Bringing smiles with health care, stories from Canadian Red Cross mobile clinic in Bangladesh

By Angela Hill

The giggles of excited children could be heard over everything else.
A couple of the observant kids outside one of the Canadian Red Cross mobile clinics in Kutupalong camp, spotted team leader Patrice Gordon sorting through a bag with toys. It didn’t take long after she stepped out into the bright sun, for a small swarm of these little, dusty bodies to flock around her.
Canadian Red Cross mobile clinic team lead Patrice GordonBut, that is Patrice in her element.
She was in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh for a month starting Nov. 4, part of a team working to meet the health needs of some of the 685,000 people who crossed the border into Bangladesh, fleeing violence in Rakhine state.
“There are so many people with so many needs,” she said, listing malnutrition, measles, respiratory problems, skin infections, and diarrheal illnesses.
“When you’re on a mission like this, it’s really easy to look at this massive wave of humanity and feel overwhelmed.”
She talks about the miles and miles of tents that the team of delegates and volunteers walk through every day.
Canadian Red Crosser Patrice Gordon talking to those seeking safety in Bangladesh“Every single one of those tents and shelters has someone in it, has a family in it that has experienced all kinds of unimaginable trauma, tragedy, loss,” Patrice said.
Patrice is no stranger to seeing tragic situations, this is her fifth deployment with the Canadian Red Cross. When she isn’t working to help in a foreign country, she works in a remote region of central British Columbia bringing health care to people in an area without a doctor.
From clinic one to clinic two in Kutupalong is a 20-minute walk, down a steep hillside, across a swampy area, through some brambles and up seemingly impossibly vertical set of stairs that have been painstakingly cut into the clay-like mud.
She strides along close to guide that makes the trip back and forth regularly, helping keep the teams connected. Patrice has a big smile on her face and her beaded bracelets catch the eyes of little kids who wave as she passes.
On arrival at clinic two, she pops next door to check on a man who is HIV positive. Patrice listens to his breathing and asks him if he has been eating well. Satisfied with what she finds, she steps out of the makeshift shelter before checking on the next patient at the clinic. Patrice moves constantly.
Walking out of the camp at the end of the day, she stops to admire a tree on a far hillside. In an environment where people need space, firewood, and shelter, the hillsides have been stripped bare. Patrice said that while working in the field, it’s the little things that help keep the team going.
“It’s things like seeing that one beautiful tree, it represents hope somehow,” she said.
But that’s not the only place she finds light. She makes eye contact wherever possible.
“Seeing joy, seeing pride in people that have so much that they are struggling against, is always such a rich experience. I find that in every mission. It’s definitely the case here.”
Patrice is one of a team made up of people from Canada, Philippines, Bangladesh and Myanmar. They are working to support the resilience of those displaced by violence. These are the Faces of Humanity.

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