Africa

Nadia Says Goodbye

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The problem with going anywhere new to visit and explore is that eventually you have to leave…

My time in Uganda has been one giant adventure. I’ve written about just a small portion of those adventures in order to share them but every day, virtually every moment has been something of an adventure here.

I’ve been in Uganda for 7 months and now, in 10 days, I’m heading back to New Zealand.

I’m looking forward to going home, to seeing family and friends, walking/driving in familiar places, browsing a super-market, no longer needing to boil water to drink, wearing jeans again! But I’ll miss being here too.

When you live in a place for a time it becomes a small part of you which you take away with you and will never forget. You also leave a small part of yourself behind. There’s no winning really, unless you always live in one place without moving or travelling, there will always be those other “homes” which at times you miss and yearn for. These places become part of your identity.

I’ll miss Uganda…

I’ll miss the lush green beauty of South Western Uganda with its many hills and volcanoes

I’ll miss the almost violent thunder storms where lightening illuminates the whole valley, thunder shakes the walls and the rain is so loud on the corrugated roof that you can hardly hear yourself think.

I’ll miss the laughter; I’ve never met people who so love to laugh

I’ll miss the phrases and words like “fair” “you are lost” “somehow” “sure” and “you are welcome!”

I’ll miss the music; there always seems to be singing or music here, even a drum to keep on schedule.

I’ll miss the strong women; seeing women ploughing fields by hand, carrying huge jerry cans of water and so often with a baby on their back.

I’ll miss the ochre red soil stark against the greenery (though I won’t miss constantly trying to wash it off my feet!)

I’ll miss the pace of life; sometimes hectic and very full but everything just happens eventually, in Ugandan time.

I’ll miss the children; who take pleasure in simple small things and so often create their own fun.

I’ll miss the friends I’ve made; black, white and brown – all dear to me.

I’ll miss the frankness of the culture, where things are stated as they are and it isn’t considered offensive.

I’ll miss the smell of heat and dust just as it begins to rain.

I won’t leave Uganda the same as I arrived. It has changed me, taught me and strengthened me, equipped me further for whatever God has planned for me in future. Uganda I will never forget you.

Ngaho, Wakoze Canye.

Kisiizi Hospital

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Kisiizi Hospital lies in South Western Uganda not 2 hours drive from my previous setting, Kisoro. Almost bizarrely it is really a hospital in the middle of no-where with the nearest significant town at least an hour’s drive in any direction. Despite this it has a name unto its self and has developed a good reputation for quality health care in the region.

Kisiizi is a Church of Uganda hospital with some government connection also. The hospital was first opened in 1958 and gradually grew and developed there. From early on, a huge advantage to the rural situation of Kisiizi Hospital was the access to the Omukinyata waterfall which, as well as providing the water requirements for the hospital, powers the hydro generator and source of power for the hospital. The waterfall itself has a morbid history in that historically, unmarried woman who were found to be pregnant were thrown from it. Despite this gruesome origin, it now powers not only the hospital, allowing for the care of so many, but also, through the Kisiizi Power Project, provides affordable electricity to the surrounding area.

The moto of Kisiizi Hospital is “life in all its fullness” from John 10:10 and, within that, comes the aim to care for societies most vulnerable. The hospital consists of 3 operating theatres, a surgical inpatient department, general medical inpatient ward, isolation ward, paediatrics, maternity, special care nursery and inpatient mental health. The inpatient mental health ward is particularly novel in being the only one of its kind in a non-government hospital. In addition to this Kisiizi has extensive outpatient facilities, community out-reach projects, child sponsorships scheme, clinics (HIV, Eyes, dental, antenatal, immunisation etc.). To further increase the accessibility of health care, Kisiizi Hospital has Uganda’s oldest health insurance scheme, a scheme which caters to 34000 people and means that sudden health-care needs will not reduce a family to destitution.

Education is also a key element of Kisiizi which runs the Kisiizi primary school – started for the purpose of retaining staff by providing quality education for their children – and the Kisiizi school of nursing and midwifery.

So… in this extensive project, where do I fit in?

I will be at Kisiizi for 3 months, until the end of January, during which time I will be working in the paediatric ward and special care nursery. Kissizi offers me a very different image of health care to my pervious location and, within that, valuable learning experience for how effective and quality health care can be provided in a low-resource setting, on a larger scale. In addition to some unique and very valuable learning opportunities which I will have in my time here, I am also hoping to contribute, particularly within the special care nursery, in staff education and practice development.

Please do pray that my time here in Kisiizi will be a fruitful one and thank you for your on-going support of my work here in Uganda.

If you get the opportunity please do have a look at the Kisiizi Hospital website to get a more vivid picture of my current location!

The work I am doing through NZCMS is strictly volunteer work – I am not paid by NZCMS nor by Kisiizi Hospital in Uganda. I am able to do this work through the generosity of every-day people who want to support me to be able to be here and help with this incredible work.

If you want to find out more about supporting me in this work please either contact me directly or click here for more details as to how you can support me. Every bit of support of every kind helps.

Dawn to dusk research

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Our own community borehole supports 50-60 households – about 300 people. That’s about the right number of people for one water source. We live on one side of the road to South Sudan. Our community organising group, Wakonye Kenwa, quickly identified that on the other side of Juba Road there is an extreme water crisis. In 2009, the health inspector of the area tested the water and declared it contaminated. There are so many long drop toilets nearby its no surprise the ground water flow brings lots of nasties to the spring. But what we really needed was evidence of just how many people rely on this water.

So, 15 members of our group took shifts to sit by the protected spring called ‘Lawula’ for several days and record data about every single person who came to get water.

Our results? While my borehole supports around 300 people, this protected spring supports 1596 people – a total of 289 households. We discovered people don’t mind so much how far they have to carry the water – they primarily care about how long they have to wait in line. In rainy season, its not so bad: 15 minutes to 1 hour. However in the dry season when the water flow reduces to a trickle, people reported waiting up to 7 hours to get water. Lawula is not only a huge health problem – it’s a time waster, a drain on the community’s productiveness.

 

Heres a few memories from those research days:

– A couple of ladies make their full time work to collect a jerrycan, carry it up the hill to the market to sell. That’s slow, heavy, hot work. They sell each jerrycan for 200 shillings (10 New Zealand cents).

– Isaac, one of our volunteers brought his guitar and played the same four chords he knew in our down time. As the sun sank, I was mysteriously transported to youth group camp in New Zealand.

– We had a print out of satellite photo of the area from google maps and stuck it on an old plastic tray, so everyone could ‘dot’ their home on the map. There were two reactions. Older water collectors were confused or disinterested. Younger folk reacted with extreme excitement to a) see their home from a photo taken in space and b) know that anyone in the world could see their home too. I think it made them feel connected.

 

For more about Nick & Tessa Laing and the work they are involved with in Uganda click here.

Wakonye Kenwa – Water

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We glided down the hill on our ‘lelas’ (bicycles) until the suburbia morphed into farmland. We arrived to witness a special moment for Tessa and the ‘Wakonye Kenwa’ community group based at St Catherine’s church: the drilling of the first borehole! We were greeted cheerfully by Omia Sophia, who had already been there for 5 hours since 7:30am in the morning. “I wanted to make sure they drilled the full 50 meters deep they promised, and put down all 15 pipes. They are onto number 14!”

This borehole could be described as a ‘bonus,’ as it was somewhat unexpected. A long time ago the hospital built a sewage treatment pond behind the hospital, which unfortunately ruined the groundwater. Its hard to blame the hospital – the pond was built when over ten thousand people were using the hospital as a refuge and they needed somewhere to put the sewage. Many years back, the hospital pledged to drill a new borehole in the area to replace the contaminated water. Unfortunately, talks between the community and the hospital broke down, and the promise was lost in the winds of time.

Wakonye Kenwa worked with local leaders to revive the negotiations and start mending the soured relationship. The hospital acted fast, and a few weeks later the borehole was drilled! The area isn’t quite where the worst water shortage is, but Wakonye Kenwa has convinced the local government to meet that need with another borehole – so watch this space.

 

For more about Nick & Tessa Laing and the work they are part of in Uganda click here.

Home again, gone again

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When we left St John’s University in Tanzania in August we were grateful for our 60 kg luggage allowance! The end of year exams had been delayed by three days  because it was impossible to see the new moon (which defines the end of Ramadan), and Cliff’s forty two students sat his exam only hours before our departure. We sat in airport lounges and transit hotels marking scripts and wondering if God intended for us to return.

We both felt a lot had been achieved but there was still much to be done. A trust had been set up to seek and manage funding to improve living conditions on the campus for students, including a boundary fence, but that was just the first step – now we have to find some donors! Policies had been approved to encourage Christian conduct among the staff  but these had yet to be implemented. And Staff had been encouraged to seek research funding but they would require considerable support. Both students and staff had encouraged us to return and, with the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor (following the sad death of Professor Mwaluko last year), we were excited about the possibilities.

We traveled home via the UK and had the opportunity to chat to family and friends, often while steering a canal barge! We were also able to renew contacts with the UK Friends of St John’s and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Both these organisations provide important support to St John’s and these brief meetings resulted in significant developments. We give thanks to God for the opportune timing of these meetings.

We returned to NZ on October 2 still uncertain about if or when we might return. Our support to travel and remain in Tanzania comes from our ability to rent our home, and we wanted confirmation that our vision and contribution were in accordance with the leading of the new Vice Chancellor.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but it still amazes me how fast things fall into place when God is in control. Within ten days of our arrival we received a very warm and positive response from the Vice Chancellor, our existing tenants told us they were keen to remain in our home, and the travel agent has confirmed available flights which will enable us to travel and return to spend Christmas with our family.  So after a very brief stay in NZ  we are preparing to make our way back for the new semester.

We would value your prayers for our travel and the opportunities that await us, for the Vice Chancellor as he takes up the leadership of the University and for the financial management and support of St John’s as it seeks to develop Christian leadership in Tanzania.

Iri in Ethiopia

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The Faith2Share Leadership Consultation in Addis Ababa was a blessing in many ways.

Being the only Maori New Zealander that many of the people had ever seen, Iri got to tell them about NZCMS and the work the Lord is doing in our beautiful land. He spoke to Christian leaders from fifteen nations about the origins of NZCMS and the spreading of the gospel in New Zealand.

Chief topics at the conference were leadership, the responsibility to train local people to replace overseas workers, discipleship, and interactions with other cultures that have successful outcomes. A key theme was that we all serve the one God wherever we are and whatever our culture or background may be.

Besides meeting many international leaders, Iri had the opportunity to renew friendships with those we knew when we served in Gambella, Ethiopia. He met up with Bishop Grant and his wife, Doctor Wendy, who now work in Gambella – they looked quite worn out. Please pray for them as there are now more than 200 000 Southern Sudanese in the region – many expect the churches to look after this growing group.

People in the photo: Mark Oxbrow from the UK Faith2Share team, Co-ordinator and Bishop Joseph Mutungi with whom Iri lead the Sunday morning worship.

Update from Iri and Kate

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News and prayer update from the Matos:

NZCMS Mission Partner Iri Mato will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the Faith2Share Leadership Consultation this week. Iri leaves Kondoa on Friday 3 October and returns on Friday 10 October, so there is a lot of travel involved. Please pray for safe travel and good connections.

A Kenyan, Dr Peter Okaalet will be the keynote speaker. The conference will be a focal point for 65-70 visitors plus many local church leaders. It will be an opportunity for Iri to meet with overseas CMS representatives and to renew friendships with Ethiopian Christian friends from the days when he and Kate served in Gambella, Ethiopia on the border of Southern Sudan. During the consultation Iri will be sharing in leading worship.

Please join us in praying for Iri as he travels and connects with members of our global CMS family.

An Update from Nadia

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The last month has seen a lot of changes, a lot of challenges and a lot of achievements.

For the last two weeks I have been the only ‘Muzungu’ left at Potter’s Village as Sue and Mike have been home on leave and Rosie needed to head home to be with her family for a while. So how did that affect things? Well in some ways it didn’t… everyone has been as lovely to me as ever, though perhaps they check up on me a bit more to make sure I’m not too lonely! In the medical centre it has meant that we are a little tight on staff and I have been on-call the majority of the time which is draining, but it has been a quiet month which, perhaps, is for the best.

The medical centre still demands my creativity and I never stop learning new things. A recent bout of typhoid cases has taught me a lot about the management of the illness and an unusual case in the nursery had me researching for days!

In terms of my education projects, the staff from Kisoro hospital who have been selected to work in their new Special Care Nursery have begun to come over and spend some time with us and learn about how to care for neonates and run a nursery. It’s a little over-whelming trying to figure out where to start on teaching people when they need to know everything and there is so little time! I talked so much the first day my throat hurt! There is a long way to go with this but a start has been made and they seem very enthusiastic though which is encouraging.

Feeling a little over-tired I decided to get away for a weekend last week since I was rostered for a long-weekend off. I went and stayed at a lodge right on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable forest. I admit, I spent most of the weekend just catching up on sleep, enjoying not having to cook and relaxing on my little veranda that was barely two metres from the edge of the forest, enjoying the view and reading books. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity for this mini-break and also to see a little more of the exceptional beauty of nature here in Uganda.

Recently, with the medical centre staff, I have been going through neonatal scenarios looking at how to identify what is wrong with babies and how to decide on the appropriate treatment and management. It was, therefore, a big moment of pride across the board when, on getting back from my weekend away, the staff presented a complex case to me, which had come in over the weekend, and their management of the case which was spot on! I was so proud of them for their achievement and it was great to see their excitement and the growth in their confidence in neonatal care.

My time at Potter’s Village is fast coming to an end with my last day of working in the medical centre set for October the 24th, exactly a month away! After this I will have a week break to refresh myself and also renew my visa before heading to my next destination, Kisiizi Hospital.

Nadia the Nerd

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A lot of people who know me will tell you that I’m a bit of a nerd. I love learning! In fact, I’m so nuts about learning this is my first year since high school that I have NOT been doing some sort of tertiary study!

Over time I have also discovered that I love to teach. I really enjoy the challenge of helping someone to really ‘get’ a subject by not just knowing it well enough to explain it, but being able to adapt the information to suit the learning style of the individual.

Put those two things together – a love of learning and teaching – and I’m sure you can understand why I am really excited about the latest developments happening in Potter’s Village and in the town of Kisoro!

Part of my challenge while working here in Uganda has been to look at how I can be the most help possible here. Yes I’m a help as a nurse but I wanted to help in a more lasting way and decided to do this through… yup, you guessed it, education!

The last few months I have started slowly doing a range of training sessions with the staff, writing some guidelines and protocols and discussing what they feel their professional development needs are.  These training sessions range from group discussions to scenarios (yes I have played a dramatic mother and an anaphylactic patient!). Some of what I have been developing are just aids to support the staff, such as a resuscitation flow diagram designed to fit the context and an anaphylaxis response chart.  Needless to say we have had a lot of laughs doing this and the response so far has been great.

The last few weeks I have taken the next big challenge and started to design and write a self-directed learning programme to train staff in neonatal nursing. I am hoping that by the time I leave I will have completed a full set of 3 information booklets and accompanying workbooks ranging from basic to advanced neonatal care, the idea being that even without a specialist nurse available to them, the staff still have access to the information and a way to train and advance their skills and knowledge base. The draft for the first set is complete so far!

Finally, the local government hospital, Kisoro Hospital, has just received equipment to open their own Special Care Nursery. This was something we were both excited and nervous about. Nervous because no one at the hospital has any training or experience in neonatal care (doctors included!) and excited because if the nursery is a success it could do huge things for infant mortality and morbidity  rates in the region. Sister Jovia (our senior Ugandan nurse) and myself went down to the unit to have a look today and help them set up their incubators. What followed was a two hours question and answer training session on basic neonatal care, how to run a nursery and how to work and maintain their equipment.

Most exciting of all is that between us and the staff at Kisoro hospital the agreement has been made to build an education relationship between their unit and ours where we will visit about once a week to do training with their staff and their staff will visit us to get some hands on experience. I’m really excited for what this could mean for the development of neonatal care in Kisoro in the coming future and feel excited to be a part of it.

I have always been told that God uses not just our gifts but our passions. I came to Kisoro to nurse, feeling in many ways inadequate for the roles I was walking into, but God equips us as with the tools we need and I have been humbled continually by the gratitude of the medical staff for what I have been able to offer. Moving into an education role I feel truly privileged for the opportunity to use my passion for learning and teaching to benefit those around me in a lasting way.

Thank you God for the gifts you have bestowed on me to use for your purposes, for the courage you give me daily to use them, and the strength you fill me with to step up to each new challenge.

No money, no goats (Wakonye Kenwa Part 2)

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After one of the first meetings of our farmers co-op, several members asked me accusingly: where was the bottled water?

Our group, Wakonye Kenwa, asked the local football club, what community problems do you care about, what needs change? They drafted a list for us: new uniforms, boots, and a new football.

Another village savings group asked us, are you bringing us a loan? Some chickens? No? Well then don’t waste our time with questions about ‘community issues.’

This kind of thinking is the source of Wakonye Kenwa’s deepest struggles. For years and years during the war, communities packed into squalid, cramped ‘camps’ relied on aid. In the final years and aftermath of war, in flooded the international aid groups and up sprouted a hoard of community groups feeding on foreign funds. If you attend one of their workshops or trainings on ‘peace building’ or ‘trauma healing,’ you’ll get bottled water. In fact, you will get paid a ‘sitting fee’ to attend, because they need to prove a good turn out to please their donors. If there is big NGO coming nearby, you should go because they will distribute blankets, clothes or seeds. If you join a community group, chances are you will get some goats to rear. Or pigs. If you impress the right people maybe you will get a lucrative foreign-funded NGO worker salary.

No doubt, many lives were changed. But it has also left a disease.

This morning I discussed with two core members in our group, why is it so hard to get a good turn out? Why is it such a struggle to engage people? Their answer of course is that people have been taught to expect immediate, personal gain:

“When USAID comes to distribute mosquito nets, there will be hundreds of people. They will get their net, and go home happy. If we are successful, our community water meetings will result in safe drinking water for everyone. Kids won’t get sick, and we won’t have to wait for hours and hours to collect water. But people won’t leave our meeting with something new in their hands. That’s why we didn’t get the numbers we hoped for.”

They could see I was frustrated. They could see I was disappointed. He continued:

“This is new here. Let’s work with the people who come. We’ll get this water. Then slowly slowly others will see. God is there.”

 

For more from Nick and Tessa in Uganda visit ugandapanda.com