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    Posted June 2, 2014 by
    Chicago, Illinois
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Impact Your World

    72-Year-Old Doctor and Students Work Medical Miracles in Central African Republic

    One of the least developed countries in the world, the Central African Republic (CAR) has faced instability, corruption and war since its independence from France in 1960. In the past decade, tens of thousands of Central Africans have fled their homes due to civil unrest and violence at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, who is responsible for the displacement of two million people and the recruitment of sixty thousand child soldiers across central Africa. Kony, guilty of numerous war crimes including widespread murder, mutilation and rape, continues to elude capture.

    In the midst of this violence are people like Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, people who are looking to make a positive impact within a tragic situation. Geelhoed is a surgeon, anthropologist and professor with more than 40 years of experience performing life-saving operations for the impoverished people of CAR who would otherwise go untreated. Yet Geelhoed is not simply there to perform surgeries; he is there to teach.

    “The primary goal of my work has always been to train indigenous caregivers…by empowering and supplying them with skills and equipment to carry on a sustainable local health-care program,” writes Geelhoed in his latest book, Mission to Heal.

    Through his non-profit organization, Mission To Heal, Geelhoed travels with teams of Western students and practitioners to developing countries like CAR to deliver healthcare services and educate local caregivers with the resources and education to provide their own health care. This sustainable healthcare model is one that Geelhoed believes to be crucial for truly helping these communities in the long-term.

    “They are not simply subsisting, they are not simply surviving; they are thriving, and they will continue to do so, unsupported by any government or large NGO, or any type of aid,” Geelhoed says. “What we’re doing here is helping them help themselves, and I think that’s a model that much of the developing world needs, and we need to learn that from them as well.”

    Geelhoed and his teams have healed thousands of people with afflictions hardly seen in modern medicine – such as grotesque limp tumors, elephantiasis, and even a man who was gored through by an elephant – and often work without electricity and with only local anesthesia and the tools they bring. Deciding who to treat when not all can be treated is a major, daily ethical dilemma. “Some might ask why we have the right to make such decisions. There is only one reason: There is nobody else here to make them.”

    Geelhoed’s book, Mission to Heal, documents his work and experience in the war-torn Central African Republic. Geelhoed has spent much of 2014 in Africa and the Philippines, with plans to travel to Sierra Leone and Liberia later this year.

    For more information about Dr. Geelhoed, how to connect with him and/or get involved with the Mission To Heal programs, or to order the book, Mission to Heal, visit www.MissiontoHeal.org.

    To view the trailer for the upcoming documentary, We Are The Ones, featuring Dr. Geelhoed in South Sudan, visit www.wearetheones-movie.com/trailer.
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