A California doctor is taking a message of healing to impoverished parts of the world through an organization called the Real Medicine Foundation. The German-born physician is making a difference by building partnerships through her foundation.
Responding to a disaster
It began in Sri Lanka, where Martina Fuchs, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician, wanted to provide medical help in the aftermath of an immense natural disaster.
"I decided after the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia to help. And I just wanted to help as a person and as a pediatrician," she says, "And I knew I would be able to do something."
Forming partnerships and rebuilding communities
Working with Sri Lankans, Dr. Fuchs helped build a clinic and later became involved in rebuilding communities -- helping people recover psychologically and economically from the tsunami.
As the work expanded, she created the Real Medicine Foundation in 2005. The non-profit aid group went to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and to Indonesia and Pakistan in 2006 and 2008 in the wake of devastating earthquakes. In each case, Fuchs says her foundation worked with local partners, including clinics and makeshift emergency schools.
"One of the main concepts for the Real Medicine Foundation is friends helping friends helping friends," she explains, "So we believe in working together, working with as many partners as possible because then you can just accomplish more and you can reach more people."
One partnership is with a clinic in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood of Los Angeles. The foundation got help from volunteers to create an educational and community center above the clinic. They were sent by another non-profit organization called Big Sunday.
The group's founder, David Levinson, says that one Sunday each year, volunteers help out with community projects like this. "We sent in our team to paint, to redo the floors, to put in closets and shelves and really set it up," he says, "And it's been a big undertaking, involving a lot of people and weeks of planning. And it's great because it's going to keep lasting for years to come."
The project is the Real Medicine Foundation's second partnership with a local clinic. And Martina Fuchs says more are planned for mothers and children.
"We are often starting out with a clinic in an area of extreme poverty. And then we add maternal child care programs; we add outreach programs on hygiene, family planning, sexuality; HIV-AIDS programs, education [and] prevention," Dr. Fuchs said.
The Real Medicine Foundation operates with partners in more than a dozen countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas -- offering what Dr. Fuchs calls "integrative health care". She says the foundation grew out of a promise she made in tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka.
"People kept approaching me because everybody had lost everything, and I promised to help," she adds, "And it's very important for me to keep my promises."
Dr. Martina Fuchs says the international effort came about simply, through people helping people.