Monroe couple volunteer for medical mission in Africa

| 22 Feb 2012 | 04:58

MONROE - Monroe resident Margaret Barry recalled that one woman, among others who traveled an entire day on foot to receive medical attention, had suffered with a piece of metal buried in her eye for more than a year. “Imagine having that much patience,” said Barry. “We’re annoyed when we have to wait a few extra minutes for a doctor’s appointment.” Barry and her husband, Brian, recently returned from a trip to Laikipia, Kenya, in Africa. They had joined 21 physicians, nurses and medical technicians on a philanthropic journey to treat patients in the most remote tribal areas of Kenya from Jan. 20 to Feb. 1. It was the fifth annual Paul Chester Children’s Hope Foundation’s (PCCHF) international medical mission to the Ol Moran Clinic in Kenya. The foundation was co-founded by Dr. Bill Chester and Roxolana Kuzmak in 2004 to honor the memory of the doctor’s son Paul Chester, whose accidental death at age 16 cut short a life determined to help those less fortunate. Paul Chester’s last days were spent in preparation to accompany his father on a medical mission. The Barrys are not medical professionals. They won the trip and the opportunity to be volunteer assistants at a PCCHF benefit. Brian Barry is a mechanic by trade and his wife, Margaret, owns “Maggie’s Celtic Cottage” at Monroe Florist and Greenhouses. “We were just volunteers,” said Margaret Barry. “I helped out wherever I could and my husband, Barry, used his skills to make repairs.” Treating ailments considered hopeless The medical professionals on the mission offered their skills in orthopedics, pediatrics and ophthalmology. They treated patients who may have never seen a doctor in their lifetime. In addition to providing medical expertise, the team brought donated medical equipment and supplies. “The medical people arrived with thousands of eyeglasses and other supplies,” said Barry. “They were able to treat ailments that were considered hopeless by the natives.” Barry and her husband traveled by air for more than30 hours before reaching Laikipia in the central highlands of Kenya. The area is home to the Maasai and Samburo communities. They were housed at the 100,000-acre wildlife conservancy founded by Kuki Gallmann, the Italian writer, poet and author of “I Dreamed of Africa,” a story about the problem of illegal poaching, which was adapted to a movie starring Kim Basinger. “We also traveled to a Malindi District hospital,” said Barry. “And I was surprised that there was an armed guard carrying a machine gun stationed in the facility.” It was not surprising, however, that her group was provided with armed guards for protection against the animals. “We saw lions, elephants, water buffalo, warthogs and what have you,” said Barry. “It was a wonderful experience with a great organization. We would gladly go again.” Volunteers are essential Margaret Barry’s brother Patrick Heaphy, a TV director who had been involved with the organization since 2005, introduced the Barrys to PCCHF. Heaphy creates videos and informational tools and serves as vice president of the organization’s board of directors. “As much as the doctors and nurses are vital to the success of PCCHF,” he said, “these missions could not happen without the commitment of non medical volunteers like Margaret and Brian, dealing with mundane tasks ranging from moving supplies to assisting doctors as scribes during the medical screening process.” The Paul Chester Children’s Hope Foundation: The Paul Chester Children’s Hope Foundation provides medical assistance to children and families in developing countries. The foundation performs reconstructive surgery (i.e. club foot and cleft palate repair, burn scar revision, ear tubes, eye surgery, etc.) and work to arrest preventable, curable diseases (e.g. trachoma, glaucoma). The Foundation provides specialized medical assistance to individuals and families in developing countries where such services are unavailable due to logistics or economic circumstances. The Foundation harnesses the expertise of medical professionals and local agencies to identify opportunities for maximum social impact, and then funds and completes the medical or surgical interventions deemed most viable. The PCCHF core base is made up of volunteers - both medical and administrative, which vary from 50-200 in any given year. For additional information, visit