Alumni bring health care to remote village
by Ashley Barker
Compassionate, competent and Christ-focused care are the components that two MUSC alumni are focused on as they plan to open a health care center in a remote village in the Central African Republic.
Mike and Myra McKee Taylor, who met during a Baptist Student Union meeting at MUSC in 1979 and were married in 1981, have worked in CAR off and on for the past 24 years while raising four daughters in Winona Lake, Ind.
"We have fallen in love with these wonderful people and feel privileged to be able to live and work among them," Myra said.
Myra and Mike Taylor stand by as a surgery is performed in the Central African Republic. The MUSC alumni helped develop Three Strands in order to open a facility in CAR.
They were first deployed to CAR through Grace Brethren International Missions in July 1989 to work in hospitals with a focus on family medicine, anesthesia, education, procurement of medications and supplies, and nutrition. They continued to travel between CAR and Indiana to host teams of medical workers and mission interns. Then, in 2009, more high-level surgical, medical and dental professionals began working in the capital of Bangui.
In order to fully understand the needs of CAR people, Mike, a 1981 MUSC physician assistant graduate, earned a certificate of tropical medicine studies in Lyon, France, as well as a master's degree in intercultural studies from Grace College in Indiana. Myra and Mike also each earned certificates of study in two prominent CAR languages – French and Sango.
"We provide care for anyone, regardless of their ethnic group, religious affiliation or any other factor that could deter from care being given," Mike said.
As a result of their trips and realizing that the needs of CAR citizens were greater than the Taylors' short-term teams could meet, Mike and Myra, along with colleagues Dr. Russ and Melinda Woda, developed a non-profit organization called Three Strands. The organization's mission is to open a health care facility in CAR by January 2015.
Three Stands was named for a Bible verse that touched the hearts of the two families. Ecclesiastes 4:12 reads, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
"Doctors without Borders reported that CAR is the second worst country in the world for health care," Mike said. "This report only increased our desire to make Three Strands successful in giving desperately needed care."
CAR is about the size of Texas and has a population of approximately 5.5 million. Taylor said there is an incredible shortage of caregivers, and he quoted a 2004 report that said there were eight physicians per 100,000 people in the country.
Three Strands is currently looking at two options in order to open a medical facility. A $100,000 addition can be made to an existing facility, working with a national physician, or a $1 million new facility can be built. Three Strands leaders are working with the local government and CAR churches on each decision.
Much of the money that is needed for the project will come from private donations and grants, according to Taylor.
"Despite the difficulties, the people of CAR are hard-working and gentle people," Myra said. "They are appreciative of the help that we are able to offer to them."
The people of CAR inspired Mike, Myra and their four daughters to continue their ministry and medical work. Rachel, 28, is an emergency room nurse at her local hospital, and 26-year-old Rebekah spent time as a missionary in France. Kristen, 22, and Joanna, 17, were both born in the CAR while their parents were doing work in the communities of Bangui and Yaloke, respectively. Once Joanna goes to college, Mike and Myra are planning to move back to Africa to focus fully on their missionary work.
The Taylor family, from left: Paul Dreisbach, Rebekah Taylor Dreisbach, Kristen Taylor, Myra McKee Taylor, Michael Taylor, Joanna Taylor, Rachel Taylor Stangland, John Strangland and Sophia Strangland. To volunteer, join a team or support Three Strands, visit three-strands.org.
Volunteers are always needed to work in CAR, ranging from physicians and physician assistants to nurses, EMTs, pastors, counselors, dentists and assistants, medical students and support staff. The new facility will provide care and train local residents for both preventative and acute care.
"We hope to train village health care workers to be sent out into rural and more unreached areas where care is not available," Mike said. "We also plan to continue to host teams of expats to do surgical, medical and dental clinics, as well as training of nationals to carry on this work."
Mike, the chief executive officer for Three Strands, said "our desire is that the facility will someday become a world-class surgical facility that becomes a beacon of hope for suffering people in the Central African region."
To volunteer, join a team or support Three Strands, visit three-strands.org.
Friday, April 5, 2013