Monday, August 29, 2011

Child Support Specialists

Kafwa sharing their stories
 We continue to be saddened and moved by the stories the Kafwa shared with us in June.  Four of the Kafwa in Chipulukusu met with a group of 40 orphans one Saturday at the school.  As the Kafwa said, "The stories the orphans shared brought tears to our eyes".  As they related the stories to us we could tell they were still very moved by the experience.  Some children said their relatives refused to give them food or soap to wash their clothes.  Many said they were treated differently than their caregivers' own children.  They said some of the grandmothers did not feed or bathe them.  They see the OVCs as a burden because they don't even have food for themselves.  This is not true in all cases, however.  Some, fortunately, are in loving homes but even then it's still challenging.  One of the Kafwa, Jenny, who is caring for her 12 year-old granddaughter, says its hard.  Even though she loves her granddaughter, normal pre-teen attitudes get tangled up with feelings of being an orphan.  Jenny says if she refuses to give her granddaughter money she says to her, "You don't want to help me because my mother died.  I wish I'd died instead of her."  All of the children, however, expressed their joy and gratitude at having a school to attend.  Some are now calling the Kafwa "Mama" or "Grandma."  As the Kafwa said, "They know we are their friends."

Friday, August 26, 2011

HIV misunderstandings

Enada with her late husband Enest
Enada, an energetic little mother we met last January in Zambia, is a loyal Kafwa health worker in Chipulukusu.  She along with her husband Enest, faithfully attended IGA bicycle and Child Support Specialist classes in January.  Enest was very frail at the time and we received word several months ago that he died from AIDS soon after our visit.   Enada was pregnant during our visit and our team was very concerned since we knew both she and her baby were at risk for HIV.  The other Kafwa had repeatedly urged Enada to be tested and treated for HIV before the baby was born.  The Dr. offered her meds before the baby's birth but she refused.  She was actually given meds twice (which would have prevented the mother-baby transmission of HIV during birth) but she hid the meds and did not take them.  Her parents kept telling her she was not sick.  They said, "You have 2 children already and they are healthy.  Why take meds?"  The other Kafwa continued to "work" on Enada and after the baby was born she finally consented to be tested and take ART meds.  Unfortunately, the baby was already HIV positive. 
Erroneous beliefs and barriers still keep people from protecting themselves against AIDS.  People like Enada and her baby pay a huge price for doing too little too late.  Zambian statistics, however, suggest that headway is being made and new incidents of HIV are decreasing.  We're making progress and have to keep working to protect other Enadas and their babies in the future!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Exciting website updates!

African Village Health Practice
 There are exciting updates on the HealthEd Connect web page!  A new video at the top of the page features an overlay of a few sobering facts along with new footage of the children. the bottom of the website there's a brand new feature.  Finally, at long last, the beginning chapter of our Traditional Healer pamphlets are available on our website. Michelle Mahlik is meticulously copying the pamphlets I received from a group of Traditional Healers in DR Congo (then Zaire) many years ago.  She's even faithfully reproducing the spelling and grammar they used!  The first chapter is now loaded with 7 more to come.  The pamphlets have a  liberal mix of philosophy and health care that is very interesting.  The Traditional Healers titled the series "God Helps Those Who Help Themselves."
To see the updated website and to access the pamphlets along with the recent health worker stories, click on the following link and then click on the picture of the two children entitled "African Village Health Practice" at the bottom of the page. You won't want to miss this!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sinkhani from Mzimba

Downtown Mzimba, Malawi during rush hour!
The 'headquarters' for Sinkhani activities in Malawi is in the little town of Mzimba.  Ireen, the Sinkhani supervisor, lives in Mzimba and recently sent us this report.

The Sinkhani have been working with four very poor families who live in little houses made of mud bricks with thatched grass roofs.  Two of the families have both parents living but in one case both parents are HIV positive. Another family has a mother trying to raise her children alone, another has very old grandparents raising their grandchildren.  Altogether these families have 20 people (7 adults and 13 children ages 3 to 14).

The Sinkhani, along with the government health workers, have worked individually with the four families.  The Sinkhani were especially helpful in convincing the caregivers to go to the hospital with three of the children since "they were in danger."  A fourteen-year-old boy, Patric, had a continuous cough and two of the children, Emmie and Jamira, had kwashiorkor (severe malnutrition).  One child, Mphatso, had a sore the Sinkhani were able to heal.  All of the seriously ill children are now out of the hospital and doing well since the Sinkhani have been able to teach the families better health practices.  The Sinkhani report the families "are very thankful to the teachings we [Sinkhani] have received and now we are helping many in our communities.  Very, very, very helpful HealthEd Connect!"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sinkhani Brown story

Brown (middle) participating in role play and surrounded by women as usual! 
Our lone male Sinkhani in Malawi, Brown Nyirenda, says people now call him a woman because he's the only man working as a Sinkhani.  He quickly adds with a broad smile that he's proud of that distinction!  He wrote recently about Amos Phiri, a young man around 20 years old that had an open wound that wouldn't heal.  Brown says there are around 200 people living in poor houses in this area near Chisemphere.  Many are AIDS widows and orphans who face many problems just finding food and clothes. Brown has been able to lessen some of their problems by helping people, like Amos, who have health needs.  He treated Amos with an antiseptic he made from guava leaves and then applied a small amount of antibiotic ointment.  Brown adds that Amos is now able to work much better because his wound has healed.  The people in this area give a lot of thanks to the Sinkhani for the help they were given.

Monday, August 8, 2011

They're back!

Jena giving Trumpet call for health training
Jena Wight and Tara Shupe, our two World Service Corps volunteers who helped with HealthEd Connect projects in Malawi, returned last week with tons of stories.  They stayed with 3 different host families and experienced a variety of different living conditions, including no electricity for 3 weeks.  One really fun thing they brought to Malawi was music.  Not just any kind of music.  Trumpets!  Jena is a trumpet major and managed to stash 5 trumpets in luggage to take to Malawi.  She taught trumpet lessons as well as started little performing groups.  A whole new concept for the villages!  She left the trumpets in Malawi when she returned so they could keep making music.  During the health worker training at Nkhata Bay she played the trumpet every morning as a call for classes to start.  What a fun new sound for the villages!

Monday, August 1, 2011

4th Story from Congo

Health workers meeting with Sherri in Lubumbashi, DR Congo


The story about Tanam, who lived in Ruashi of Lubumbashi in Congo . Tanam is 32 years old. She lived in a house made with bricks & Ironsheets on top. Tanam are seven members in this family.

Tanam was pregnant and when she was 7 - 8 months, she did not mind going to the hospital until one day, she gave birth to a baby at home and she had a complications, that the Placenta remained. Now in the neighborhood, the people new me as one of the Traditional Birth Attendant ( T B A ) and they called for help. When I arrived home, I just found Tanam sleeping, I tried to help since the Clinic was far away from there. I assisted her with her problem of the Placenta, and immediately advised her to go to the hospital.

Tanam’s life in the past was VERY BAD. She was in danger, but now life for her is much better. Health Ed Connect was helpful because of the trainings they have given to the Community Health Workers and Traditional birth Attendant. Tanam really appreciated to me for the assistance, and now we have created a good friendship with my family and her family