Global Catholic Volunteer Opportunities at CMMB
We love what we do, but we can’t do it alone. Our volunteers are the hands, hearts, and feet on the ground, delivering healthier lives to the most vulnerable women and children in the around the world. They are the best of CMMB. Wherever they land, they bring healing and hope, and they too are changed forever.
One of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves. – Ralph Emerson
Since its inception in 1912, CMMB has been placing Catholic volunteers around the world. Our founder, Dr. Paulel Flagg’s first mission trip was to Haiti where he served those suffering from leprosy. Seeing the extreme need, he recruited others to join. We have been sending volunteers ever since.
At CMMB, our international Catholic volunteer program employs the help of several organizations, universities, and health systems to help recruit highly qualified healthcare professionals to volunteer in the US and around the world. We are proud to partner with the Catholic Volunteer Network, a leading advocate for faith-based service who support and enhance our recruitment efforts.
CMMB also partners with Catholic Health Association (CHA). CHA is a ministry of the Catholic Church committed to continuing Jesus’ mission of love and healing in the world today. It is made up of over 600 hospitals and 1,600 long-term care and other health facilities in all 50 states. It is the largest group of non-profit healthcare providers in the United States. CHA’s research with members helps to evaluate the structure of programs and identify best practices. This provides us with a wealth of information and resources that inform CMMB’s program development training and deployment efforts with volunteers.
Partnering with Universities
CMMB is fortunate to partner with several universities including Fordham, Fairfield, Notre Dame, Columbia, St. Catherine’s, and Regis University. The core of our relationships with universities is around capacity building for program development and implementation. As students and faculty contribute valuable knowledge and skills in research and training for CMMB and our programs, they gain authentic, often tangible, international experience and have a very real and direct impact on the work that we do. These partnerships are a key components of our volunteer program.
Fairfield University was established in 1942 and is a Jesuit Catholic university. One of university’s main objectives is to promote a sense of social responsibility, while ensuring all its students embrace and develop their full creative, intellectual potential.
We are fortunate to partner with both the faculty and staff at Fairfield as they support CMMB’s Children and Mothers Partnerships (CHAMPS) programming through class projects and operations research. We also benefit from their presence and support at our New York City headquarters, where several students complete internships. The internships provide students with opportunities for professional development, to build networks and relationships with experts in the field, and to get authentic work experience.
We are working with Fairfield to link their state-of-the-art nursing school with current and future nursing education programs in some of our country offices. The first is is the newly launched nursing school in Mutomo, Kenya. A press release about launch of the nursing school highlights the hopes and objectives of the school:
“The school envisions being a Center of Excellence in the training of nurses for the health sector. Its mission is to develop a nursing workforce that will provide holistic, accessible, and sustainable quality healthcare. Students are actively engaged in meaningful learning experiences so that they can gain a wealth of skills, vast amounts of knowledge, and a genuine love for learning.
Aware that infrastructure alone cannot infuse the vision and passion that guides the school’s development, the school promotes the human spirit and interaction between teachers and students. It is this interaction that will make the difference and ensure that the buildings and the environment support higher levels of learning. The school is committed to ensuring that students receive not only the appropriate skills in their field but most importantly, formation in their physical, social, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects. This is with the sole objective towards their personal growth and integration. Character formation must be the driving force behind all the instruction and interactions.”
CMMB has partnered with Our Lady of Lourdes Mutomo Mission Hospital in Kenya for years – it is the hub of our Children and Mothers Partnership (CHAMPS) program. CMMB is now looking for nurse educators to serve at Mutomo Mission’s new nursing school. Learn more.
Our partnership with Fairfield University is always evolving and growing and we are always looking for new ways to engage our partners. For example, during our winter 2018 international volunteer orientation, Dr. Terry-Ann Jones, Director of International Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology at Fairfield University presented a session about cultural humility and cross-cultural communications. Dr. Jones highlighted concepts including culture and biases, and the talked about the challenges of serving abroad. She encouraged us to examine our own culture and to understand that what we bring with us impacts our ability to develop relationships and serve effectively. Dr. Jones reminded us to observe and listen closely and remember we don’t have all the answers.
Here is an example of the a collaborative project between Fairfield and CMMB. It was written by Anna-Maria Aksan, the Associate Professor of Economics at Fairfield University.
Fairfield University: Helping Us WASH-Up
Fairfield University’s Economic Development class has been scouring the academic and policy literature to provide supporting evidence on best practices in implementing WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) initiatives in CMMB’s CHAMPS sites around the world. After studying each CHAMPS site, the students conducted literature reviews on initiatives to improve water access, storage and treatment, hand washing, latrines, and waste disposal as well as to provide dignity kits to adolescent girls.
This project brought me a sense of fulfillment beyond simply completing an assignment for a grade. I am excited that our work will be shared with CMMB and will possibly be able to contribute to some of their various initiatives throughout the world. – Chase Crean, student researcher at Fairfield University
The semester-long research project concluded with an individualized report on each CHAMPS site, recommending best practices for CMMB’s proposed initiatives. The students range in academic interests and include economics, finance, international studies, international business, and politics majors. Student research was monitored throughout the semester by Fairfield University professors.
Only by working together can we address this public health issue, strengthen health systems and make the delivery of health care safe for every patient in Africa, every time. —Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny Assistant Director-General, Health Systems and Innovation WHO
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame students link their thesis and capstone projects to our CMMB programs in communities. Paulina Luna, a master of science in Global Health at University of Notre Dame and MD candidate at Yale School of Medicine shares her experience collaborating with CMMB in Trujillo, Peru:
A Picture Truly Worth A Thousand Words
Since 2015, the University of Notre Dame and CMMB have collaborated to improve the health of vulnerable populations. In 2016, we teamed up to evaluate CMMB’s Rehabilitation with Hope, a community-based program that assists children with disabilities by providing access to quality therapy. There was already clear evidence of the benefits for children enrolled in the program, but we wanted to find out how the program affected the jparents.
We used Photovoice, a community-based participatory research methodology, to invite parents to describe and explain their experiences through photography. We learned that parents perceived feelings of disdain towards their children and judgment and blame for their children’s disabilities by others, leading to isolation.
It was incredible to witness how the parents in our study displayed leadership in presenting their photos to their communities. As they shared their powerful stories, they advocated for their children’s rights and educated others with the hopes of creating a more welcoming community.
Our results were be presented at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health in March 2018, to ensure that the parents’ stories continue to be shared and to help advocate for the rights of children with disabilities and their families worldwide.
Fordham University: Preparing for Careers in Global Health
Our partnership with Fordham University started in 2014 and it provides students and alumni with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience and meaningful professional development through placements at CMMB’s New York City office.
They support all departments as well as our five country offices while building skills and experience for careers in global health and development.
The longer you spend at CMMB the better it gets. This is not your typical intern position. I’ve worked in other offices before, but this is the first time I’ve felt like a part of a team that values my input and wants to include me in the process. Because of this, I’ve learned more than I ever expected and I feel like I am ready to transition into employment. – Greta Schneider, former NY volunteer and Fordham class of 2017
Providing Therapy, Dignity, and Hope in Peru
Regis University’s partnership with CMMB began with the efforts of one long-term field volunteer, Amber Walker. In 2011, while in Peru, she noticed that one segment of the community was stigmatized and ignored: children with disabilities. Amber took action. She decided to engage and mobilize her Regis University colleagues to become a force for change in Trujillo.
With a team of professionals in tow, Amber returned to Peru to train and assist caregivers and physical therapists to work with children who needed rehabilitative services. Regis University faculty and students have been going back every year since. CMMB is committed to developing academic partnerships that increase our capacity and ability to serve communities, while offering universities meaningful, skills-based international service opportunities for their students, faculty and alumni
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the global health program at Regis, to learn from the people of Peru, to challenge myself to practice with cultural sensitivity, and to gain a better understanding of a culture different from my own. – Abby Burger, Regis class of 2017
The partnership between CMMB and Regis University’s Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions (RHCHP) focuses on the following three components:
- Building a community of practice linking CMMB technical staff to RHCHP Faculty
- Increasing the flow of students doing clinical rotations at CMMB volunteer placement sites.
- Creating new academic programs in Global Health which would include a service learning component, linked to CMMB sites
This partnership provides RHCHP access to ongoing, sustainable and high-quality programs in the developing world. This access increases the University’s visibility within the global health sector, enhance opportunities for students and staff to be more involved in long term projects, and create new funding opportunities (including both private and government funds).
All of these benefits will increase the caliber of students and staff that are attracted to the University, which will support the growth of the University into the future. For CMMB, the benefits from this partnership include: 1) Increasing access to technical support though faculty communities of practice; 2) enhancing the pool of volunteer candidates who have the specific skills needed for its programs; 3) creating new funding opportunities through linkages with the University (including both government funds as well as private revenue).
St. Catherine University
St. Catherine University’s mission is to educate women to lead and influence. At all degree levels, St. Catherine integrates liberal arts and professional education within the Catholic tradition, emphasizing intellectual inquiry and social teaching, and challenging students to transformational leadership. Committed to excellence and opportunity, The aim to develop ethical, reflective, and socially responsible leaders.
CMMB is proud to partner with St. Catherine University. Together, they share a joint grant with Zambia GHR Foundation.
The GHR Foundation was founded in 1965 by the Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst and is pioneering design-build philanthropy to create change with its partners around the world in the areas of global development, education and health. GHR started its partnership with CMMB in 2014, funding and supporting the Kusumala Child Protection Project, a long-term project to build system capacity and provide stable, protective, nurturing family environments for children.
The project aims to increase
- Capacity of existing formal government structures and staff specifically, and ensure a coordinated and integrated response that promote pro-family alliance systems and policies that promote stable family environments and reduce institutionalization of children.
- Capacity of the health sector to prevent and respond to family separation cases, by strengthening their ability to identify assess and refer vulnerable children and families.
- Awareness of the need to prevent harmful cultural practice for children and families and promote knowledge of hold positive attitude toward practice that contribute to strong family, prevent separation and reunite children.
- Knowledge, skills and positive practices of communities, families and children that promote stable, protective, nurturing family environments for children of all ages
CMMB and St. Kate’s: Kusamala+
In 2014, with the support of GHR, we started the Kusamala Child Protection Project. This project provides at-risk children with a continuum of care and a variety of interventions to support them either in their home environments or in community-based alternatives. The project
- Strengthens the capacity of existing formal government structures and staff specifically, and ensure a coordinated and integrated response that promote pro-family alliance systems and policies that promote stable family environments and reduce institutionalization of children.
- Increase the capacity of the health sector to prevent and respond to family separation cases, by strengthening their ability to identify assess and refer vulnerable children and families.
- Increase awareness of the need to prevent harmful cultural practice for children and families and promote knowledge of hold positive attitude toward practice that contribute to strong family, prevent separation and reunite children.
- Increase knowledge, skills and positive practices of communities, families and children that promote stable, protective, nurturing family environments for children of all ages
In 2017, CMMB joined forces with St. Catherine’s University to launch the pilot Kusamala+. The purpose of this two-year pilot was to test an intervention designed to mitigate stigma and limited resources of children with disabilities and their families through family and community engagement, advocacy and skill building, and systems linkages.
The first phase of the intervention included a survey to estimate the prevalence of children with disabilities and the environmental conditions. It also included baseline measures for assessing change in knowledge, attitudes, and skills. The second phase of the intervention involves St. Catherine faculty developing the curriculum and implementing the training of trainers. The training will be done with health professionals from the Kanyama clinic and include dialogue and education around disability, skill-building, and ways to enhance local resources, including a referral system.
The curriculum will be evaluated by CMMB and the trainers will then train community outreach workers to engage with the residents in the Kanyama community and support families through education, support groups, skill development, and sensitization. This is now a placement site for global health MPH practicum students.
Our partnerships with universities are also key for our recruitment efforts for both field and NYC volunteers. We also collaborate with NYU, NYITT, Rutgers, Upsala, Liberty, Benedictine, and AIC and are always looking for new partners. Interested in partnering with us? Look no further.
Medical Residency Program
Authority Health and CMMB: Launching a Global Health Residency Program
Forging Partnerships to Improve Human Resources for Health
The CMMB volunteer team is engaging in partnerships to create innovative programs to address global health challenges. Our newest model, a global health residency program for medical residents was co-created with Authority Health, an industry leader in community-based medical residency training focused on serving the most vulnerable around the world.
What I am hoping to achieve as a doctor is to simply do my part in helping more people live in the best way that they can. – Earl Carlos, medical resident at Authority Health. Served at Mutomo Mission Hospital in Kenya in July 2017
In July 2017, the first group of medical residents travelled to eastern Kenya to begin an eight-week placement. During this time, they served at the Mutomo Mission Hospital, as well as at rural health centers and in the community; learning alongside local practitioners, while contributing valuable skills and helping build capacity. Following this first rotation in Kenya, the goal is to expand to Peru and open to new partners and locations.
It has been a pleasure partnering with CMMB and providing Authority Health medical residents with a real opportunity to serve people living in low-resource settings globally. I am honored to have Michigan State University and the University of Michigan as our academic partners and am hopeful that other universities and residency programs will join to help expand this life changing program.- Chris Allen, Executive Director and CEO, Authority Health and former CMMB Board Member
Corporate Volunteers and Employee Engagement Opportunities
In 2014, Rose Hanley of Merck & Co. Pharmaceutical Company (MSD), joined CMMB as a corporate volunteer. Merck & Co. is committed to discovering, developing, and providing innovative products and services that save and improve lives around the world. They have been working in partnership with CMMB for decades delivering healthier lives worldwide.
Rose served with CMMB for three months and her contributions continue to have an impact today. She describes her experience, “My assignment at CMMB, along with another fellow, was to develop operating strategies for CMMB’s country offices in alignment with their then new, global strategy. The work entailed developing strategy maps, initiatives and metrics for each country office, and it leveraged the skills, experiences and methodologies that I have been fortunate to acquire in my 20+ year career.”
Part of Rose’s experience was traveling to Peru to visit our programs in action.
Rose speaks about this part of her experience: “Working with CMMB’s team in Peru was one of the highlights of my experience. I met the team in the central highlands city of Huancayo, and we worked together to develop their country strategy. But the most significant impact came when the CMMB team took me to see their programs in action in the field; programs focused on the health of women and children.
I met families living in such extreme poverty; in houses that they themselves had built, using whatever materials they could find around them. They had no access to water or sewers. In this part of Peru, the most common health issues result from a lack of access to clean water, sanitary living conditions and proper nutrition. CMMB works hard to educate women about ways they can address these issues and create healthier homes for their families.”
Employees Producing to Donate: Now That’s In-Teligent: Getting Much Needed Medicine Where it’s Needed Most
Over the past three years, the employees from the pharmaceutical manufacturer, Teligent, join together on Martin Luther King Day for their annual day of service. Over the course of the day, the team produce and package product for CMMB’s medical donation program, Medical Donations Program. Nearly all of Teligent’s committed employees donate a day of service.
In 2017, this collaborative effort resulted in the delivery of over $100K worth of medical products to be distributed at no charge to patients served by CMMB in the developing world. The 10,752 units of topical pain medication (Trimacinolene) was delivered to CMMB’s newly-opened hospital, the Bishop Joseph Sullivan Center for Health in Côtes-de-Fer, Haiti in March – arriving in time for the hospital’s official dedication.
If you are interested in employee engagement opportunities, please contact us!
More Than A Catholic Missionary Organization
In Matthew, 19: 16-26, Jesus is asked by a young man, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” After being reminded about the commandments, the young man asked, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
Jesus responded, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven.” The young man went away and grieved; for he was one who owned much property.”
As Catholics – inspired by the example of Jesus – we are called on to serve the weakest and most vulnerable among us. For Catholic Missionaries, this work has often happened outside the geographically defined parishes and dioceses and often involved people with material resources to spare.
CMMB has been supporting medical missions and sending missionaries and volunteers to where they are needed most for more than 100 years. In 1934, our CMMB executive director, Father Edward F. Garesche wrote:
“The medical side of the missions should especially appeal to those who have devoted their lives to medical ministrations. The fruitful field offered by medical work in the missions is inconceivably great. Many of our missionaries live and work at distances of hundreds of miles from any hospital, doctor, nurse, or even drug store. They are besieged by crowds of sorely afflicted people, suffering from almost every ill that human flesh is heir to.”
Inspired by the Impact of the Second Vatican Council
Pope John XXIII announced the creation of the Second Vatican Council in January 1959. In the aftermath of World War II, cultural shifts emphasized the need for the church to reconsider its practices. Nearly 2,500 bishops and thousands of observers, auditors, sisters, and laypeople were called to attend sessions at St. Peter’s Basilica over the course of three years, between 1962 and 1965. The biggest change – the church’s willingness to operate in the contemporary realm.
The Second Vatican Council had an immense global impact on Catholic missions. With the theme of reconciliation, Catholics were encouraged to pray with other Christian denominations, and to forge friendships with other non-Christian faiths. It also opened the door for languages besides Latin to be used during Mass, and impacted new positions concerning education, the media, and divine revelation. Today, the council is credited with essentially shaping the modern Catholic Church.
Peter A. Huff, from Xavier University said, that “Pope John XXIII wanted to reinforce the missionary mandate, but he also wanted to create an environment of dialogue, where the church would engage in all the forces of the modern world.”
Famous Missionaries Throughout History
Throughout history, Christian missionaries have had a profound impact on the communities where they have served. Spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ around the world, bringing education to underserved communities, providing healthcare to the poor, building orphanages, amongst many other noble endeavors, these Catholic missionaries were change-makers, set on making the world a better place.
William Carey (1761-1834) is considered by many to be the father of modern missions. Born in England in the mid 18th century, Carey grew up in the Church of England. Carey went to Calcutta, India in 1793 to spread the gospel. He was not able to evangelize as he wished in Calcutta due to the hostility of the East India Company towards missionaries at the time. Unwilling to give up on his own mission, Carey joined Baptist missionaries in Serampore, India.
In Serampore, Carey’s work really began. As a skilled linguist and translator, Carey converted the Bible into Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Oriya, Assamese, and Marathi—making the gospel significantly more accessible to the people of India. He also translated the Hindu classic text, the Ramayana into English—giving the West a window into understanding Hinduism in more depth.
Carey also founded the Serampore College and the Serampore University. The Serampore University was the first university in India to award degrees. Carey believed in the transformative power of education and believed firmly that people should be able to access education to better their lives. He started schools for impoverished children where they learned not only about Christianity but also how to read, write, and do simple math.
Carey was in many ways a renaissance man committed to social justice, education, and Christianity. He was also considered “India’s first cultural anthropologist.” Carey also worked to establish the Baptist Missionary Society, which works today in forty countries around the world on projects related to disaster relief, development, education, health, and advocacy.
Carey’s influence has helped shape the course of Christianity in India and he remains a role model to modern Christian missionaries seeking to bring education to underserved communities.
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland was one of the most famous Catholic missionaries of all time. Born in Britain in the late 300s AD, St. Patrick was taken from his home village as a teenager by pirates who brought him to Ireland. While enslaved by his captors, St. Patrick became deeply devoted to Christianity and believed his captivity was a test of his faith in God.
After six years in captivity, St. Patrick had a dream in which a voice told him that if he attempted to escape, he would return home. Following that dream, St. Patrick began a long voyage and eventually returned home to his family. The experience profoundly affected him for the rest of his life and confirmed his commitment to his faith.
St. Patrick studied and became ordained in France in the early 400s. However, he always knew that he wanted to return to Ireland and bring the gospel to the Irish. By 432 AD, Pope Celestine I sent St. Patrick to Ireland to fulfill his mission.
Upon his initial arrival, St. Patrick faced resistance from the local people. They were not initially open to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the church. However, over time St. Patrick had incredible success spreading the gospel all over Ireland. St. Patrick utilized many different mediums to convert local communities to Christianity. He preached to large groups, wrote extensively and performed innumerable baptisms. He also recognized the people’s attachment to their traditional spiritual practices and incorporated them into the church.
St. Patrick is a celebrated Christian missionary whose work shaped the course of Irish history and continues to influence Irish identity today.
Daniele Comboni was born in Italy in 1831. He was a Roman Catholic bishop who worked in Africa and founded the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and the Comboni Missionary Sisters. His missionary work brought light to the suffering of people living in extreme poverty in Africa.
Born into a poor family in rural Italy, Comboni was one of eight children. All his siblings died before reaching adulthood. He was an incredible student and finished a degree in medicine as well as becoming fluent in French, English, and Arabic. He became ordained in 1854 and left to do missionary work in Africa a few years later. He felt called to do missionary work in Africa.
Comboni first arrived in Khartoum, Sudan in 1858 where he was met with some extreme difficulties. Despite the harsh climate, sickness, and the deaths of many of his fellow missionaries, Comboni continued his mission work in Sudan. Despite his resolve, Comboni was forced to return to Italy the following year with a terrible case of malaria.
For a couple of years in the 1860s, Comboni worked out a plan to return to Africa and expand the missionary work done on the continent. Comboni dedicated the next few years to fundraise for more missions in Africa and raise awareness about the African continent. He travelled around Europe seeking funding for his missions and created the slogan, “Save Africa Through Africa.”
With the funding, Comboni opened two different missionary institutes in Verona, Italy, the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and the Comboni Missionary Sisters, one for men and one from women, respectively. He then opened new missions in Sudan and Egypt and worked to spread the gospel in eastern and central Africa while living there.
Today, the Comboni Sisters are one of our amazing partners in the field in South Sudan. They run Nzara Hospital in Nzara, South Sudan. The mission of the Comboni Sisters is to “serve the world’s forgotten.”
Daniele Comboni’s influence is alive and well today. The missionary groups he established remain influential in east Africa in spreading the gospel and providing services to the region’s most vulnerable.
Mother Teresa was born, Anjezë (or Agnes) Bojaxhiu, to Albanian parents in Skopje, Macedonia on August 26th, 1910. When she was just eight years old, her father passed away. In order to support their family, her mother opened a small embroidery shop. Though they never had a lot, her mother always invited people who were hungry to eat with them.
Mother Teresa was always involved in her local church but decided to join the Loreto Convent in 1928 in Ireland. It was while she was there that she received the name Teresa, after St. Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of missionaries. Mother Teresa first took her religious vows in 1929 and then later took her solemn vows in 1937 in India.
Mother Teresa experienced what she famously described as “the call within the call” which jump started her commitment to live amongst the poor and serve their needs. It took some time before she was allowed to leave the convent to live among the poor and serve. In the meantime she became an Indian citizen and received some medical training so she could better help those in need.
In 1950, Mother Teresa started the Missionaries of Charity. By the 2000s the Missionaries of Charity existed in over 100 countries and had more than 4,500 religious sisters in the congregation. Chastity, poverty, and obedience are of course three of the vows of this religious order but the fourth one is unique. Sisters are to “give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”
In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize. She also won many more prizes throughout her lifetime for her humanitarian and missionary work. Once when asked “what can we do to promote world peace?” She very famously responded, “Go home and love your family.” She believed very strongly that love starts in the home and in creating a home for the poor.
CMMB had a special relationship with Mother Teresa. CMMB sent about $5,000 worth of medicine to Mother Teresa and her mission in India for patients suffering from leprosy.
One of our staff members at our distribution center in Queens wrote:
“Generally, Mother Therea’s appearances are totally unexpected. The receptionist will inform us that Mother Teresa is at the front door requesting a few minutes of our time. That sets the office staff into great excitement because Mother, though her visit is always a short one, always has time to visit all of the staff and express her thanks for their share in her shipments.”
Mother Teresa’s mission to “serve the poorest of the poor and to live among them” is one that strikes at the core of who we are at CMMB. We strive to work in solidarity with her mission, and seek to serve the most vulnerable women and children around the world.
Dr. Tom Catena is the only full-time, permanent doctor serving the people in the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan. The Nuban people live in fear, with ground fighting, aerial bombardment, and starvation warfare as regular occurrences in their lives.
The Nuba Mountains and Mother of Mercy Hospital are now home to this American-born medical missionary. Over two decades ago, Dr. Catena – the New York native – left the United States to answer a call to serve the marginalized and forgotten, and he has been serving ever since. He is the medical director of the Mother of Mercy Hospital, a mission hospital located in a region under rebel control.
Dr. Tom Catena’s History with CMMB
Dr. Catena was still a medical resident when he first came to CMMB in the late nineties. “I was looking for organizations that would sponsor doctors, and that’s when I came across the Catholic Medical Mission Board.” He started by joining short-term, volunteer mission trips, serving the most marginalized in Guyana and Honduras. While completing his navy commitment and his postgraduate residency, Dr. Catena remembers always feeling the call to return to missionary work.
When he completed his residency in 1999, Dr. Catena came back to CMMB. He was placed at the Mutomo Mission Hospital in Kenya where he served for two years. While there, Dr. Catena worked with Anita McTernan, who remembers him with admiration and fondness,
“I remember working with Dr. Tom when he started as a volunteer. He was such a role model for people who are here to make a difference. Tom didn’t have any schedule as such. He worked all day, every day. He even worked all night if a patient needed him. I was a volunteer at that time as well, so I was very impressed by Dr. Tom and CMMB. I will always remember him as a very hard worker. He is a man who is really dedicated to helping people.”
When his two-years of service at the Mutomo Mission Hospital came to an end, Dr. Catena decided to extend his missionary work. He moved to Nairobi and volunteered at St. Mary’s Hospital, where he served for the next six years. In 2008, Dr. Catena’s commitment to providing medical care to the most marginalized brought him to southern Sudan where, together with the Diocese of El Obeid, he helped establish the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains. Today he is the medical director and surgeon.
“Dr. Tom is the gynecologist, the physician, the surgeon…he’s everything.” – Nurse and Women Religious at Mother of Mercy Hospital
As a medical volunteer in Sudan, Dr. Catena and his team encounter endless challenges – limited access to electricity, running water, and essential medical equipment. They also have deadly threats of violence. Despite these challenges, Dr. Catena remains in Sudan. When asked why a doctor educated in one of the top medical schools in the United States chooses to live under these challenging circumstances Tom responds:
My decision to stay here was a simple one. As the only doctor at the only major hospital in the Nuba Mountains, I could not leave in good conscience. Also, as a lay missionary, I felt it was very important to show the presence of the Church in this time of need – that the Church does not abandon her people when a crisis arises.
Who is Dr. Tom Catena?
Dr. Catena is a native of Amsterdam, New York. He grew up as part of a large, Italian-American family, with six brothers and sisters.
Tom studied at Brown University where he earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. While at Brown, he played college football and was an all-America, along with his long-time friend Ken Carlson (pictured below). Following his time at Brown, Dr. Catena worked toward his medical doctorate at Duke University on a U.S. Navy scholarship.
Dr. Catena inspires many people, but who inspires him? We had the chance to ask him, and this was his reply:
“Saint Francis of Assisi has been my personal, favorite saint for many years, as he is for half the world, Christians and non-Christians alike. Growing up when I did, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a huge inspiration to my entire generation. When we were growing up, we always had this idea that saints were people who lived 500 years ago, they were out of touch, and that they were people who were above everybody else. But here was somebody, a sort of very quiet, humble person, who was living in our day and age. She was doing very simple things, but at the same time, very incredible things, and she was a tremendous inspiration for me, as she was for so many other people. I think it was so important to have somebody, a contemporary person, a Catholic person, in modern day, who was living the Gospel life that we could relate to very well.”
He must become greater; I must become less.
In a speech addressing the 2015 graduating class at Brown University, Tom’s challenge to them highlighted how one can live this mantra:
Everyone is in search of happiness. Everybody is in search of fulfillment. I think if you really want fulfillment in this life, what I would suggest to you is go and get rid of everything you have. Sell everything you have. Get rid of all of your baggage and go live a life of full and total service to other people. I think if you do that, you will find that the rewards are incredible. You will find that you have fulfillment more than you could ever have imagined. So I throw that challenge out to you.
Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
In honor of his unrelenting dedication and commitment to serving the most vulnerable, his willingness to place the lives of others before his own, and his rekindling of faith in humanity, Dr. Catena – esteemed Catholic missionary – was awarded the $1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.
The Aurora Prize is granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative in honor and memory of those whose lives were lost in the Armenian Genocide, on behalf of the survivors, and in gratitude to their saviors. The initiative aims to empower modern-day saviors who offer hope to those in desperate need, and therefore continuing the cycle of generosity and giving.
It’s time we shake off victimization and embrace our common humanity and tolerance. As we leave here, let us take this spirit of shared humanity and do a little of the courageous work we have witnessed here tonight. – David Ignatius, Journalist and Novelist
Are You Ready?
We change their lives, they change ours
CMMB believes in a world in which every human life is valued, and health and human dignity are shared by all. Sadly, this is not the world we live in – yet. Volunteers can help us get closer! We are always looking for qualified and committed individuals to join us as we work to deliver healthier lives worldwide. We are looking for medical and programmatic volunteers
Who is most needed in the field
Medical and surgical specialties most needed:
- General practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Family medicine
- General surgery
- Internal medicine
- Emergency medicine
- Dentists and dental surgeons
Nursing specialties most needed:
- Midwives/labor and delivery
- Pediatric and neonatal
- Primary care and family practice
- MCH and OB/GYN
- Community health
- Nurse educators
- HIV and TB
- Nurse Anesthetist
Public health professionals most needed:
- Public health generalists
- MNCH, WASH, HIV, e Health, and malaria experts
- Health administrators
Allied health professionals most needed:
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Speech & language therapists
- Clinical lab specialists and medical technologists
- Ultrasound and X-ray techs
- Dental hygienists and assistants
- Health educators
- Health administrators
- Health information technologists
- Biomedical equipment technician
What to expect in your role:
Volunteers in clinical roles work directly with hospital leadership and clinical staff on health service delivery, capacity building, and various outreach projects within the community setting to reach those who lack access to healthcare.
Volunteers in programmatic roles serve in CMMB offices and CHAMPS sites, providing support to CMMB’s diverse programs. They receive exposure to a broad base of global health and community development initiatives and are able to use their knowledge and skills to help improve the lives of vulnerable women, children, and communities.
How to become a volunteer
Our volunteer opportunities are skills based and demand driven. We conduct a needs assessment in the countries where we work to identify the human resource skills required on the ground. Once these needs are identified, we begin recruiting and screening possible candidates.
Find a need and fill it.
If you (or someone you know) has the qualifications, skills, and inclination to fill a need in one of our country offices, please start by completing or sharing the online application. CMMB staff reviews all applications and if if your background and skill are a good fit, they will schedule a personal interview.
If accepted, all international volunteers also participate in a 3-day pre-departure orientation in New York City.
Benefits of Volunteering
Each international volunteer who serves six months or longer in the field receives a round-trip ticket to their placement site, housing, a monthly stipend, insurance coverage, storytelling and fundraising training, and the opportunity to contribute to vital community development initiatives for under-served populations while building a longstanding legacy for the community.
All volunteers are required to fundraise to help offset the cost of their experience, and cover travel costs to and from the pre-departure orientation in NYC.
The fundraising target is $5,000 and volunteers are required to raise a minimum of $3,500 prior to departure. Fundraising tools and training are provided by CMMB.
Domestic (e.g. New York City internships) volunteers do not have to meet the international age, licensure, or financial contribution requirements, and do not receive program benefits outlined above. We encourage New York based undergraduate and graduate students to apply for these domestic opportunities.
Other Catholic Volunteer Opportunities
We are seeking doctors, surgeons, dentists, specialists, and physician assistants, 21 years of age and over, who can serve for a minimum of six months.
Here is a list of the medical and surgical specialties most needed:
- Family medicine
- General surgery
- Internal medicine
- Emergency medicine
- Dentists and dental surgeons
You will work directly with hospital leadership and clinical staff on health service delivery, capacity building, and various outreach projects within the community setting.
Public Health Professionals
We are looking for public health professionals who are 21 years and older and can serve for a minimum of six months in the following public health volunteer positions:
- Public health generalists will serve in one of CMMB country offices (Haiti, Kenya, Peru, South Sudan, or Zambia) and CHAMPs sites to provide support to our country directors and programs team through a range of programmatic support activities. They will receive exposure to a broad base of global health and community development programs and put their knowledge and skills to work in a field office setting.
- Specialists in maternal, neo-natal, and child health (MNCH), water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), safety and health, HIV, eHealth, and malaria contribute their expertise to support CMMB’s exisiting programs around the world. They will be involved in designing, implementing, and evaluating diverse initiatives in collaboration with CMMB’s Country Directors, partners and National Ministries of Health.
- Nutritionists are needed in Peru and Zambia to support ongoing programs related to child development and health education.
- Health Administrators provide critical support as we engage with clinical partners to improve human resources for health and facility operations. This is particularly important in Haiti where CMMB opened the Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health.
One of the greatest challenges in delivering quality healthcare is the chronic shortage of health workers, and this is where I hope I can positively contribute. – Kirollos Fares, Public Health Generalist
Are You Ready to Join a Catholic Volunteer Mission Team?
We are committed to supporting medical mission trips to improve the quality of healthcare services provided to under-served communities. CMMB works hard to find highly qualified healthcare professionals, and to match their skills with the needs of our partner health facilities to help maximize their impact.
For example, in September 2017, three doctors traveled to Mwandi, Zambia as part of an eight-day medical mission trip committed to:
- Strengthening the health systems serving communities in Mwandi.
- Building capacity by mentoring and training healthcare professionals in Mwandi.
- Providing recommendations to improve patient care, quality of services, and hospital development based on observations at the site.
One of the members of the medical mission team was Dr. Helene Calvet. Dr. Helene Calvet, an experienced physician, specialized in infectious diseases, is our first clinical mentor. She visited Mwandi Mission Hospital for a second time in March 2018 and will continue serving both remotely and on annual or biannual visits.
It was an invaluable experience; a chance to meet wonderful people and see the impact of CMMB’s work. I’ve decided to leave my current job to focus on global health, volunteering with CMMB and other organizations who work with impoverished communities around the world. I look forward to continuing the relationships established during this first trip, and to contribute, however I can, to healthier lives worldwide.- Dr. Helene Calvet, Infectious disease specialist
Clinical mentors are healthcare professionals who can commit to repeat visits to the same healthcare facility over. These volunteers will forge unique partnerships with specific facilities, to offer ongoing support, in person and remotely. Clinical mentors build long-term relationships with local health professionals to increase technical capacity and ensure sustainable impact.
Read about our some of our other medical mission trips:
Interested in being part of a medical mission team or becoming a clinical mentor? Learn more.
Why It Matters?
Our volunteers are some of our most valuable resources. They are our hands, feet, and hearts on the ground. In their work and their attitudes, they truly reflect the life and wisdom of Mother Teresa, who said: “Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do ‘nothing’ for you.”
As Mother Teresa knew well, in service we also receive. Our volunteers change lives, in profound ways – they help provide better health care, they help build the capacity of people and institutions, and they foster new hopes and dreams among those they serve. But, in their service our volunteers are also changed.
Stories of Impact
In addition to the regular stories shared by our volunteers straight from the field, we send out a biannual publication that highlights the amazing work of interns, field, and corporate volunteers.
Testimonies from People Impacted by International Volunteers
About Laura Kyriss – Labour and Delivery Nurse
Jesse Kihuha, our CHAMPS coordinator in Mutomo, recalls Laura Kyriss with fondness,
“Laura was a blessing to the mission of CMMB, to Mutomo Mission Hospital, and to Kenya. We hope she will come back one day.”
These sentiments were shared by all those, both staff and patients alike, who were lucky enough to meet Laura. In fact, one young mother named her daughter “Laura” in honor of the care and compassion she received from this amazing nurse. We are proud to say that Laura received a special honor at the UN on Friday 11th May, 2018 during National Nurses Week.
“It’s so great that dear Brynn is coming back to Peru to accompany us on our journey to improve the health of women and children. Her work is very valuable to us and everyone in our community. We can’t wait to have you back, Brynn!” – Nancy Castillo, Project Coordinator-CMMB Peru talks about how Registered Nurse, Brynn Macaulay who served in Peru in 2010 and returned in 2018
About Rachael Consoli – OBGYN in South Sudan
In 2016, Peter David was a nurse in training at Nzara Mission Hospital in South Sudan when he first met CMMB volunteer alumnae and OBGYN, Dr. Rachael Consoli. Peter explained that Dr. Consoli provided whatever care was needed, when it was needed. He said she was very open with patients, offering them counselling to help them come to terms with whatever diagnosis they were given. She provided similar care to all the doctors and nurses on staff. He praised Consoli for her role in building capacity in the local staff. She was constantly providing commentary as she treated patients, first making sure that they understood the illness before teaching them the necessary treatment.
“I feel so lucky that she came to Nzara. I am so inspired by the work she did here. She is my role model. I want to study medicine because I want to become like Dr. Consoli. She inspired a lot of people here and we learned a lot from her. I want to be just like her.”
The reach of a dedicated volunteer cannot be predicted, nor ever accurately measured. Their legacy lives on long after they leave. For the volunteers themselves, life is forever changed.
My year of volunteering gave me this answer. I needed the chance to grow my skills in different areas and help others. What I didn’t realize was that my time in Mwandi would reveal my purpose in life. If I really think about it, it just confirmed what I always knew it was. – Janet Choongo, Volunteered in Zambia for one year