Friday, April 29, 2005

Quick update...

The first VVF surgeries were done at our center this past Tuesday! That is definitely a milestone. A total of 4 surgeries were done this week, and so far so good. It is great having some patients in the ward. It’s a pleasure to be able to go to the ward and talk with them and to be able to show them that someone cares about them. One of the patients has a 7 month old daughter- Faith, and she is adorable. She brings some extra joy to the place. The out patient clinic (which will most likely start as a clinic for children 12 years and under) will hopefully start up next week. There are some small things that need to be in place before we can start…for example, benches for the patients to sit on in the waiting room etc. And sometimes little things take a little longer than expected here. But I think that we will start when the time is right. I think I have a great clinic team- two community health nurses and a receptionist, working alongside me.

Oh, some more good news. The container from Holland came this week…we spent about 3 hours unloading it Tuesday night…till about 9pm. It was a long day. But I was happy to finally see my furniture again. This weekend I’ll be putting together my wardrobe, book case etc. It’ll be nice not to have to live out of a suitcase anymore!

All the best.

Friday, April 22, 2005

On national tv...

Hello again.
Last week thursday I went to the official opening of our Mercy Ships New Steps center in Waterloo. New Steps focuses on rehabilitation for polio victims and war victims, using a holistic approach. About 400-500 people showed up for the opening, including representatives of the Ministry of Health and leaders of the local communities. To celebrate the event all Mercy Ships staff was wearing tailor made outfits out of the same material. Pretty funny sight!
On Friday I was watching the one and only local tv station in one of my team mate's rooms and the New Steps opening was on tv. It was a good overview of what took place and what the center is about. They even showed me and some of my colleagues sitting in the 'audience'. So that was fun to see. So that was my first time on national tv. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Good news...

Last week we met with the representatives from the community we’re working in as well as with other stakeholders, and it seems as though things are moving forward.

We all managed to come to an agreement and the community has accepted the scope of our services. I was able to explain what we could provide in the out patient clinic (starting small- a clinic for children 12 years and under, also providing vaccinations and growth monitoring, and a focus on prevention- including health education, possibly provision of bed nets etc.). Those present seemed pleased. They also seem to understand that we are limited in what we can offer…as far as beds/ambulance etc. are concerned, due to limited funds, staff, expertise and equipment. At a dinner party the next night we were able to talk with each other some more and I think that a foundation has been laid and we can starting building a relationship with those involved.

It looks like we will start surgery and begin seeing patients in the clinic around April 26th..

The last few weeks haven’t been easy, but in the end ‘all things work together for good’. And we are seeing good things come out of this situation. Thanks for your support and encouragement during this time!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Drop in the bucket...

Today I went to a National Symposium for World Health Day. The theme was “Make every mother and child count”. Women and children make up a big part of the society, yet they are the ones most vulnerable. Although it was good to go to the symposium and hear first hand what the health care problems in Sierra Leone are, it was also a little discouraging.

Here are the facts…
More than 10 million children die in the developing world per year. 4 million of these children die within 28 days of birth. Sierra Leone has the worst indicators, ranking as number one in the world. In Sierra Leone the child mortality rate is 286/1000 live births per year (compared to about 5/1000 in Holland). This means that almost 3 out of 10 children die before their 5th birthday! 70% of these children die due to diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition and measles; all could be prevented! The maternal mortality rate is 1800/100000 live births. In other words, a woman has a 1 in 16 life time risk of dying due to childbirth complications. (compared to about 1 in 3500 in Holland). As you can imagine, this is difficult to tackle.

It was fairly easy for everyone to address the issues underlying poor maternal and child health- poverty, lack of transport, cost of health care, cultural aspects, lack of safe water and sanitation etc. However, it was impossible for anyone to come up with a concrete plan. Yes, you can try to provide mosquito nets for all children and pregnant women- but where will you get the nets, how will you distribute them, who will reimpregnate them? No one here has the money to do that. Now there are better drugs to treat malaria (less resistance) but these are expensive- who can afford them? What about increasing access to health care facilities (better roads, more vehicles) so that a patient will reach the facility before it’s too late? But what happens when the patient arrives at the hospital? There is a shortage of trained & skilled staff, there are limited supplies, and the patient usually can’t pay the fees charged! The problem seems too big to tackle.

Although I know that my work here will be very limited in scope, I do want to be optimistic. Instead of looking at the millions of people that I can’t help, I want to focus on the individuals that I can have an impact on. I hope that during my time here I can make a difference in the lives of some of the Sierra Leoneans in our area. Sometimes it is the drop in the bucket that counts!!!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Holding pattern...

First of all, I went to let you know that I am doing well. It’s weekend, and that’s always good :) I enjoyed a long walk on the beach this morning! It was great to hear the sound of the waves crashing on the sand. And there is always a lot to see. A lot of people running on the beach, kids playing in the water, fishermen pulling in their nets, etc. We were there on time to see the catch of the day- not a big catch and I can’t tell you what kind of fish. But it was interesting to see.

I am not sure what to write as far as work goes because there have been some interesting twists this past week. Too make a very long story short…we are in a holding pattern right now. We had a meeting this week with a number of key people involved in our Center. We found out that the community we are working in isn’t very pleased with the services we are planning to provide. They pretty much were hoping for their ‘dream center’ – a general hospital. Due to resources, staff, facilities we cannot provide them with a general hospital. So obviously, the meeting did not go well. And we had to decide to lay low for now. We have put everything on hold- construction has stopped, we have been working from the house, and our employees have been told that there is no work for them at the moment. This as you can imagine is tough. Tough not to be able to proceed with something we all believe is the Right thing. Tough to tell our employees that we don’t have work for them right now. Tough that riight now we can’t do a whole lot when there is still a lot that needs to get done. We are waiting. Waiting on God and trusting that He will see us through this. Hopefully matters will be resolved very soon and we can continue on. We want to be able to serve the ladies that will come to the center for VVF repair and we want to be able to serve the people in the community in the out patient clinic.

During our Easter service (which was very beautiful) we talked about being HUMAN BEINGS and not HUMAN DOINGS. It is not what we do that is important, but who we are. With everything that is going on right now, that is what we want to hold on to. We are here, not only to work, but to BE. We want to be able to have an effect on those around us by who we are in Christ.

Okay, this is it for now. Hopefully I can update you on our situation soon!

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~