Any time someone can be immersed in a different culture, Karl Disque said there is intense learning and empathy that can happen for the individual.
That’s why the Disque Foundation founder and executive director and Brownstown native continues to send people to other countries to put the foundation’s mission of empowering others to save lives into action.
The foundation has had eight trips abroad in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Haiti, Nepal, Panama, Malaysia, the Philippines and Kenya.
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The trip to Kenya was earlier this year, and another trip is planned for that African country in January and new destinations in the coming years.
“There is an exchange of understanding that can happen to those traveling and those that they touch while there,” Disque said. “It can be a transformative experience, and it affects all those they touch after the experience in their community.”
The Disque Foundation provides advanced health care education to people, both in the United States and abroad, through the use of technology.
Through a partnership with National Health Care Provider Solutions, the foundation offers free life support training courses online.
To fulfill its mission, the foundation created the Save a Life Initiative with a goal of empowering a million people with the ability to save a life by 2020.
Earlier this year, six of the foundation’s leadership team members were chosen to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, for 10 days to train Kenyan medical students and professionals in advanced cardiac life support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Before the training began, all students were given free access to the NHCPS online ACLS courses. The students had access to handbooks, training videos, skills videos, practice and final exams.
“By completing the courses before arriving at the training center, days of training time were saved and the practical simulations were able to be started by the second day,” said Mackenzie Thompson, a marketing associate for NHCPS and an outreach associate for the Disque Foundation.
The students were able to hone their ACLS and CPR skills through simulations with staff at the Foundation for International Cardiac & Children’s Services Women’s Center in Kariobangi, Nairobi, Kenya.
The foundation’s leadership team hosted CPR, automated external defibrillator and first aid training for the women.
“After the training, the women who started out so shy stood up after learning and put on a show to demonstrate the new skills they just learned,” said Thompson, who lives in Greenwood. “It was truly amazing to see this transformation unfold before our very eyes.”
Seeing the women in the classroom and at an orphanage for disabled children was incredible, Thompson said.
“It was inspiring to many knowing that FICCS has such a huge role in getting those girls set up with skills, a job and a place to be every day and the Disque Foundation being able to join in on that process,” she said.
The following day, they learned about the Compassionate Hands for the Disabled Foundation, which has a staff caring for 85 disabled orphans. Its mission is to create an inclusive society where people with different abilities enjoy equal rights and have access to affordable, quality rehabilitation services.
“Ultimately, this leads to enabling persons with disabilities to overcome their physical limitations and empowering them economically and socially to become self-reliant and fully integrated members of their communities,” Thompson said.
The foundations set up a free clinic for the students, administered deworming medicine and played games all afternoon with the children.
“We loved being able to go to a community where the group of people with us were known,” Thompson said. “They were not just visitors stopping by waving and saying goodbye. There was a real and true relationship there that had been growing for the many years they have been involved in the community, and it shows.”
The group also visited Thika Referral Hospital to meet one of the newly trained instructors. FICCS donated a 12-lead EKG, defibrillator and AED.
“Visiting the hospitals and hearing the FICCS team’s reactions to what was in good condition, bad condition, good or bad working order was really eye-opening,” Thompson said. “Much of the clarity came from witnessing how a hospital functions outside of the U.S. and the gap in understanding and comprehension.”
For example, the hospital had a defibrillator, but it was locked in a cabinet and uncharged because they didn’t want anyone to steal it. After sitting and explaining why they should never do that, the machine was put back in the closet and locked up again.
“It just went to show how there’s a knowledge barrier there that needs broken down, and it goes beyond just online training courses,” Thompson said.
“The sustainability of education lies in the fundamental component of how that information moves beyond the one to the many,” she said. “Whether at home or abroad, the world of health and wellness proves to be a fundamental category to this style of spreading knowledge, all the while empowering others to do the same.”
By empowering one person with the lifesaving knowledge of health care education, Thompson said you are setting them up to train and teach others the same information, thus creating a cycle of empowerment.
“We were fortunate to do this not only with the medical professionals in Kenya but also with the women at the FICCS Women’s Center,” she said.
FICCS pairs well with the Disque Foundation’s goal of equipping nurses, medical students and area residents with CPR and ACLS skills.
Defibrillators, AEDs, stethoscopes, medical textbooks, gauze, scalpels, pocket reference materials, gloves and other standard medical supplies have been donated to empowered volunteers and community health leaders.
Plus, more than 50 charity cardiac catheterization procedures and pacemakers has been accomplished through FICCS, as its focus is the needs of women and children and the at-risk populations in East Africa.
“This collaborative effort of like-minded foundations is one way health education is increasing its longevity of impact, from 10 days of volunteerism to exponential worth in the future,” Thompson said. “The diversity experienced on this trip brings to light the challenges in understanding community dilemmas until immersing oneself in that culture, its communities and customs of surrounding environments.”
Nairobi taught them about deep listening, open-minded thinking and creating plans of action, she said.
“It is too easy to talk past one another, to maintain preconceptions, to entertain pity passively until we enter another’s world as they know it,” Thompson said.
Disque said he is fortunate to have grown up in Jackson County with a “very supportive community and a really stellar family” that supported him and gave him every opportunity to succeed in life.
That has allowed his foundation to do its work over the years, and that will continue for years to come.
“Our mission helps to create access to education for those who want to take the initiative to learn so they can lead their community,” Disque said. “I am very humbled by the great people that have taken up the cause with me. I love that we are able to make an impact and positively change others’ lives.”
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“I am very humbled by the great people that have taken up the cause with me. I love that we are able to make an impact and positively change others’ lives.”
Disque Foundation founder and executive director and Brownstown native Karl Disque on the nonprofit organization’s work
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For information about the Disque Foundation, visit disquefoundation.org.