Saturday, February 25, 2012

Plane photos...

After two weeks, it was time to go home. I had very successful meetings in London with the Welbodi Board of Directors, spent some time with friends in the UK and had a week in Holland at my sister's place. It was great to catch up with family and friends a bit although seeing as my time away was so short I didn't actually get to see many people. Next time I'll be sure to meet up with more friends! It was great to be a part of day-to-day life with my sister and her family. I even stayed in my nieces' room. The weather was cold which took a little adjusting to, but I managed of course, although I think I practically lived in the fleece sweater I borrowed from a friend here in SL. The flight back was uneventful and I really enjoyed the views: mountains, dessert, ocean, sunset. Lovely. And now I am back. And I'm happy to be here. Lots of changes in the first few months of 2012 and still figuring things out...but it's going to be a great year!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Clean feet & more...

I left Freetown just over a week ago, and although I miss it, there are definitely good things about being back in the developed world.

Spending time with good friends and family is obviously good. As are things like dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc), machine-washed clothes and showers with excellent water pressure. Not to mention chocolate, in any way shape or form: chocolate cake, crispy Kit Kats (as opposed to stale ones!), hot chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, M&Ms. Yes, I am (somewhat) addicted to chocolate.

The sight of snow on the ground, seeing ponds frozen over and the occasional field of green grass is also fun to see again. And of course, all aspects concerning traffic are better, except maybe driving on the left-hand side in the UK! The roads are amazing (in the sense that they are paved and don't have any potholes) and there are traffic lights - I realize that every junction in the UK or Netherlands has more traffic lights than all of Sierra Leone - of which none of them even work.

And then there are the clean feet. If you haven't experienced it yourself, I'll tell you: it is incredible what Freetown does to ones feet! I think it took me one 45 minute bath and about three 10-minute showers with foot scrubs to get my feet clean. Finally. To be honest, I actually don't like feet very much but there is something about the dirty feet you get in Freetown that is very unappealing and makes me wish for clean feet. And now they are clean. For about 6 more days. Once I land in Sierra Leone, it's only a matter of hours before I have dirty feet once again.

So, for now, I'll continue to enjoy my time away in the West before heading back to Freetown. And then, once it's time to head back, I know I'll be leaving some good things behind but I also know I will be going back to a sunny place, with beautiful beaches, friends and my own bed!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

4th donation at ODCH...

Yesterday marked my fourth blood donation at the Ola During Children's Hospital's blood bank. My colleague, Suzanne, and I headed to the blood bank at 2pm ready to donate. However, it was busy and we were asked to come back. That's a good sign I think, meaning they had people waiting to donate. We went back at 3 and within minutes we were on the exam couches with large bore needles stuck into our veins. By the end of the afternoon, 450 mls of my blood was stored in the fridge awaiting screening. Hopefully by today, if a pregnant woman or child are in urgent need of A positive blood, my blood will be given to them free of charge to save their life.

Since coming to the hospital in June 2010 I try to donate blood every 4 months, which is as often as they'll let me. Interestingly enough, before working at ODCH I never donated blood, ever. I'm not sure why I didn't. I suppose I probably never could at home since I was in and out of Africa so much. And when I worked in Aberdeen, the thought didn't really cross my mind.

I think that working at ODCH has shown me the importance of donating blood. I have seen too many children die because they could not get a blood transfusion quickly enough. In many cases it was malaria that caused the anemia leading to respiratory distress. Watching children suffer is heartbreaking, especially when you know that something can be done. In some cases, the children come into the hospital too late to be saved, but for many, a timely blood transfusion can be life saving.

Unfortunately the blood banking system does not work very well here. People are reluctant to donate due to cultural beliefs and fears. Some people believe that blood has mystical powers while others say that the devils told them they cannot donate. Many people are afraid of diseases and possibly finding out that they have HIV or hepatitis. This means that the blood bank is poorly stocked and so relatives are asked to donate. Sometimes they agree and other times they don't. Hopefully with more education/sensitization, people will start seeing the importance of donating blood - not only for their own child (although that would be a great start) but for others in need as well.

4 months from now I'll be ready to donate again. Until then, if anyone is interested in donating blood at the Children's Hospital, let me know. I'll take you to the blood bank, hang out with you while you're donating and treat you to a cold coca cola once you're done.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Trip #4 to Namina's village...

January. Time for another trip to Bailor time to visit Namina and her family. One of my good friends Osman, his friend Gibril and I left my place at 7am to catch the 8am ferry. The trip went as planned and by 930 we had Saidu (Namina's older brother), Namina, her aunty and a cousin with us in the car. About an hour or so later, we drove into Bailor town and as usualwe were warmly received.
(Gibril, myself, Saidu and the kids)
The children loved it that we came and before we knew it we were walking along the beach with a trail of children behind us. Osman and Gibril quickly turned the whole day into an outing for the children. They were great. I was really impressed to see how much they engaged with the kids and did everything they could to make this day great for them. I have some amazing friends here. From buying them oranges, to passing out biscuits, to showing them sports magazines, to organizing a dance competition and buying juice for them. Fun fun fun. Everyone had a good time.
(Me and the kids enjoying some 'down' time)
The only embarassing moment was when a 1 year old fell asleep on my lap and ended up peeing on me! Fortunately I always bring a bag of clothes for Namina's mom and so I quickly found myself changing into some of the clothes I had brought for her. Never mind, these things happen.
(Osman, myself, Saidu, Namina in yellow shirt and many other little people)
Namina looked great and seemed very happy. The other children seemed to take well to her and enjoy her company. I think it was a bit overwhelming for Namina, since she now spends most of her time in Lungi, where she lives with her big brother and aunty and attends primary school. I think the combination of seeing her mom again (who she is very close to), all of her friends around, attention from Osman, Gibril and I, etc. was maybe a bit much. But she did really seem to enjoy it.
(myself, Saidu, Namina and her siblings and cousins)
Her mom, Wara, also seemed quite content. It seems she has come to terms with the loss of her one year old at the end of last year. I have to say, Wara continues to inspire me - her courage, perseverance and care for others is always so apparent. Wara introduced me to her brother's daughters - two-month old twins - one named Wara (after their aunty) and one names Sandra (after me). I'm not sure what that is going to mean, but it seemed like a sweet gesture. All in all, we had a fantastic day. I'm already looking forward to our next visit to Bailor town!
(myself and Wara)

The Cleaners Strike...

I have wondered whether or not it would be appropriate to blog about the recent cleaners strike at the hospital. I'm still not quite sure, but seeing as I am only stating what happened and stimulating some thought, I think it should be okay.

You see, a few weeks ago the cleaners went on strike. The day before the strike they posted a note which stated that "if in 24 hours time their three month salaries are not paid there will be a strike action". And strike they did.

When I think about a strike, I think about people not showing up to work, or people rallying outside the work place making a lot of noise, waving banners, etc. By definition a strike is 'a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work'. Well, the cleaners strikes I have witnessed here (this was the second in the past year and a half) are by far the boldest I can imagine. I never expected them to do what they did on those strike days. They actually did show up at the hospital believe it or not, but rather than refrain from cleaning, they did quite the opposite. They literally took wheelbarrows of trash from the garbage heap outside and dumped them in the hospital. It's hard to imagine, I know. But it happened.

Basically it led to patients and parents evacuating the wards and hospital staff not wanting to go in to work due to the amount of trash in the place. It was dire. But, it also led to action. Strangely enough, within three hours, the cleaners were promised their pay by the higher unknown powers that be and they got busy cleaning up the very mess they had made. How ironic.

Extreme measures, for desperate people.

I can't say I agree with their method of striking. To be honest, I was mad. I think it's fine to strike to make a poin but to go to the extreme of trashing a hospital? That to me is unacceptable. Just think of the health risks. And the delay in children receiving treatment because the hospital staff can't work under such conditions. On the other hand, maybe it was the only way someone would listen. I don't know.

What would you do if you were working at a hospital as a cleaner and didn't receive your salary for three months? Would you simply not show up to work? Do you think anyone would respond to that? Would you continue waiting to see if you get paid while your family is struggling to survive? Or would you do what it takes to move someone to action and go to the extreme of dumping trash inside a paediatric ward. It's hard to know what you would do when you're not the one waiting for your salary day in and day out. What do you think?

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