Reflections: Trisha Ponds, RN

Reflections: Trisha Ponds, RN

“For me, the most moving part about this trip was the connection we had with people. Everyone welcomed us with open arms and made us feel comfortable.” – Trisha Ponds, RN, Mercy 4 Ubuzima team nurse


Reflections: Dr. Jeff Reames

Reflections: Dr. Jeff Reames

“Seeing medicine from a different perspective, in a foreign country, helps me be a better physician here in the U.S.” – Dr. Jeff Reames, Mercy 4 Ubuzima team physician

Reaching Rwanda outside of health care

Karen Gebhart, Jo Ellen Peterson, Tina Reames and Susan Goss, affectionately known on our trip as “The Spouses” had opportunities to volunteer elsewhere in Rwanda while their husbands were working with Kigali hospitals. It sounds like they really touched some lives while they were there. We asked Karen Gebhart to share some of her photos and experiences, and she was happy to oblige. Read for yourself, below. Thanks, Karen!

On the first day, we were invited to visit a program called “Duhugurane” which means, “Let us learn from each other.” It is led by Jamie Boiles, Oklahoma native, living in Rwanda. The program aims to help young women 18-25 years old discover and utilize the strengths and abilities they have within themselves in their personal and professional lives to obtain sustainable livelihoods. The young ladies are very impressive and have great aspirations. The spouses enjoyed their time visiting with the young ladies, encouraging them and sharing goody bags filled with personal hygiene products.


On the second day, the spouses had the privilege to meet the incoming Oklahoma Christian Presidential Scholars from Rwanda along with some current OC Rwandan students. We enjoyed sharing about life in Oklahoma, discussing concerns of traveling outside of Rwanda along with answering questions about being a college student in America. The students were given “Thunder” basketball t-shirts, Sonic gift cards along with Mercy lip balm and hand sanitizer. Afterwards, the spouses treated the students to pizza at a local restaurant while getting to visit with them one on one.



On the third day after meeting with President Kagame, the spouses were invited to visit a farm outside of Kigali. A couple named Faith and Roger Shaw own the farm. They provide for several orphans by meeting their needs for food, shelter and education. Gifts of diapers, formula, clothes, candy and toys for all ages were given to the family provided by the spouses and Mercy employees.



Q&A with Jim Gebhart

Final reports are underway and we’ve had some time to wrap our heads around what we learned and what’s next. Here’s a quick Q&A with Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City President – and visionary for Mercy 4 Ubuzima, Jim Gebhart.Image

What was the most common finding from the hospital visits?
No question, the common finding was the dedication and spirit of the doctors, administrators and staff we met. Each of the teams reported how much potential their hospital had, and what incredibly intelligent and invested people worked there. They’re doing a lot of good in Kigali, but they’re limited by resources. Equipment and ongoing education seemed to be the most immediate concerns.

How did the leaders and staff of the hospitals you visited react?
We were overwhelmed at how warmly we were received. They treated us like family and even took us to lunch and hosted us in their homes. We continue to communicate with them, as we talk about next steps for our organizations.

What’s next for Mercy 4 Ubuzima?
Our last days in Rwanda, we presented some overarching themes of our findings to hospital leadership. But, we didn’t get into specific details and recommendations. That’s what we’re doing now. Each team is compiling an executive summary and 50 summary reports for each of the criteria in the Joint Commission International Essentials of Health Care Quality and Patient Safety, which we used to “survey” the hospitals we visited. We’ll send those reports to hospital leaders and Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, and see how we can help close any gaps we found.

New photos on Flickr

New photos on Flickr

We just got back to the states and uploaded photos from the rest of our trip, including photos from the monthly Saturday morning community clean-up we attended in Kigali that you see here. You’ll also see photos from our visit to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial, a water well drill site and dedication we visited, our time at Akagera National Park, and our adventure in Volcanoes National Park, where we went on a gorilla trek.

We have some catching up to do, we know. We’ll fill you in over the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy some of our photos here:

Our last night together in Kigali

Tomorrow, our teams will present their findings to respective hospital leadership and by tomorrow afternoon, our team members will be going their separate ways. This trip has been such a blessing in many ways, but especially because of the kindness the people of Kigali have shown us.

Tonight, as a way to thank us for our work here, the City of Kigali hosted a dinner, complete with traditional Rwandan dancing. A few of us got misty eyed thinking about the amazing people here, who we won’t see for some time. They are dedicated, talented and huge-hearted people. The country of Rwanda is in good hands and we look forward to seeing how we can continue supporting them as they develop.

We hope you enjoy some of the photos from tonight, below. You can see more photos on our Flickr album, here:

women dancing group dancing men 2  kigali cultural club singers and dancers laurie and mayor mayor presents jim with gift mike and jim presented with gifts  cotton and jamie dinner jess rach dinner