Tualatin-based One World Brigades returns to Service after Covid-induced Lapse

The global pandemic has changed our lives forever. Everyone on the planet has been affected. It is easy to focus on problems in our life in our own world. We become immersed in the changes we’ve made to accommodate our life in the continuing situation. People around the world have also encountered continued lockdowns, inability to go to a market or work. Lack of tourism in these areas has created a loss of jobs and economic insecurity in already impoverished areas. One World Brigades, based in Tualatin, Oregon, was able to travel again to Uganda and Kenya to provide some assistance in the remote villages. 

Dr. Julie Spaniel holds a child in Uganda.
Dr. Julie Spaniel holds a child in Uganda.

One World Brigades is a non-profit founded by Dr. Julie Spaniel of Summerwood Family Dental in 2018. Her mission is 2-fold; to open the eyes of our youth to the spirit of service and to provide free Medical and Dental care to rural communities of Ghana, Uganda, and Honduras. Pre-pandemic, Dr. Spaniel brought undergraduate students to assist and participate in holistic clinics brought to those small villages. The global shutdown changed everything. The service trips in 2020 were all canceled as we navigated the new world and the impact of Covid. For Dr. Spaniel, she could only think of the people in those remote areas that had come to expect the healthcare. 

One of the families that benefited from the creation of smokeless kitchens.
One of the families that benefited from the creation of smokeless kitchens.

In August of 2021, One World Brigades and Dr. Spaniel traveled to Uganda and Kenya to be of service. They needed to rethink how they would return to service in the areas of the world where they are connected. It was simply not practical to bring 25 students to Africa this summer. Due to Covid, Dr. Spaniel and her group were not able to provide healthcare clinics. The safety of the providers, participants and most importantly, the local people was their concern. The people in Uganda and Kenya were not able to congregate. 

Students at the Gilisho Freedom Academy School.
Students at the Gilisho Freedom Academy School.

In partnership with Kigezi Women’s and Children’s Health Initiative in Uganda, they assisted in building smokeless kitchens. Many rural Ugandans cook over fire, built in a poorly ventilated home or structure. The air quality for Ugandans while cooking is dangerous. By building a simple stove out of accessible materials, with a pipe (made from the hollowed trunk of a banana tree), the smoke can be directed outside. Teaching them, with the use of local Ugandan experts, to build their own smokeless kitchen, with the use of materials they can attain, improves health in the area. This is an area One World Brigades provides health care clinics in a normal year. In 2022, there is hope to continue the clinics for this community. 

Working on the clean-water project at the Gilisho Freedom Academy School.
Working on the clean-water project at the Gilisho Freedom Academy School.

In Kenya, One World Brigades had an opportunity to assist in a clean water project at a small rural school in the Mara Conservancy. The Gilisho Freedom Academy School was founded by Josphat Gilisho in an area of Kenya without a school for primary education. His dream is to eventually have a boarding school for girls to improve access to education for young women. This fledgling school did not have clean water. One World Brigades will continue to assist the school in this water project to pump and purify from a nearby spring. As restrictions from the pandemic lift and we learn the new accommodations for the virus, they also hope to provide clinics in this area.

Now, more than ever, appreciation for serving others helps in keeping prospective of our own issues during the last 18 months. One World Brigades is hopeful the regular service trips, with our youth partners, will be possible for 2022. But traveling to far away lands isn’t necessary. There is need within our own communities. Helping others, extending a hand to another in need, gratitude for what we have, gives back to us in our daily lives.

Dr. Julie Spaniel is a dentist and owner of Summerwood Family Dental. For more information about One World Brigades, please visit www.OneWorldBrigades.org or send an email to [email protected].