Though Bob and Barbara Griffin may live in Plymouth, their hearts are often with the people of Dodoma, Tanzania. Bob, who spent his career in the medical device field, and his wife, Barbara, a retired nurse, first became interested in health care in the African country when they received an invitation from Tanzanian friends in 2001 to visit.
Because of Bob’s work with Medtronic, the two had previously traveled to medical facilities around the world. "We thought we'd take advantage of that invitation, along with 12 other people who joined us for the trip,” Barbara says.
The small group brought clothing, over-the-counter medications, medical equipment and other supplies to Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital city. “It's a very poor country, with a lack of education and resources, so we saw a very sad medical facility which was the largest and the biggest in the central part of Tanzania,” Bob says. “Multiple people per beds and people on floors [in the general hospital].”
“I think the thing that touched the women the most is that we were shown into a maternity ward and there was a woman who had gray hair sitting there holding a newborn and it just didn't compute,” Barbara says. “And then someone told us the mother had just passed away in childbirth. The trip made an impression on so many of us and we didn't know what was possible to do, but it just kind of laid on our hearts."
Seeing the lack of proper medical care available, the Griffins brainstormed how they could make a difference for the people in Dodoma. After their return to the United States, they were inspired by Global Health Ministries in Fridley, an organization that gathered used or refurbished medical equipment to send to different mission fields throughout the world. Through contacts affiliated with the organization, they developed plans to build a medical center in Tanzania.
“We were able in 2003, to both establish a trust in Tanzania, which oversees the development of the medical center, and establish a non-profit here.” The Griffins called the non-profit Dodoma Tanzania Health Development, which operates in Minneapolis. Construction on the medical center began in Tanzania in 2005.
Dodoma Christian Medical Center, located on 240 acres of land, now daily provides quality health care; the dental clinic was dedicated in 2007, followed by the other sections of the clinic. The hospital, which contains a total of 50 beds, "has the capacity for modern diagnostics,” Barbara says. “We have digital x-ray, we have all these medications available, and what's happening now is by word of mouth, people are coming and overflowing [the hospital].” The medical center is completely led by Tanzanian physicians and medical personnel.
“We have a specialist, two OBGYNs, we have an internist and a surgeon,” Barbara says. “Plus, we have five medical officers who are new graduates from their medical schools. Last year, we served over 54,000 patients.”
Currently, the Griffins visit Dodoma twice a year. They will continue their work with the non-profit and the medical center as they plan ways to expand the hospital and provide more care to the Tanzanians. "We have a 100-bed hospital design, and that would be a part of that [next phase],” Bob says.
The Griffins' move to Trillium Woods in Plymouth a year and a half ago lends itself well to the work they continue to do in Dodoma. “We'd come back from trips and we had this big house and yard, but we'd be physically tired,” Barbara says. Now, their living arrangement at Trillium Woods has freed up time to work on the project. “Everyone supports everyone else in their passions here,” Barbara says. “And we feel that support here among the community.”