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TANGO finds many dance partners in Fiji

Posted on December 23, 2013 by Taber Times

It wasn’t just two to TANGO in a humanitarian effort in Fiji which had volunteers return earlier this month, but 44 southern Albertans who helped a nation in its dance in helping their fellow man in need.

The TANGO (Taber Assisting Nations through Global Outreach) Foundation  comprised of medical, vision and dental  professionals and concerned citizens helped thousands of Fiji residents based primarily in the Natuvu clinic with their health needs along with building a kindergarten for children.

The humanitarian group was able to help 776 residents in Fiji with 791 services provided in medical, dental, optometrical and surgical services combined.

“There were many that came and I was surprised. For some they traveled 16 hours to get there. Same had never seen a doctor before,” said Dr. Robert Wedel, a member of the TANGO mission it which it was noted one resident in need took 24 hours to get to the clinic sporting a scrotal hernia the size of a football.

“Some came from the main island where with their public system it’s like ‘you aren’t going to die from this’ so we will put you on list to get it fixed,” added Dr. Ryan Torrie, president of TANGO.

Dentistry needs were dire in the region as the TANGO group did 228 extrications and 128 filings and cleanings. Those donated services come to the tune of $47,000 if charged in Canada. The optometry services would have cost $20,000.

“It was extrications mainly because by the time people got there, the teeth could not be saved,” said Wedel.

“And the surgeons did some great stuff too like hernias and things that would really improve the lifestyle of that person. We saw everything like chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure that hadn’t been diagnosed to skin infections.”

But, while the week the southern Albertans with TANGO were in Fiji tending to peoples bodies and their minds with the building of a kindergarten, their hearts and souls were firmly in tact despite their plight. Minus the base necessities many of us here in North America take for granted, Wedel added the Fiji residents were filled with smiles and laughter.

“There was a remarkable absence of people with depression. Depression was just absent. One of the most impressive things was their people were so content and satisfied with their life even though in our terms they have nothing. But in their terms they have everything that they need,” said Wedel.  

Knowing not everyone could make it to the clinic the TANGO efforts were based out of, groups were sent out to remote villages. With the funds TANGO was able to fundraise from a gracious southern Alberta community this past year, there was $75,000 approximately worth of medication and lab equipment that was able to be stocked up in clinics in the region along with medical supplies.

“We also bought lab equipment like blood pressure monitoring. We could do blood sugars and cholesterol on the spot along with hemoglobins,” said Torrie.

“One lady was holding her head with a headache and we checked her blood pressure and it was 236/136 —extremely high and her cholesterol was through the roof and her blood sugar was through the roof, it was a set up for  stroke at any time so luckily we had the stuff on hand to give her the necessary medications right on the spot. We saw up to 80 people in one day in one village.”

Records were kept and given to each village’s health care worker along with the central clinic TANGO was based out of so that residents could be monitored with future health needs to make a lasting impact.

Wedel was part of a five-man crew that went to the most remote village, getting in the back of a pickup truck with a canvass like a scene out of MASH where roads got narrower and narrower in the jungle where machetes had to be used to clear roads that had been washed out.

The TANGO delegation had to wait to enter the village in getting permission from the village chief. With all the care that the delegation was able to bring the village, the oddest thing stood out.

“What was very valuable to them was soap. We gathered all the 22 adults that lived there in the village and saw them all which included two fresh sets of twins for kids. We gave things like prenatal vitamins for the moms and the hypertension was real,” said Wedel.

Apart from the medical needs of the humanitarian group, there was also a building crew led by Lloyd Ypma in which a handful of Taberites built a kindergarten school in five days which was painted and decorated, fully equipped with book shelves and educational supplies.

At the end of the relief mission, Fijians showed their gratefulness with a big pig roast, native dancing etc in that remote village. No small feat given the poverty in the area. Annual income may be $1,400 if they sell their income and a pig roast is over $100.

“For them to cook a pig for us was a big deal. They said it was something they would remember for the rest of their lives,” said Stefanie Nicol who sits on the board of directors for TANGO who was part of the relief effort as a nurse. “They were so kind and so generous to the point where they basically had nothing, but shared whatever they could with you. The hardest thing for me was seeing that all the things we can control here, they are so uncontrolled there. You’d see missing toes or wounds that could be taken care of here that are just lived with there. It is a different world really opens your eyes when you come back realizing that we are lucky to be where we are.”

Having returned from the Fiji mission earlier this month, TANGO will be departing in mid-march to Vicente Guerrero in Mexico. Taberite Hans Visser goes to an orphanage and alcohol rehab centre at the site which has a small clinic in which he enlisted the help of TANGO.

“That is kind of the goal of this foundation is to connect medical, dental and special services with locals who are trying to do good in communities,” said Torrie.

TANGO is always looking to strengthen its organization either through financial donations or the enlisting of individuals who possess skills that can aid the organization. Found on Facebook and Twitter, you can follow the organization at

Torrie stresses any donations TANGO receives go towards supplies and equipment in its humanitarian efforts with none going towards administrative costs.

“We all pay our own way, we pay for our own flights and our lodging and our own food so we are not siphoning people’s money to go on a vacation,” said Torrie. “Any support is always appreciated. We do not have any administrative costs as far as any of us that are involved.”

The following were part of the 2013 TANGO mission to Fiji:

Ryan Torrie – President, Linda Moedt – Vice President, Mike Brand- Treasurer, Stefanie Nicol- Secretary, Teri Valgardson- Board member, Bryce Bennett – Board Member, John Pack- Board Member, Lloyd Ypma- Board Member, Helene Ypma- Board Member, Tyler Johnson – Board Member, Tonya Torrie, Brayden Torrie, Ryan Moedt, Carla Pittman – Milk River, Eric Torrie, Jeanette Bennett, Candice Thurston, Chris Dore, Greg Holmes- Montana, Jenna Holmes- Montana,  Janet Hill, Marcel Primeau, Jeff Hughes, Kristy Garner – Lethbridge, Justin Ypma, Wade Ypma, Michelle Cook, Sarina Mellafont – Lethbridge, Paul Harman – Lethbridge, Rob Wedel, Marilyn Wedel, Tiffany Hill – Lethbridge, Wade Steed, Peggy Steed, Kristy Johnson, Wes Steed, Cynthia Steed, Jeremy Steed, Anika Steed, Lauren Steed, Mark Bekkering, Amanda Stewart – Montana, David Bjorkman – Southern California,  Dave Yamabe- board member * not on Fiji trip.

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