Introduction!

For those of you who don’t know me (I’m guessing everyone!) my name is Chantal Mendes and I wanted to introduce myself as I am just starting to get involved with this project on the multimedia end. A little bit about me: I graduated in 2010 with a B.S. in Print Journalism from Boston University and have had experience working for newspapers, blogs, and grant projects with USAID. I’m currently taking classes at Harvard to satisfy my pre-med requirements so that I can apply to medical school next year. In between studying and trying to have a life outside of Chemistry, I am hoping to use my experience with social media to reach out and get more people involved with this amazing project so definitely expect to be hearing a lot more from me over the next few weeks!

-Chantal

PS I’m hoping to make a blog post every week to keep you all updated on what’s going on as well as let you know what you can do to help/get involved yourselves. Even something as simple as visiting our Facebook page (coming soon!) is greatly appreciated. A little bit of effort really does go a long way in making a difference.

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100 Donors and $5000!

Today, Ascovime has achieved two major milestones  with one big donation: 100 donors and over $5000 raised.  This is a nice goal and is a testament to the grassroots nature of this small organization.  Everyone out there is chipping in a little bit and helping get much needed healthcare and educational supplies to those in rural parts of Cameroon.

Continue reading ‘100 Donors and $5000!’

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Making a Difference in Cool Way

The mission of Ascovime is to provide rural populations in Cameroon with healthcare and educational supplies, all free of charge.  Ascovime functions to achieve this goal in a rather unique way compared to other humanitarian organizations – all members contribute on a volunteer basis, so all the money raised goes directly to those who really need it.  With this model comes the need for great grassroots efforts from all over the world.

Cool Students in Yaounde

Continue reading ‘Making a Difference in Cool Way’

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How Ascovime Operates

If you’re wondering how Ascovime does its work on the ground, this video pretty well encapsulates it.  The scenery, music, makeshift equipment and transport, and a jovial attitude are all represented in this fine work.  Credit to TristanChampion for putting this video together.

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Ascovime Paris

For those of you that understand French out there, here is a nice little slideshow that was put together by the folks in Paris.  They are the original Ascovime and have been working diligently throughout the years to support the medical teams on the ground in Cameroon.  Check out the slideshow!

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I Graduated! Now what?

Right about now, there is a plethora of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed graduating seniors on college campuses everywhere.  However, as they all slowly return from the four-year stupor in  which they became experts of herbal experimentation and yeast-based inebriation, the realization will come that the $100,000 in debt needs to be paid off somehow, and soon.  Perhaps it wasn’t the best decision, see alternatives.

New York Times Bestseller

Continue reading ‘I Graduated! Now what?’

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Building an Empire Through Third World Exploitation

Exploitation of the poor is a long standing tradition among empires throughout history.  From the Roman empire to that of Imperial Japan prior to World War II, killing and enslaving peoples in order to steal natural resources has been common practice.  And today is no different.

The American empire, built of collusion between the military, corporations, government, banks, and intelligence agencies, has managed to do the same as many empires of the past.  In the 1960s and 70s, our America was responsible for several assassinations as well as other orchestrated coups in order to install leaders that would be receptive to our interests in the region.  Today, we do this in the Middle East and Africa, with Cameroon being no exception.

Back in 2000, a corporate coalition led by Exxon Mobil started a project to build an oil pipeline from southern Chad through Cameroon to the Atlantic Ocean.   Continue reading ‘Building an Empire Through Third World Exploitation’

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Keeping Malarial Mosquitoes Off Your Back

I don’t like mosquitoes.  They buzz in your ear, suck at your blood, and worst of all are carriers of malaria in tropical parts of the world.  Since no one likes malaria either, the name of the game is avoiding mosquitoes altogether.  My previous post talked about all the various prophylactic medications you can take, but there are other things you can do to lower the chances of an intimate rendezvous with a mosquito.  After all, it’s really just a game of statistics.

Buy Spray – The malarial mosquitoes are often a little bigger and a little nastier – so buy a bugspray that is also a little more potent.  You definitely want a spray with 5%-35% DEET.  DEET is the good stuff when it comes to insect repellent.

Wear Long Sleeves – I showed up in Africa like a complete rookie.  Logically (I thought) the weather would be hot and tropical, so I brought t-shirts and shorts.  Wrong.  I ended up wearing my one long-sleeve shirt and one pair of pants almost everyday.  Because of me, Americans must have an interesting fashion reputation in Yaounde. Anyway, I was constantly sweaty, but I left without malaria.  You should also wear light colors because mosquitoes are less attracted.

Mosquito Nets – You should have them.  None of the Cameroonians had them, and I also did have one, but it’s highly recommended. Rather be safe than sorry.  The nets should also be sprayed with either pyrethrum, which comes from chrysanthemums, or permethrin, its synthetic twin.  They’re basically just insecticides to create one additional layer of deterrence.

Indoors – Mosquitoes are active in the evening and night.  Be sure to shut windows later in the day and check the screens for major holes.  Prior to entering sleeping quarters, it’s also wise to spray the room with some insecticide to kill any loitering bugs.

The reality is that avoiding mosquito bites is nearly impossible, especially since the African ones I encountered were silent and bit you without causing a commotion. However, if you combine the ability of prophylactic meds and basic prevention techniques, you should be close to 99% safe.  And if you get malaria, it’s treatable and you’ll probably be fine.  Happy travels!

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Preventing Malaria: Medications

Areas affected by malaria.

If you’re planning a trip to Africa, South/Central America, or Asia, malaria is a legitimate concern.  Malaria is a very serious parasitic infection that kills about 1 million people annually and is transmitted by mosquitoes.  However, there is good news. There are numerous ways to lower the chances of ever contracting malaria and even if you do, it is highly treatable.

One of the ways to mitigate the risk of contracting malaria is by taking a chemoprophylaxis, or antimalarial drug.  Below is a list of some common drugs prescribed for travel to areas of the world with malaria risks:

Lariam (Mefloquine) by Roche

  • Weekly tablet
  • Cheaper than Malarone (fewer pills to buy)
  • While extremely rare, a study reported higher adverse neuropsychiatric events (Dark Side of Lariam)
  • Have to start taking it 4-6 weeks prior to departure + 2 weeks after
  • Comprehensive Lariam Side Effects

Doxycyclin (general antibiotic)

  • Side effects that can be mitigated
  • Cheap, Generic
  • Daily tablet
  • Likely to sunburn faster
  • Nausea
  • Can lead to yeast infections

Malarone (atovaquone and proguanil hydrochloride) by GlaxoSmithKline

  • Causal prophylaxis
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache can occur
  • Can make you sick enough to discontinue use
  • Expensive

Chloroquine (Aralen) (can be found generically)

  • Resistance in parts of the world (map)
  • May worsen psoriasis

When it comes to effectiveness, they are all about equal.  However, daily pills put greater responsibility on the user to take it at the same time every day, otherwise the effectiveness decreases.  To make a proper choice for your needs, visit your local travel clinic and doctor.

This site also has lots of good info.

Look for part 2 of malaria prevention coming later this week!

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This is Africa: Headlamp Surgery

Practicing medicine in the jungles of Africa requires a certain flexibility that is hard to imagine here in the U.S. or western Europe.  However, thanks to the existence of youtube, we can see the challenges that face doctors in remote places all over the world.

This particular video brings back memories of the surgical marathon that went on in Maboye, Cameroon last summer. Dr. Bwelle slept about 8 hours for an entire 48 hour period and at one point the generator went out mid-operation.  Dr. Bwelle had us all turn our headlamps on to light the surgical field and on we continued as the generator was repaired.  That’s the way it goes in Africa.

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