, after spending three incredible weeks with Dr. Bwelle and the ASCVOVIME family. Listening to Dr. Bwelle’s stories, and witnessing for myself the incredible dedication, passion and selflessness with which he lives and works, was quite literally one of the most inspiring things I have ever been a part of!
During my three short but intense weeks there, we were able to do four field campaigns, and in between I shadowed Dr. Bwelle in his clinic and in the Operating Room in the Yaoundé Central Hospital. I also went with him to some of the lectures he gave at medical schools and even a diplomacy school!
The field campaigns were an absolutely awe-inspiring experience. We went to Kribi, South Province; Bana, West Province; Njidop, Center Province (?); and Gari Gombo, East Province. Our team was typically composed 20-25 people, which included mostly Cameroonian physicians, surgical residents, dentists, ophthalmologists, anesthetists, medical students, nurses, and otherwise big-hearted volunteers! We would leave Yaoundé at all hours of the night, typically between midnight and 3am, in order to arrive in a village by morning and begin patient consultations (although sometimes that didn’t always work out…for example it took us around 12 hours to get to Gari-Gombo, in the far East Province!).
We would often find hundreds of people already waiting in line for us by the time we arrived. Working in make-shift clinics, operating rooms, pharmacy, and laboratory, the dedicated team of volunteers would do free medical consultations for hundreds of patients. Basic laboratory tests could be done, and then they were able to provide free prescriptions such as anti-helmintics, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc. Referrals could be made to the dentists and ophthalmologists who came with us.
In 4 short field campaigns the ASCOVIME family did several thousand medical consultations, several hundred simple surgeries, and dozens of dental and ophthalmology consultations and procedures. Imagine what they can accomplish in a year! ASCOVIME is a tight family; you work really hard with very little sleep, but the camaraderie keeps you going. I highly recommend the experience to anyone thinking of joining them!
Date: Sat, Nov 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM
Hello my name is Kerstyn and i would like to tell you that i am writing an argumentative essay about you in school. We chose one person out of the top 10 CNN heroes and i chose you because i think what you are doing is amazing and i think what you're doing for those people is very moving.
Actually i am joining a club in school called the International club and We are trying to raise money to build a well in a community in Africa so The people have clean, fresh water to drink. What you're doing is very Moving. and it makes me want to pursue doing something helpful for not only my community but everywhere. Your a huge role model for me.
I was moved by a 65year old patient living in extreme poverty in an enclave village. He had to walk several kilometres from the neighboring village to GARI GOMBO were Ascovime had set up it's mobile clinic. He had been suffering from hernia for 6 years. During consultations, he said to me... "Thank you all so much for coming here to save us..."
When surgery started, the list of patients to be operated was so long that when his turn finally arrived after 3days and 2nights of relentless waiting, for the first time while lying on the operation table, i saw a smile light up his face. And he said to Dr Bwelle..."AFTER 6 YEARS OF SUFFERING, YOU SAVE ME FREE OF CHARGE??? HEEE, THANK YOU MY SON. I AM ALREADY HEALED..."
It is worth noting that this was the first time i saw an ascaris come out of an Inguino-scrotal hernia.
What i will never forget is the smile we were able to put on the faces of these people who felt alive again thanks to the humanitarian actions of ASCOVIME
By Georges Messanga, Nurse.
Longue vie à ASCOVIME! J’ai déjà fait deux missions avec ASCOVIME et je retourne au Cameroun en Avril pour la troisième fois. L’expérience ASCOVIME est vraiment unique! Une association très professionnel avec des bénévoles qui respirent l’enthousiasme et l’optimisme malgré les difficultés du terrain. Il faut le voir pour le croire.
For one month I was lucky enough to join Dr. Georges on medical missions to the bush villages, and also shadowed him in the Yaounde hospital during weekdays.
While on the weekend missions, he seems to acquire an energy boost and typically works for 40 out of 48 hours spent in each rural village. One particular Friday, Dr. Bwelle and I traveled two hours on jungle dirt roads to the Raquel Bruc de Yemessoa Hospital. A seven-year-old boy had a swollen stomach and an edema in his foot, so Dr. Bwelle was called in to diagnose and treat him. The boy was poor, sick, abandoned by his family, and the hospital wouldn’t provide treatment unless he paid. Not only did Dr. Bwelle diagnose the boy, but he paid for his medical expenses.
He constantly modeled selfless care with his commitment to patients who cannot help themselves and his resolve to never turn a patient down.
This was the second time i was going to gari gombo. The first time, we didn't work due to some administrative issues. So This time, the patients were very anxious and were relieved to see we were actually going to do their surgeries.
The trip to gari gombo was a very long one, about 10hrs drive on bad roads. By the Grace of God, we arrived safely, though very exhausted. But no time to waste... We had about 600 patients waiting, so we had to get to work. A majority of the patients had developed hernias dating many years back, huge inguino-scrotal hernias and I wondered how they could move about with that for years. They made me understand that they had no money and the little they had, they used to send their kids to school. And they were looking forward to This surgery so they can work in full capacity on their farms to feed their families. They patiently waited at the hospital for long hours for their turn to receive the much needed and awaited surgery. The smile on their faces after their surgery gave me joy. I am always happy to be a part of the amazing job Ascovime does to the poor.
By Rostelle Masso. Medical student
Never have I ever experienced such a unique atmosphere as during the excursions I have participated on with ASCOVIME. Simply incredible. Friday after work, five days after returning from the last excursion, a team of volunteers is again ready to set out to yet another remote village to provide much needed medical services.
Every week. The energy is vibrant and the humor is on top. Georges Bwelle, founder of ASCOVIME and probably one of the most charismatic persons I have met, observant and professional, kind and goodhearted, has dedicated his life to helping the less fortunate people of Cameroon.
The opportunity to be able to assist and participate in the work carried out has been an invaluable experience – the many happy faces being the very best part of it all.
This was the first time i assisted in such a unique campaign. It was one of a kind. First by the great number of patients awaiting surgery and secondly, the distance most patients had to trek to be able to be present in gari gombo to benefit from Ascovime's mobile clinic. Some even had to trek for 14 hrs. One Could say this great number of patients served as a catalytic enzyme to boost up the energy of the volunteers because through out the night, the volunteers worked tirelessly with a very remarkable and high level of professionalism, to change the lives of populations looking up to them for treatment. With love, they engaged in relieving them of years of pain and suffering from their various ailments.
The situation that really moved me was the case of this young lady who just gave birth to her baby boy. Unfortunately, there was placental retention. So the midwife ran into the theatre were Ascovime was working, panicking and seeking for help. A surgeon, Dr Tim, who had just finished one of his surgeries rushed out with the midwife and immediately transformed into a professional gynecologist to help the young mother. After 30 mins of work, the placenta was delivered. The mother burst out in tears of joy... "Thank you my doctor. If not for your presence in gari gombo this night, i would have lost my life..."
Dr Bwelle gave me a mosquito net to go give this young mother to protect her and her baby against mosquitos which transmit malaria. She could not stop crying and thanking Ascovime for this great humanitarian gesture.
By Rauol. Medical student.