When GHC's President and Co-founder Dr. Anne Goldfeld was visiting a friend at Maryknoll Sisters a couple of years ago, a chance meeting with Sister Rosemarie Milazzo who had recently returned from working with AIDS patients in Tanzania, resulted in a friendship and partnership that inspired Rosemarie to take three trips to Ethiopia to provide outreach and support to GHC MDRTB patients.
"I just happened to sit at the same table with Anne when she asked me what I was doing as a Maryknoll Sister in Tanzania," Rosemarie says. "When I told her about my work with HIV/AIDS patients, she asked if I would be willing to come to Addis Ababa to do the same work at the hospital there. Some months later I made my first trip and have now been there twice since."
A teacher by profession, Rosemarie's specialty lies in building support groups and mobilizing the community to rally around those in need.
"So many of these patients live in loneliness and isolation," Rosemarie says. "I wanted to do something to get the patients out into the open. Instead of staying in their wards all day I introduced some breathing exercises they could do as a group. It turned out be fun and as we continued many more of the patients joined us. I really was trying to animate them so that they would have a bit more energy, bring laughter into each day and get them together for some activities outdoors.
"Just being with them helps so much," Rosemarie continues. "They are sick for such a long time that anything we can do to pick up their spirits is essential."
Rosemarie overcame a number of challenges to rally the community around the MDRTB patients.
"I did not know the culture or the language very well," Rosemarie explains. "But I did everything I could to meet people that could help. I went to religious conferences, educational seminars, Rotary Club meetings. The people in Ethiopia were wonderful and helped out with clothing drives as well as direct support for the patients."
Even though a year has passed since Rosemarie has been to Ethiopia, the work she did there continues today.
"It is so important to keep the support and outreach going," she says. "Not only is it essential to the patient, in the long run it helps the doctors and nurses do their jobs as well."