Connecting

December 30, 2013

There is a proverb in Chichewa about ties between people: Amoyo sali kana. Roughly translated it means: In life, people never forget. I had a great time visiting people on Saturday and Sunday with Carolyn. She will be leaving tomorrow, so this was another chance for her to gather more experience in the Warm Heart of Africa.

Faith and Michael - born to John and Tawina in July

Faith and Michael – born to John and Tawina in July

 

John with Faith and Michael

John with Faith and Michael

 

Tawina, Uncle Gift and little Michael

Tawina, Uncle Gift and little Michael

Aunti from the village of Kamangira - standing tall at 89

Aunti from the village of Kamangira – standing tall at 89

Aunti and me

Aunti and me

 

 

A typical round hut in the village of Kamangira

A typical round hut in the village of Kamangira

Children in the corn field -  great "playground"

Children in the corn field – great “playground”

 

Finding mangos!

Finding mangos!

 

Welcoming faces

Welcoming faces

 

...and more

…and more

the Chief

Thanks to Elizabeth, I have a picture of Jeff and I on my desktop - always connected to loved ones

Thanks to Elizabeth, I have a picture of Jeff and I on my desktop – always connected to loved ones at home

 

 

 

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Getting feedback

December 28, 2013

Alex, Carolyn and I went to the monthly meeting of the Community Health Worker volunteers. Fourteen of the twenty volunteers that received the physiotherapy training were there. We asked them to tell us, by checking boxes, about what skills they had used in the past two weeks with their patients in the villages from the training.  We also asked them to tell us what skills they had taught the patient’s guardians – a critical piece to the carry over of care. In addition, several volunteers offered to write a patient story about someone that benefited from the physiotherapy skills over the past two weeks. We plan to do this regularly throughout the year to monitor the implementation of the skills taught in the training.

What was so amazing was the excitement in the room during the checking off of skills and writing of stories. They shared what they had done with each other as they reviewed the skills They came to us explaining what they had done – wanting to be sure they were checking the appropriate skill box.

It was also very special to me to be asked by the group to give them feedback…what do you see when you observe our meeting?, they asked. I have had the opportunity to thank many of these volunteers individually for their work with patients; but was thrilled to have the chance to thank all of them as a group. What did I see in the group? Huge hearts, strong wills, and joyful service!

A volunteer opening her new backpack from Rice University to find supplies

A volunteer opening her new backpack from Rice University to find supplies

 

Volunteers gathered for a monthly meeting in an old orphanage

Volunteers gathered for a monthly meeting in an old orphanage

 

 

Volunteers studying their monthly report forms together

Volunteers studying their monthly report forms together

Carolyn and Alex at the meeting. The volunteers are in the background checking off skills on flip chart paper taped to the walls.

Carolyn and Alex at the meeting. The volunteers are in the background checking off skills on flip chart paper taped to the walls.

Volunteers checking off the physical therapy skills they have used in the past two weeks - following their training

Volunteers checking off the physical therapy skills they have used in the past two weeks – following their training

Volunteers writing a patient story about what happened when they used the new physical therapy skills

Volunteers writing a patient story about what happened when they used the new physical therapy skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Christmas in Malawi

December 28, 2013

It was fun to celebrate the Second Day…a tradition in the Netherlands of continuing the social gatherings around food on the day after Christmas. The Dutch nurses and we cooked a nice meal with help from some supplies from Lilongwe. I even attempted an apple pie using some modified ingredients. Our “tree” and nativity were also improvised!

A Christmas tree made with masking tape and some creative decorations

A Christmas tree made with masking tape and some creative decorations

 

Cheesy potatoes and salad!

Cheesy potatoes and salad!

 

Apple pie - not a s good as my Mom's, but a a success

Apple pie – not a s good as my Mom’s, but a a success

 

Instead of snow - a beautiful orange sky

Instead of snow – a beautiful orange sky

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Malawi

December 25, 2013

It’s been a different kind of Christmas…focused on social gathering and rest. Today it was hot and humid with some early rain, and threatening thunderstorms this evening.

We went to a beautiful Christmas Eve service at the church near the hospital. It was the first service I’ve seen given by Father William – a White Father I’ve gotten to know well over my years here. The evening was full of graceful dancing, spirited singing and a festive atmosphere.

We were quiet this morning, and then went to lunch at Sister Justina’s. What a great meal – lots of vegetables, tasty dishes and fantastic deserts. Sister Justina remembered that Josh loved her heart cookies, so she encouraged me to have a few for him! Carolyn and I spent the afternoon giving gifts to families in the village and walking a few miles past Namitondo. The other two University of the Pacific students went home yesterday. Carolyn will be here for another week to continue to work along with me at the hospital.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Sister Justina - energetic, positive and welcoming

Sister Justina – energetic, positive and welcoming

 

Amazing Christmas sweets

Amazing Christmas sweets

 

Families

December 24, 2013

I’m always glad to see friends when I return to Malawi. There are a lot of familiar faces this year.  Peter was our first friend in Malawi. On our first trip to Malawi, he showed us the local village of Namitondo. Throughout the years, he has played soccer with Josh and Elizabeth, walked miles and miles to accompany me on home visits,  and helped me translate at the hospital where he is in charge of the HIV testing/counseling. His son, Christopher Dallas – named after my dad, is now four. He and his wife, Stella, hare settled in a home near the hospital.

Peter, in the village of Namitondo, when we first met him

Peter, in the village of Namitondo, when we first met him

 

Yesterday, with Peter and his family, in front of their home

Yesterday, with Peter and his family, in front of their home

 

Pacific students!

December 23, 2013

The three University of the Pacific physical therapy students here with me have embraced all of the opportunities at St. Gabriel’s and in the community. Aside from caring for patients and providing training, they have also been a part of life in Namitondo, the nearby village. They did a developmental assessment (Malawi Development Assessment) on one of the hospital nurse’s children, worked together with the nurses and ward assistants on the palliative care unit, and walked many miles on foot paths followed by a crowd of children calling “Azungu” (white person). They have been fantastic ambassadors for my profession and university. Kristen and Elisa leave tomorrow. Carolyn will be here for one more week.

Malawi Developmental Assessment - encouraging jumping

Malawi Developmental Assessment – encouraging jumping

Stacking books

Stacking books

Coloring

Coloring

Elisa, Kristen and Carolyn at the nurses station in the palliative care ward

Elisa, Kristen and Carolyn at the nurses station in the palliative care ward

Joined by Monica (nurse) and Moreen (ward assistant)

Joined by Monica (nurse) and Moreen (ward assistant)

Children in the village - asked to stand nicely for a picture

Children in the village – asked to stand nicely for a picture

 

Their preferred picture pose

Their preferred picture pose

 

 

 

 

Christmas caroling

December 23, 2013

We had the hospital Christmas party on Saturday. Malawian parties are always an adventure. This one was for the hospital staff but also included distributing gifts to all of the patients in the hospital. The party started with speeches from Sister Justina, and Dr. Mbeya, the Medical Director. Then they started bringing in the large black plastic bags full of the gifts. Hundreds of bags arrived. Each hospital staff received a bag. We tried to stay out of the receiving line, but were coaxed to also take a bag. Opened later – it contained cookies (many), round orange/pinkish cheeto-type snack (many bags), soya packets, and fancy tea.

After all of the staff received a big bag, they got more bags and loaded them in the carts. In a lively procession…including dancing, drums, whooping, clapping, the staff travelled from ward to ward and gave a big black plastic bag to each patient.

After the gift distribution we all ate – it took all afternoon to feed everyone. Lots of fun.

Sister Justina dancing in the pediatric ward

Sister Justina dancing in the pediatric ward