Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Survived Congo!

We left Congo this morning (Tuesday) and are now back in Zambia.  We never cease to be amazed by our adventures there.  The Zambulances were delivered with big fanfare!  Everyone loved them.  It remains to be seen, however, if they will survive the rigors of the Congo.  The first challenge is learning how to maneuver a 5 speed bike which is necessary to pull a cart when a patient is on board.  In addition, the trail to the remote villages is filled with huge potholes, incredible ruts, and makeshift little bridges that are going to be a challenge.  If the bicycles hold out, however, they will be an incredible blessing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kilograms, Centimeters, and E

Sydney checking eyes
Lisa measuring height of student
Our health assessment at Kasompe went much more smoothly than the first time in Chipulukusu.  We have our traveling clinic well organized now.  We're collecting height and weight measurements every 4 months and looking at growth rates as compared to attendance and school lunch records.  We now have a full year of data.  It's amazing how much more weight a malnourished child can lose when they become ill.

Sydney checked eyes and unintentionally also checked cognitive function -- some of the kids picked up on the Big E legs up, down, and sideways almost immediately.  Others never did figure it out.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Powerful Day

Sherri meeting with Kafwa health workers in Kasompe
The Kafwa healthworkers took us on home visits today to 6 of their clients.  What a powerful experience!  Such incredibly brave, courageous, and upbeat people living in extreme poverty with few creature comforts.  To a person they thanked us profusely for visiting their little homes and beamed with pride that 'the visitors' had taken time to visit them.

The Kafwa have an emergency fund to provide critically needed items for their clients.  During the last six months they spent around $90 and accounted for every Kwacha in a well-kept ledger book with a narrative account of the need along with the items purchased.  I was especially touched that they arranged for transportation to the hospital for one of their clients who had no family.   Even though the Kafwa had essentially done all they could and placed her in the care of medical professionals, their care and compassion did not end.  They took a few of their precious Kwacha from the emergency fund and spent it on bus transportation to the hospital to let their client know she was not alone and forgotten. She never recovered enough to come home and passed away in November but she had Kafwa caring about her until the end.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our new Headmaster at Kasompe

New Kasompe Head Master, Gideon, with Kindergarten children
We met the new Head Master hired for the Kasompe school yesterday.  We were impressed with his apparent sense of vision and passion.  Then we met with the school board and had a huge surprise.  One of the board members said,
 "We have a problem.  The new Head Master cannot read and write."
Me:  Trying to appear calm while inwardly panicking.  "Can't read or write?"
Them:  "Yes, that is a problem.  That's why he is teaching Nursery rather than 4th grade."
Long Pause while I recovered.  Then...
Me.  "What seems to be the problem?"
Them.  "He broke his glasses and cannot see."
Me:  Total sigh of relief!!  That's fixable.  So we decided to advance him his first pay check so he could get his eyes examined again and purchase new glasses.  Sooner rather than later hopefully.

Imagine a Head Master that can't read or write!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Classy Classrooms!

Bernard, School Coordinator addressing attendees

5th grade students making presentation about new classrooms
The classy classrooms with principal's office in the middle
The BIG day!  The ribbon cutting at Chipulukusu.  The new classrooms are stunning standouts in the neighborhood!  Classy Classrooms for sure!  The windows are trimmed with brick window sills, the face board along the tin roof is painted black and, most importantly, all of the rooms have dropped ceilings, something not found in any of the other community schools.  The ceiling is a huge plus because it allows the heat created by the sun shining on the tin roof to be ventilated.  They've even created a brick-edged flower garden in front of the classrooms.  The SIFE team grabbed rags and scrubbed the putty from the windows, helped with some final wood trim, and did a little clean up in preparation for the ribbon cutting. 

The development officer for Chipulukusu said, "These classrooms are a quality you would not expect to see in Chipulukusu.  They have raised the quality of the whole neighborhood."  The kids carried all of the new desks outside to sit on during the festivities.  Waving the new construction paper fans made as part of a SIFE activity, they celebrated in style!  The entire day surpassed our expectations!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Open wide

Matt Waite checking teeth of young student
Classrooms were converted into a buzzing health for several hours this week.  What an organized system!  The teachers wrote the student's name on a piece of paper which they took to the first "station" where they were weighed and measured.  They then proceeded to the next area where they had a dental check -- the first ever for most of the kids.  Finally they lined up to have their eyes examined.  We will collate the findings and plan future interventions for the kids identified with high needs in any of these areas.  Preliminary findings suggest that most kids had pretty good dental health although a few were in very bad shape.  The eye check was similar with most kids at 20/20 or 20/30 with only 8 or so (out of 200) showing a need for glasses.  We have previous data on height and weight so we'll be comparing our findings with those from a year ago.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Amazing Kafwa

Kafwa meeting in open-air school kitchen
I had a 3 hour meeting with the amazing Kafwa health workers.  They arrived at 8:00 to meet me but I was in the classrooms with the children and didn't find out they were waiting until almost noon.  They continue to bring critically needed health care to the community.  The 12 Kafwa currently have 20 patients that they visit weekly.  They related a recent experience they had with a 27-year-old patient named Joseph.  When they found out he was ill he was so weak he could not walk.  They booked a car and immediately took him to the doctor, bought food for him, and gave him lots of encouragement.  It turned out he had TB.  He told the Kafwa, "Without you, I could have died."

As soon as they finished telling me about Joseph, they said, "We need a camera so we can take pictures of our patients when we first start working with them and then after they get better."  With my encouragement they are now busily preparing a budget to include this request as well as funds for umbrellas and boots needed to muck through the mud to visit patients. They also said it would be nice to have funds to provide a Kafwa Celebration meal once a year like we provided for the children before Christmas vacation.   All modest requests from people who have been loyal volunteers for 25 years!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Royal Welcome

Students teaching a Bemba lesson to Garrett
As soon as we were within sight of the school it was as if a floodgate opened and 300 children poured  into the school yard to welcome us.  Happy chaos as little brown hands grabbed big white hands and tugs and hugs of welcome were shared.  The morning at the Young Peacemaker's School was full of activity.  All of the children are still in the one-room of the church while the finishing touches are being made to the new classrooms.  Each member of the team had brought along a copy of their favorite childhood book which they read to the children.  We now have K-5 grades (5th grade was just added this month) so everyone rotated from one grade to another with one fun picture book after another.  As soon as the books were finished art supplies were distributed and the children drew pictures that we plan to use to make notecards to sell.  A great kick off to our school adventure!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cape of Good Hope

Another great day in Africa!  We spent the day touring some of the historical sights of South Africa and enjoying the beauty of the rugged coastline.  Our farthest destination was the Cape of Good Hope, the South Western tip of Africa.  We thought it was an appropriate place to launch our African adventure reminding ourselves that 'Good Hope' is really what it's all about.   As we look forward to the days ahead and spending time with the health workers and the kids at the schools, we're full of hope for a future that brings change in the places we work.

We leave our hostel at 6:00 a.m. in the morning as we head to the airport to catch our flight to Zambia.  Everyone's eager to finally get engaged in the purpose of our trip.  We have an awesome team!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We've Made It!

We're on African soil!  After 25 hours in transit we safely arrived in Cape Town, South Africa last night.  We're staying in a nice hostel very close to Table Mountain.  The reports this morning on the impact of jet lag have been interesting.  Some of us couldn't get to sleep until after 3:00 a.m. while others were waking up at 4:00 a.m.  We may expend our energy early today but everyone's starting out with vim and vigor.  We're off to Robben Island and to see Cape Town today.  We'll check in later.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Final preparations

Team 2012 met for final preparations Saturday at the Kirkpatrick's.  Karen Waring provided Child Protection Training with examples and discussion tailored specifically for African cultures.  The outcome was documentation of each team member as a registered Youth Worker.  The big decisions of the day were on deciding what could be left at home to make room for newly discovered must takes!  Then off to CVS for last minute shopping!  But I think we've got it and are ready to roll!

One day until blast off!

All but 3 members of the team are meeting at the Kirkpatrick's Saturday for final preparation and planning.  The Mahlik's (coming from Wisconsin) will join us in Cape Town, South Africa.  A FULL day of activities are being crammed in on our final day.

Many thanks to all of you who are supporting the schools, the orphans and vulnerable children, the health workers, the villages in Nepal, and on and on.  You are the ones making it possible to touch so many lives. 

We hope to keep Blogging after we get on the road!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Two days and counting...

Flat Stanley ready to travel!
Trunks are packed with crayons, flash cards, chalk, and other goodies for the schools as well as a bright red ribbon for the ribbon cutting for the new classrooms.  We also have the miraculous triple antibiotic ointment and aspirin that all of the health workers use to perform miracles.

The BIG item in the trunks, however, is tons of good wishes from the many people who made this trip possible.  One of the favorites of the kids in Zambia for sure will be the169 colorful bracelets Rebecca made. They will wear them until every thread gives out and no longer hangs together.

A 13th team member will be "Flat Stanley" a globe-roving hitch hiker from our granddaughter, Kali's 3rd grade classroom.  He's in for quite a ride!