Wednesday, February 29, 2012

National Geographic tour

DR Congo at dusk

Home Sweet Home...
Long-time Congolese healthworker

Shutter bugs,you are in for a real treat!  The pictures of our January trip to Africa taken by HealthEd Connect's  resident photographer, aka Jac Kirkpatrick, are now posted on our website.  Go to and click on the Photo Gallery tab at the top of the page.  The pictures are organized in sub-sets so you can go on the tour of your choice.  Hugging adorable little kids at school, going home visiting with the community health workers, or crossing the Luapula River into Congo via a small boat.  I think you'll agree National Geographic has met its match.   Enjoy!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Our latest school

You think they are happy to go to Zamtan school???

Cherry Newcom left her heart in Zamtan
We didn't exactly plan to add another school but it is sort of automatically happening.  Half-way between our current schools of Kasompe and Chipulukusu is a little community called Zamtan.  One of our most faithful Kafwa health workers, Angela, lives in Zamtan and spear heads constant new projects for the community.  At one time she was a volunteer at the clinic working from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m. 7 nights straight.  Her husband eventually suggested that was a bit too much with all of her other activities.  Imagine a volunteer job like that!  Angela has taken in a little orphan (also named Angela) in addition to her own family.  She also runs a Bible study group for about 40 orphans in the neighborhood and is pastor of her church.

Last January Angela was invited to attend the training for the Child Support Specialists in Chipulukusu.  While there she observed the Chipulukusu school and realized her community had a similar need for their many orphans.  So she launched a school for Kindergartners.  This year she added 1st grade and a nursery class.  We left a whopping $150 for the school last June so they could buy a chalk board and a few texts.  .You would have thought we'd given them the moon.  As Angela told us last month when we visited her, "We opened the school because of the meeting in Chipulukusu. We are very thankful to you for your encouragement.  All of this is possible because of you."  She asks for nothing.  She just makes it impossible to walk away because of the depth of her own commitment.  So now we have another little school waiting and hoping they will eventually receive more resources.  It looks like this will happen sooner rather than later since we already have a pledge for $200 a month for Zamtan from one very generous donor.  Now tell me, how could you possibly refuse to help Angela after seeing the kids she has in school?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rotary Partnership

TV interviews reporting the Rotary Gift
Ever think what it would be like to go to school and have no desks to write on or benches to sit on?  That's the situation we had for several months at the schools in Zambia.  Thanks to a grant we received last year, a number of benches were supplied.  That helped immensely but still left lots of kids sitting on the floor.

Five kids squeezing into a desk built for three!
After a year of coordinating and planning, however, the Blue Springs, Missouri and the Ndola, Zambia Rotary Clubs formed a partnership.  Thanks to the generosity and trans-oceanic outreach of these two clubs, 40 new student desks and 2 teacher desks were provided 3 weeks ago.  It was such a big day in the community that  reporters and the  local TV station were even on hand to capture the event.

The kids, of course, loved the new benches!  Their first objective was to see how many people could share a bench.  Personal space requirements are way different in Africa!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Empowering Girls

Grace reciting a poem at ribbon cutting for new school.
The Chipulukusu school added another grade in January.  There are now children studying at the 5th grade level.  I was especially impressed with a group of young girls aged 13-14.  They've been progressing through the grades rapidly having started in 1st grade when the school was launched 2 years ago.  I had a little pep talk with them, asked each one to sign their names in my log book, and challenged them to study hard and stay in school as a team.  I also told them if they passed the qualifying exams when it was time to move to the government school in 8th grade, we would find scholarships to support them.  So keep tuned for reports about Grace (the obvious leader), Chola, Energy, Sterenia, Theresa, Idah, Dana, Elivine, Idah, and Violet.   Hopefully they will make it through school and go on to productive careers.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Little Elijah

Little Elijah

Home visit in Zamtan
We met little Elijah on a home visit with Kafwa, Angela, in Zamtan.  He is 17 months old and obviously at great risk.  He was born prematurely and his mother says she was told he has a lung problem.  Every breath looked like it took every ounce of energy he could muster.  Having no idea what the accurate diagnosis might be, we felt helpless watching the little guy struggle.  Acting on the outside chance that his primary problem might be malnourishment due to lack of energy to eat, I showed the mother how to make oral rehydration solution from sugar, salt, and to spoon feed the baby trying to improve his hydration and energy.  She didn't have enough sugar in the house to make a day's supply so we bought a bag of sugar and sent it back to her.  The memory of little Elijah is haunting.... 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Our very own Pied Piper

Lisa Ash entertaining children in Congo
Wherever Lisa goes she has a huge following of children.  If they aren't vying to walk beside her and hold her hand, they are scurrying ahead like a little swarm of bees never straying far from the Pied Piper.  Lisa seems to have an endless supply of songs and simple games that the children love.

HealthEd Connect is so fortunate to have such a capable professional serving as a mentor to the teachers in our little schools.  For sure, things will be livened up and taken to the next level with her skillful mentoring.  The biggest problem will occur when they eventually have to tell her goodbye in May. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Zambulances to the Rescue

Jac taking Zambulance for a test drive
Sherri hitching a ride as first "patient"
The passing of the 'wrench' in hand-over ceremony
The Zambulances (bicycle pulled carts) created quite a stir in Congo.  After Jac took the Zambulance for a test drive, Sherri hitched a ride in the cart.  The Zambulances were then officially handed over to the Drs. at the Kaboka hospital with the passing of the wrench and repair kit.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dug-out Canoes

Crossing the Luapula River from Congo to Zambia is always full of National Geographic scenes.  It doesn't get much more colorful than little boys fishing from dug-out canoes.  The activity along the shoreline is always fascinating.

Congolese shoreline at River Crossing

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wasaidizi health workers

Congolese child
Fourteen of the Wasaidizi health workers turned out in force to greet us.  We met with the hospital doctors one afternoon and it was obvious there was a heated conversation being nominated, seconded and unanimously supported by the health workers.  It seems most of the health workers have been given a post or clinic where they volunteer and deliver hundreds of babies.  A few, however, have not been given an assignment and desperately want one.  Of all of the things they could have asked for, this was the one they most wanted -- to be able to volunteer and use their skills.  When I asked the hospital doctors how many women had died in childbirth last year, they had a short puzzled conversation in French and then shook their heads and said they knew of none.  The Wasaidizi have told us the same thing.  If that's true it is nothing short of a miracle.  The maternal death rate in Congo is among the highest in the world.  Go Wasaidizi!! 

We left them with a small budget so they can meet together a couple of times a year and support one another.  It will be interesting to follow their progress and stories.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Congo Hilton

We've been traveling to the Kasenga area of Congo for 25 years and had no idea there was a lovely compound run by Sisters of Charity near the hospital.  It was built in 1936 and has been amazingly maintained!  We couldn't believe it.  Lovely architecture with arches and breezeways and a balcony off our room.  This must have been where the Angelina Jolies of the 40's came.  Never mind that there is only sporadic electricity and an occasional trickle of water running from the tap.  Hey, we had the ambiance of candles and a bucket of refreshing cold water for our showers!  The Sisters were an absolute delight.  They couldn't do enough to make our stay enjoyable.  One modern day problem -- there is a small barge that now crosses the river from Zambia to Congo.  Trucks on the Zambian side bring cargo, unload it onto the barge and other trucks pick it up in Congo.  The dirt road all trucks use on the Congo is right under the window of the Sisters of Charity house.  All night long we heard them rumbling through the village and splashing through the deep mud holes.  Oh, well, I guess you can't have everything.