Steve and Oddney Gumaer founded Partners Relief & Development 26 years ago in response to the needs of a child who was found by pro-democracy soldiers in a tribal area of Myanmar. She was 4 years old, the only known survivor of her village that was attacked by Myanmar Army forces. They helped that child get foster care and provisions, which led to helping more children in the same circumstances. Today they have helped around a half million displaced people per year - still focusing on children who are marginalized or suffer the consequences of war. They work where violence or political complexity prevents large agencies from helping. Their work currently takes them to places in Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Steve’s mission is bringing freedom and fullness to children caught in war zones. He leads a team that is regularly in remote and dangerous locations where medical care is distant or non-existent. It is because of students like Steve that we are passionate about Remote and Wilderness Medicine here at Remote Medical Training and we are humbled that Steve chose our REMT course to receive his EMT education.
I love my work, even the danger that it periodically exposes me to. I often imagine what I would hope for if the roles were flipped around and it was my family on the run without essential supplies to survive being displaced. Being the answer to my own questions of justice and being the fulfillment of my own search for meaning and love has consistently invigorated me.
The adventure of this work is also compelling. In 2008, I crossed Karen State in Western Myanmar on foot. For 3 weeks I walked with 100 soldiers and newly trained ethnic relief team members. In those three weeks, I lived out of my backpack and slept in a hammock every night in towering jungle terrain. We stayed in the remains of colonial administrators’ stations from before WW1, treated hundreds of people with medical conditions, and got to know the victims of Myanmar’s war intimately, many having fled 8 times in the previous two years. We walked 500 kilometers in those three weeks, eating dogs and every imaginable creature... It’s hard to even summarize the adventure element of this trip because so many incredible things happened. This is one example of the kind of trips my role leads me into each year.
Two years ago, I spent three weeks working with my team in Iraq. We were helping survivors of ISIS violence as the Iraqi Army rooted them out of the villages surrounding Mosul. On that trip, I realized how little I could help when people were critically hurt, shot, or wounded. And I felt that to be useful in these remote environments I should be able to do more for people in the event of a crisis. That realization along with my years of working in remote war zones prompted me to revisit getting some medical training. I also love the mountains, rock climbing, paddling, skiing, riding dirt bikes, and surfing. I love everything outdoors. Every family vacation revolves around these activities. So, in my leisure as well as professional life, it felt like a responsible step to be competent with emergency first aid. A friend in Washington told me about Remote Medical Training. I did a little research, then applied and cleared my schedule for the month-long intensive REMT course in Leavenworth, WA.
Because of the excellent training at Remote Medical Training, I can open a patient’s airway, stop bleeding, and perform CPR with confidence. I can suture a wound and deduce the basics of medical emergencies. This creates greater confidence in my leadership of our team and makes carrying a first aid kit incredibly meaningful. Saving a life is beautiful, but even ministering to a sick person and exercising empathy in such practical ways is transforming.