CANTON - Some people go to the beach for their vacation.
Michael Ditta, PA, and Lisa Ditta, LPN, are heading to squatters’ camps that have grown up around the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. The Dittas, clinicians with Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s Canton Family Health practice, will be traveling with their daughter, Miranda, to Johannesburg, South Africa, for 10 days to use their medical and nursing skills at a mission clinic operated by Impact Africa, a Christian evangelical organization.
The organization operates medical clinics, pre-schools, and other services near the squatters’ camps, which were among those that erupted in protests in the lead-up to the first post-Apartheid elections held in the country since former President Nelson Mandela’s death. The mission trip will take place in August.
“These squatters’ camps are what they sound like,” Mr. Ditta said in his office as he prepared for the trip. “They were erected out of what we would think of as found materials on a temporary basis, but became permanent fixtures of the landscape. There is no running water or electricity. There is violence. The poor health and prospects for children’s futures on the fringe of Johannesburg, an otherwise modern city in Africa, is appalling.
“Impact Africa operates an orphanage near the squatters’ camps with a ‘no questions asked’ baby drop-box because so many children are born to mothers who can’t feed or clothe them,” he said.
“Healthcare is available to the general population only through a referral from a clinic,” Mr. Ditta said, “yet there aren’t enough clinics, and certainly not enough in the squatters’ camps. Children can’t learn or develop properly without basic medical care.
“Lisa and I are deeply committed to exercising our faith through providing medical care to these children, and doing what we can to stabilize their health so they can benefit from the other services operated by Impact Africa, such as schools,” he added. “Basic medical care will give these children a chance at a better life.”
The Dittas are traveling with two other adults from the area and two other youth members of a local religious congregation. In-country they will work with Emma Schneider, an Impact Africa missionary from Hammond. The Dittas have worked with the congregation to raise funds for travel and other expenses. They are donating their free time and skills.
“We’ve organized fundraisers, like a spaghetti dinner that took place at the Ogdensburg Rescue Squad Building on June 14. If people would like to help, their dollars will be going toward travel to bring the medical care to children who desperately need it,” he said.
For more information, interested individuals may contact the trip organizer, Hilmar Juell, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (315) 771-3145.