For Eunice Wilcox, the recently completed Partners for World Health trip to Tanzania meant far more than helping patients and delivering medical supplies.

“When you got on a trip like this, it isn’t just the medical part. It’s all of the cultural experiences you get as well,” said Wilcox, a 65-year-old retired nurse from Falmouth.

The trip took 17 Mainers to Tanzania to deliver medical supplies to a hospital in the town of Bharamulo. The doctors and nurses helped care for patients in the hospital while the non-medical members of the group helped organize the supplies, make repairs or perform other tasks.

Partners for World Health is a Scarborough-based non-profit that collects tons of medical supplies that would otherwise be thrown out by U.S. hospitals. Much of the material has been untouched, but is being tossed out under rules that require most of the supplies in the rooms of discharged patients to be disposed of, even if they haven’t been taken out of their packaging.

The trip to Tanzania was “a typically unique experience,” said Bob Wieluns, who went on the trip to Tanzania with his wife, Susan. The couple went on another Partners for World Health trip about a year ago, to Cambodia.

Wieluns said the travel was particularly grueling: about 33 hours from when the group gathered at the Portland International Jetport in the predawn hours of Jan. 31 until they finally got to Bharamulo. The trip back, he said, took about six hours longer.

Most of the group returned Feb. 16, but a few members, including Wilcox and her husband, John, stayed a few days longer and returned a week ago. Wieluns said the group found the hospital in pretty good shape. It was clean and a prior shipment of supplies from Partners for World Health had arrived, he said, which is not always a sure thing.

He said the hospital is run by a Catholic church in the town and the members of the group attended a three-hour long mass on their first Sunday in Africa at which they met hundreds of people from the town and nearby villages. The priest, he said, mentioned the Maine group during his homily and thanked them for helping out.

The group also visited a school and clinic in Tanzania that was founded by Aimee Bessire, an art lecturer at Bates College, and the Girls’ Foundation of Tanzania, founded by another Mainer, Nano Chatfield.

“It was very rewarding and we got a lot accomplished,” said Wieluns, and Wilcox said she shared that sentiment.

“The variety of experiences we had was tremendous,” she said, noting that the hospital dealt with cases that ranged from leprosy, malaria and tuberculosis to HIV/AIDS.

Wilcox said her husband, John, a retired engineer, worked on problems in the hospital’s electrical system, repaired a dental chair and light and fixed centrifuges in the hospital’s lab.

“The country has very little infrastructure,” she said, “but the people were just overwhelmingly receptive.”

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.