Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mothers and Babies

Tuesday 3rd June

At that this point in my trips I start panicking realising how much I need to fit in during the last few days. I was feeling somewhat under pressure by the weekend so I decided to take a day off!! Strange as it seems when there is too much to do, doing nothing can be the best solution. On Saturday I decided to read the Jeffrey Archer book I found in the house and then go for a walk to the small dam. I was immediately rewarded with a view of an African Open-Billed Stork. Later another 4 or 5 joined this one. A flock of White-Faced Ducks where floating on the lake and some African Jacanas flitted around the edges of the shore. As is usual, a group of lads playing with a football gradually found themselves kicking the ball ever closer to where I sat. More unusually a group of girls grouped behind me in some bushes. It is very usual for girls and boys, men and women to keep in separate groups. The girls were bolder and greeted me – finally sitting with me and enquiring about my presence, using the binoculars and looking through the bird books. One of the girls proved very knowledgeable and told me the Citonga names for many of the birds. She turned out to be a student at PIZZ School.

On Sunday I expected to be free after mass. However a change in plans meant the Small Christian Communities would meet after all. I still planned to excuse myself, but eventually decided to join them. I saw three of the students we sponsor through the church in Cheltenham, before Best gave me a lift home. After a quick bite he took me to his home, where I was offered some sump and sour. It was therefore about 15hrs by the time I reached the prayer meeting. As with the previous time when I almost excused myself, my presence turned out to be important. Clarification about a small project established last year was necessary to clear up some misunderstandings.

I had arranged to meet Sr. Christeta at Pemba at a variety of times during recent days! I was at Pemba at 8 hrs – one of the agreed times - met Jennipher at 9hrs and Sr. Christeta at 10hrs! I decided to relax while waiting and walked slowly along the main street taking in the environment. I have spent too much time rushing – I need to make the most of my last few days and enjoy the experience of being in Africa.

The road we took from Pemba was a good dirt road. Sr. Christeta has a Landcruiser which covers the ground well. I enjoyed getting away from the town for a while. A beautiful glossy bright blue bird flew past – I believe it was a starling – there are a lot of varieties in Africa and some which are present in Africa don't seem to be present in the countries covered by my Southern african bird book, making positive identification difficult for me. We also saw hornbills with their characteristic shape and flight. We passed small vilages with their range of grassed thatched buildings and moved from the Chiefdom of Chief Monze to that of Mapanza when we crossed a small river. Sr. Christe
ta is the daughter of the former Chief Monze, so now lives in foreign territory!

We reached a tarmac road and very soon were at Chililantambo – the village where Sr. Chisteta stays. There is a Catholic church, the convent were she lives, the clinic were she works and very little else! The houses are well scattered over a number of kilometres.

I was glad of Jennipher's presence. She was very much at home talking to the women who had established a group to tackle the danger of transmission of HIV infection from mother to baby. Sr Christeta was very busy immunizing about 200 babies agaist a variety of diseases while Jennipher talked to the mothers finding out some of their challenges and getting me to take numerous photographs! One of Jennipher's main concerns was the number of 'early marriages'. We discovered later that the majority of the mothers at the clinic where students from the local school where the nun's taught.

The group of volunteers were making a lotion which apparently is very good at relieving muscle and back pain. Many leaves were cooked with some oil and animal fat – by the end of the day the lotion was put into pots and labelled ready to be sold. The government provided a borehole and handpump under the same scheme as that for Jennipher's group in Pemba. This has enabled the group to make a small vegetable garden. Sr. Christeta also grows yellow maize and keeps some village chickens – one of which we ate for lunch!

There were a few other patients that appeared. A boy with malaria and a man with a large bed sore. Sr. Christeta cleaned the sore with water, but had no ointment to aid healing. The patient left on the ox-cart used as transport.

There is no electricity at the clinic – though the convent does have power. If the patient has no candle, night deliveries are often carried out in the dark. Transport to the clinic is a problem for the women – Jennipherbelieves that a bicycle ambulance would be a great help.

Once again I was reminded just how different it iin Zambia and because of the lack of things we take for granted, many lives are lost.

Sr. Christeta saw her last patient after 19.30 and we set off for the return journey. I was surprised that we only saw one animal on the journey – a rabbit.

It was 22 hrs when I was dropped at my house. I found the remaining bottles of clove oil and some painkillers and gave them to Sr. Christeta. A lady at the clinic today will be grateful to get relief from her toothache.

It was a good day, and relaxing in the rural setting allowed me to reflect on some of the experiences I have had this year. The prospects of many of the women and the children I saw at Chililantambo is not promising. Infant mortality is still high in Zambia and higher among groups such as these.

Today I had an appointment at PIZZ School. It appeared that since last night there was no water, however the owner was here this morning and demonstrated that the hot taps did produce water. He had attached the pipes to the wrong inlet to the house and just filled the geyser! I suspect that the fact that all the hot taps were open last night when I arrived might explain the lack of water. (I closed them when I noticed).

A man – Kennedy – told me he had a 9 year old son, Lewis, who was unable to sit up unaided, couldn't speak and wasn't growing. He asked if I could give any advice. I am aware that HHI provide support for children with disabilities and suggested that he talked to them. I will also speak to Deana before she comes out to see whether her involvement with HHI can help. Once again I can't help think that their would be so much more support for children with such disabilities in the UK. I hope we continue to value these services and don't let them deteriorate.

I saw a few more sponsored children at PIZZ School and discussed a number of issues including a partnership agreemet that we are drafting between us.

I fitted in a visit to Buntolo to collect a few items made to provide a little income in support of the orphaned children. My next meeting was overdue. Fortunately Obert was able to obtain a car and pick me up to take me to his mum's pre-school - after calling at the ATM, my house and dropping of Clara and Bridget! When we arrived at the pre-school I felt guilty about the long delay that I had caused.

The pre-school is attached to the HIV/AIDS group and has a number of children with disabilities. One who has limited speech was absent, another with a problem with one her legs was present. The teacher qualified at a centre which the government no longer recognises, so she decided to help at the pre-school, but she struggles to survive with very little money. The children sang me some songs and one child recited a poem. The children seemed very happy and one girl inparticular seemed to be wonderfully alive and mischievious. I look at thes children and wonder what their future holds – some obviously have great potential, but just how much will be realised and how much wasted - to the detriment of all of us.

On arriving back home their was a queue of friends to see. Diven joined me for supper and left at about 21 hrs.


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