Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weekly Update - June 29

This week has been fairly quiet in terms of field work - just the daily check-up on progress at the staff house construction site at the school and some short meetings with community leaders. Otherwise mostly preparing for the coming week which will be busy with various activities and then the arrival of the Heroes team at the end of the week.

In the photos below Jenny and Carol prepare a donation of school supplies, text books and soccer balls to be donated to the Chilunga Community School. This was supposed to take place on Friday but has been postponed until early in the coming week.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zambian Health Care

Last week during our visit to Chilando Health Zone I took a couple of photos which I thought I would share to show how health care is in rural Zambia; just in case you think that in your part of the world things are not so good ...... !

Above - Nurse Ednah and the pre-natal group at Chilando. Behind them is the consulting room where she does their regular check-ups. Below is the examination bed which they had just made, on her insistence. Normally the women just lie down on the bare, dusty floor and she has to kneel down to examine them !

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Child Health Week - Day 6 - the final

Today, the final day of a very busy week and to Chilando Zone - the furthest health post in the area being 16 km each way; 40 minutes by vehicle due to the rough track in parts and usually 2.5 to 3 hours for the clinic staff on bicycles. They - two of them, usually including Nurse Ednah who is no spring chicken - do it once every month come rain, sun, cold or hot - it blows me away what they do in the line of duty to their community. (After being with them this week they surely deserve the highest recognition and some way to help them with this situation in the future.)

When we reached the Chilando health post we found it being used for a church service so had to wait for that to end - fortunately the pastor decided to cut everything short so we didn't have to wait for too long ! Probably being a Saturday the pace was slow to start and steady throughout the day. We only dealt with 110 children so it was less intense than the previous days. The health committee is also very well organised and keen so they were a great help in keeping things flowing smoothly.

At one point in the day there was a string of unusual names (of the children) - "Confidentiality", "Confidence" and "Shamestone". This highly amused Nurse Ednah and she really teased the mothers about their choice of names. It was all harmless and everyone, including the mothers, enjoyed the joking. She then proceeded to have us all in fits of laugher with a story about when she worked at a large hospital some years ago and there were some similar goofy names such as "Children", "Whoever" and "Whatever". She really is such a character and totally loved by everyone.

It has been such a great experience to move further afield in this area during the week, seeing places off the usual beaten track and interacting with a huge number of people in the community. I am sure that it has brought further exposure to the Foundation and understanding of the work we are doing here for the community. And it has been so humbling for me to see the dedication and determination of so many people to do what they can, with what little they have, to make life better for themselves.

I have often wished that I had the GPS I have been meaning to buy for a long time now and to have been able to record all the routes we have taken to get places. I have thought how amusing it would be to contact the original Japanese owner of the vehicle we now have and show him just where his old vehicle has ventured this week. The bush of Africa is a far cry from the highways of Japan !

Friday, June 20, 2008

Child Health Week - Day 5

Today was my third visit, in as many months, to the Chilunga health post next to the Chilunga Community school - 14km directly west of the health centre - and we got a warm welcome from everyone. The road is very bad in parts including a crossing of the Mulungushi River - at this time of the year only about 20 meters wide so not much more than a stream but quite deep at the crossing so requiring a change into four-wheel drive - and the 14 km takes about 35 minutes to do. In comparison to the bike ride- which usually takes the staff 2-2.5 hours this is still not bad !

We recorded 226 children today which was apparently down a bit from their usual monthly attendance of nearly 300. As I've worked each day it has been incredible to see the sheer numbers of people. It is mostly the women/mothers or grandmothers bringing their kids - only a few men bring them. They - mothers and kids - come in all ages, sizes, looks and levels of dress and it is very difficult to discern who may be well off and who may be dirt poor. Their patience is infinite as they wait to be processed at each station but then it is quite a social event as the women have a chance to sit in groups and chat while the kids get together in groups and play. There is a constant buzz in the air and people milling about - quite tiring mentally and one just has to focus on the mechanics of getting the paperwork done. Some walk up to 6km each way to attend so they must see some benefit from the whole program. One thing for sure -you see very few remotely fat people in this part of Africa because they eat reasonable amounts of food and get a lot of exercise.

It is surreal however that amidst all of this the modern world still pervades the backwaters of Africa. Many of the women have cell phones. Not that I heard them speaking on them much but they obviously have to buy them, keep them charged and then pay for air time when they do use them !

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Child Health Week - Day 4

Today we headed to Shipungu Community School - only 7 km North of the health centre - along the railway line and then a stretch along the power line - for the day's session in the Shipungu Zone.

It was interesting to watch the local volunteers strip some bark off a sapling in the bush to use as a rope to hang the scale, for weighing the children, from a tree where we had our gathering.

It was a busy session as we dealt with 136 children and we worked without a break until 4:00 p.m. to get through. Nurse Ednah yet again amazed me by then wandering over to the netball field and joining in a game with the young girls. She kept up a good pace with them for almost 20 minutes - she's such a character. We were then given a late lunch of nchima, vegetables and fish - always welcome and delicious after a long day of work !

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Child Health Week - Day 3

After picking up the vaccines at Green Leaf we proceeded directly to today's site - Kaunga Zone - based at the Kaunga Primary School. By road it is 20 km from the health centre but usually the staff take a shorter route by bicycle along narrow paths so the distance by cycle is only (only !) 13 km !

We had an interesting encounter as we drove out. Driving along a narrow dirt track, rounded a corner and there comes a half-grown chicken running down the middle of the road with a mongoose (like a ferret) in hot pursuit. I jammed on brakes to watch and just then the mongoose caught the chicken and was about to kill it. I moved forward and the mongoose took off leaving the chicken to head in the other direction. Lucky for the chicken that we came along when we did !

During our session we were visited by officials from USAID - the huge American government agency that provides aid funding to developing countries and who are the main sponsor, if you will, of the Child Health Week. They had stopped in at the health centre for a visit and having heard about SPF and the support we are giving the program locally, decided to stop in at our location too. That was pleasing especially given that we were way off the main highway down a rough dirt track and good to be recognized by them.

Today we recorded 126 children which was apparently a low turn-out for this area. As we left the school a teacher asked for a ride back to her house. I was yet again astounded - and humbled - by how dedicated some of the people are to what they do when I found that her home is 5km from the school and she walks to and from work every day - rain, sun, .... whatever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Child Health Week - Day 2

Today we started with the drive to Green Leaf to pick up the vaccines then back to the health centre to load up the rest of the supplies and Nurse Ednah before heading to the Sungula Zone for the day. This is located North of the school itself and along narrow dirt tracks - I never realised that there was such a network of tracks which are fairly navigable with a vehicle once you leave the main gravel road ! Again only about a 7km trip each way so not a bad jaunt.

At Sungula they have built a small shelter (above) to serve as the health post so this is where we set up for the day (below) and dealt with 156 children.

The routine is that each child first gets checked in and weighed (done by the zone volunteers), then goes to a station to receive Vitamin A and de-worming pills (Salome and a volunteer), then to me (in this case) to record some information off their health card onto the data sheet and to record some information onto their health card about the treatment they have just had; and finally to Nurse Ednah for some more statistical information and any vaccinations if necessary.

The health centre had only been given a few of the printed forms necessary for the data collection so prior to the session today we had to take time to make up our own forms using a ruler and pen to draw the lines on blank pages. As the day wore on we had to stop to make more sheets to accommodate the numbers that had shown up. When I got back to base this evening I formatted the form in Excel and now have a file to print the necessary forms for each day. Such a simple thing for us but they just don't have the resources to do that sort of thing here on the ground. We could serve the community so well by being able to provide such a typing and printing service as anything they need done either gets done by hand or they have to take to Kapiri/Kabwe and pay for it to be done.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Child Health Week - Day One

This week it is Child Health Week in Zambia during which the goal is to have every child under 5 years old be seen by a medical practitioner of some sort. In the Kakulu area, where we do our work, there is the main Kakulu Rural Health centre - commonly known as the clinic - and from there six health zones in the outlying parts of the district. Normally each zone is visited by staff from the clinic once a month to do under 5 outreach sessions - weighing children to monitor proper growth, administering vaccinations to children and mothers, doing ante-natal and post-natal check-ups and providing family planning advice and medication. The outreach sessions are held at what are known as health posts which are manned by a zone health committee comprising local volunteers who do as much as they can with local health activities - for example malaria prevention and traditional child birth - and assisting their local population with their health problems. The committee assists the clinic staff with the outreach sessions when they are held.

During this week there has to be an outreach session in each zone during the week to capture additional data and administer extra treatments. All of the zones are some distance from the health centre - three of them 12-14 km away - and normally the health centre staff have to get there an back by bicycle as there is no other form of transport ! Not to mention that someone first has to ride 5km each way to collect the vaccines from a refrigerator at Green Leaf farm - the health centre currently has no power or sufficient security to run their own refrigerated storage and the farmer kindly allows them to have a room in his house.

Given the logistics of the week I offered to provide transport to get the staff to each of the outreach sessions as well as myself and Salome (she normally does the cooking at the base but since there's no one around this week she doesn't have anything to do) to help with the sessions.

So today was day one and we headed off to Ndili Basic School - known as Powerline Zone as it is just beyond the power lines to the east of the main road (for those of you who have been here !) - and where the health post is based. Only about 8km each way so not the furthest distance to travel. We commandeered a classroom for the day and saw just over 100 children, working without a break until we got through everyone. (This zone supposedly has about 250 children under 5 so the turn-out was fairly low.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekly Update - June 15

Pastor Louw Ronquest, a South African evangelist who we had originally met three years ago at the Lighthouse Church in Stony Plain, arrived late on Monday afternoon. The plan had been to arrive on Monday morning but his vehicle had broken down in Livingstone on Saturday so he had to catch a ride up to Kakulu.

The service for Monday evening went ahead as planned at Green Leaf farm which is on the main highway and chosen as an evening venue because it has electricity. The farmer kindly allowed the use of his tractor shed and we had about 30 people turn out for a very powerful time of worship and teaching. On Tuesday there were two services at Pastor Justin's church - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - with a break for lunch. During the morning service Louw blessed Justin and Yaliwe's baby girl, Jennifer, now three months old. (As some will know she is named in honour of Jenny so it was an honour to be there for the dedication.)

Unfortunately Louw had to cut his visit short - we had plans for him to spend the whole week and have services and prayer meetings at several other venues throughout the community - to get back to Livingstone with the necessary spare parts to get his vehicle fixed and back to SA. So we were all up at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning and left for Lusaka soon after 5:00. A smooth drive there and we were able to deliver him to the bus station soon after 8:00 to catch a bus to Livingstone - another 7 hour journey for him. Since we were already in Lusaka Jenny decided that she and Cai would fly to Zimbabwe - again a few days earlier than planned - so we managed to book them on a flight for later in the day. We did some errands around town then I dropped them at the airport and drove back to the farm.

The rest of the week was quite uneventful although with it usual challenges and frustrations. The main generator had needed an overhaul and took much longer than expected - five days instead of two. Although we have a small back-up generator it is only powerful enough to run lights but not charge the batteries that we use for running the satellite internet and fridge so it was tough managing those two things. Also I succumbed to a stomach bug followed by a sore throat - over four days - so, on top of being on my own, rattling around this big place, I was feeling quite low and lacking energy.

This afternoon Mr Banda and I went for a drive to check on the progress of bricks for the house. Found one batch ready now so that's good news as we can resume the work on Monday.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Teacher Aides

Jenny has spent many hours producing basic colour and number charts and flash cards for some of the teachers in the community; which she has also used in some of the lessons she has taught. Her plan is to hold several day sessions with the teachers so that they can make more charts and cards themselves rather than her doing it all !

Monday, June 2, 2008

Clinic Help

This old man arrived at the Chilunga outreach clinic with a chicken tied to the back of his bicycle. It later became stew for the lunch that was served to the workers doing the clinic, including Brennan and Bronwen

Bronwen with staff and volunteer at the Kakulu health centre

Sunday, June 1, 2008

On-line - at last !

Today is an auspicious day. We finally have our satellite internet at the farm in Zambia connected and operational. We will now be able to communicate and blog on a more consistent basis.