Sunday, July 31, 2011
Well we are finally back home and I have gotten settled back in and caught up on sleep and the only thing I can say is I am ready to go back!! Now with that said I would like to reminisce on some of my big highlights from the trip, including an overnight safari trip in Chobe, Botswana and an all day home based care endeavor to a village just outside of Livingstone called Natebe.
Let’s talk about the fun part first since that’s most people’s favorite. Last weekend we went on an overnight safari to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Needless to say it was a great way to cap off a work/tourist adventure. In quick summation, we saw a load of giraffes and elephants, some crocodiles and hippos, as well as a lioness and her cubs! More importantly though, we saw an enormous two-story KFC (not actually in the park for those of you out there questioning that). The trip began with a “truck, not a bus” ride, followed by a delicious dinner consisting of steak, sausage, squash, potatoes and more. After some campfire songs and less than a solid night’s sleep in the tents we did not have to set-up or take down, we set off to the park just before dawn in the back of a wide-open truck. It wasn’t cold at all. But the sunrise over the water behind us was more than worth it in itself. After a few hours of trucking around seeing some of the world’s most elegant creatures doing what we do every day, just trying to survive, we turned around and headed back to the camp site for a delicious breakfast, which yet again was prepared and ready for us! For that I thank One-legged Mark and his crew – you guys rock! We then headed out on a boat tour through the park which landed us within 10-15 feet of a slew of Elephants! Absolutely incredible, truly majestic creatures especially considering their colossal size. We even dined with a pair of crocs, pulling our boat onto a sandy beach side to make some sandwiches with the freshly sliced ham and veggies provided again by Mark and his crew. Needless to say that is a day-plus summed in a short paragraph, but hopefully many of you will have the chance to see the numerous pictures taken during the trip!
Now let’s get down to business. The day prior to heading to Chobe, the second half of our group headed out to Natebe to provide home based care to some of the area’s individuals and families in most need of health/medical attention. If you hadn’t gained a true understanding of the severity of some of the issues these people face before arriving here, hopefully you did post-trip. No, not everyone is deathly ill, not everyone is on their deathbed. The situation these families/villages face are actually more gruesome than some superficial blood & guts medical attention. These people have these issues because they lack the resources – money and access most importantly – to live the lavish, comfortable, and in some cases unnecessary lives in which we live. They struggle to consume enough water, let alone sanitary water, and essential foods to, in some cases, survive to the next day. Clearly medical attention is what many need, but there are far worse, underlying problems stemming from socio -political and -environmental issues resulting in these human beings needing this attention. There is nothing wrong with the culture and many are perfectly content with maintaining the lifestyles they have, but all certainly could and would benefit from changes in many policies and will not hesitate to make you aware of that, and that is not only their right to do so as citizens of the country, but as human beings. It may seem impolite and politically incorrect to some for me to make this comparison, but it needs to be done. Upon viewing the lifestyles of many who live out in the “bush” and hearing what they have to say, it is truly a fight for survival, like that of the animals you see out on these safaris. In established regions of the world, yes we all want to live to the next day and beyond, but we sort of take that all for granted as we have so many luxuries to support us day in and day out. However, everyday is a struggle to survive here. Lack of water, food, and shelter all contribute to their “unwell-being.” Many raise their own goats and chickens, and scavenge for ground nuts and fruits to feed their families, while another member will bike a few miles back and forth (if lucky enough to have a bicycle) to collect some water from a well that may or may not be contaminated that day to supply the family and animals with hydration. For the most part, these people really don’t care about what is on their iPod or what options their cars have (most don’t have cars), they are just worried about making it through to the next day if only to have one more day with their families.
Now this isn’t to say it is all bad, or that all people we came across were in these conditions, but it is a prominent issue in Livingstone, in Zambia, and most of Africa. Certainly what we did was great and educational and all recipients of our attention were more than grateful, as they made that rather clear, but it takes more than just a group of kids/young adults supplying some less than efficient & adequate medical treatment to just make things better. Based on our lunch with – well I don’t know how to pronounce, let alone spell his name so we’ll call him – Mr. Ministry of Health, our tour of the hospital, and our work in the clinics, it is apparent that things are beginning to make some sort of a turn for the better, but the real question isn’t whether it can or will, but how and when will it get there.
Before leaving you all, I would like to mention one interesting story from Natebe that we came across. We were meeting an older woman who received a regular visit when this trip was made. However, this “consultation” quickly became about others and not her. She was a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) and the week before she assisted in the birthing of a child in the home just next door. The mother had just turned 17 and the father was nowhere to be found. The older woman informed us that the new mother would not tell anyone – the TBA or her own mother) who the father was. He did not want to be found, and the mother made this clear by her resistance to the topic. Her hesitance and wariness made it apparent that something was wrong, and although the issue was not resolved while we were there, we were led to believe that this may have been a serious cultural fopaux resulting in a life-threatening situation. All of this sadness aside, we moved to the next patient on this sight, the 5 year-old little girl in the pink with the big beautiful eyes. She was suffering from severe diarrhea and dehydration, but after a few cups of quickly consumed ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts), a couple burps, and some candy, we left her with a big smile! A perfect way to end a long and painful day (in many ways!).
With all of that said, I cannot say anything other than I had an amazing experience and if I have the opportunity to do it all over again, I would jump on it just as quickly as I did the first time. Thank you so much to Dr. M, everyone at African Impact – volunteers, drivers, and managers alike – and especially a big thank you to Brave for truly providing us with some cultural immersion on and off of our projects! Zambia, I miss you already and hope to be seeing you VERY soon!!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
August's Favorite Experiences
My favorite experience's have been working in Dambwa Clinic, Natebe Home Based Care, working with children and HIV Education in the prison. At Dambwa Clinic, I got the chance to work in the Antenatal Clinic and HIV Testing & Counseling. I absolutely loved both of these assignments. The Antenatal Clinic was so incredible to see. It is amazing to see how they are able to do so much with so little technology. HIV Counseling & Testing was very interesting as well. I got to see five people tested. It was wonderful to be allowed to observe such a personal moment. Natebe Home Based Care is the most rural community that we visited during our home based care visits. We saw a variety of ailments. The people were so grateful to have us come and see them. Last but not least, HIV Education in the prison was surprisingly my favorite experience. The HIV rate is 1 in 3 in Livingstone, so it is imperative that everyone has a thorough knowledge of the disease. Visiting the prison and speaking with the prisoners made me feel like a true public health educator. I am really glad that I had the opportunity to go there. I have enjoyed every moment of this experience.
Sheri's Favorite Experiences
My favorite experiences have been visiting the Old People's Home, working with the children and making home base care visits in Ngwenya and Natebe. I was particularly interested in the Old People's Home because I work in long term care in the United States. Here I made several new friends and played Memory and BINGO with the residents. Fikre and I had the chance to interview three residents for our research project. The Old People's Home has a spectacular garden that they use to generate income, as well as to provide vegetables for their meals. I enjoyed the time I spent with the residents---it was truly no different from working at home! Many of the residents I interviewed had similar health concerns and food concerns that I am used to addressing as a dietitian back home. Finally, home based care was amazing and really provided insight into the struggles and daily lives of the patients we visited. I hope to make it back to Zambia one day and continue on my public health journey!
We both fell in love with the children! To quote one of our colleagues...they make you feel like a "celebrity" and always wave at you as you pass by. We will never forget the adoration of the Zambian children (they climb all over you, play with your hair and are fascinated by pictures of themselves) or the famous "Munzugu Bus" song that they sang whenever we drove by the schools. We had the chance to work with children during art club, reading club, sports and afterschool.
We would like to thank African Impact and the people of Zambia for being so welcoming and gracious! See you soon!