Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A Kapanga Welcome – April 9
Breath-taking. Awe-struck. Secure. Excitement. These words barely describe the feelings of the flight from Lubumbashi in southern Congo up to remote Kapanga, west-central Congo (in our two 6-passenger aircraft). Along the flight route, we could view the mighty Congo river and the dense jungle (with visions of snakes, crocodiles, yellow fever and malaria filling the smaller spaces of our minds). Our 3-hour flight landed us in a ‘national geographic’ setting …. dirt runway, village children running along the plane as we taxi past mud-brick homes with grass roofs. We all took a deep breath and felt the immensity of our situation. We have arrived at our destination after months of planning and preparation.
We stepped out of the plane. Imagine ... a sea of people walking alongside our group of 9 Americans down the long, hot, dusty red dirt road. (ok, hot is not strong enough…..VERY HOT mid-day sun, humidity almost as high as the temperature). As we walked from the dirt landing strip to our living quarters we were enthusiastically greeted by Boy Scouts, United Methodist Women, Young Methodist Women, school children, adults of all ages, and finally the elderly women of the village doing the traditional dance of ages and the tribal chief dressed in his native Lunda Nation clothing ( brightly beaded headdress, woven skirt, carrying a scepter made from tail of some animal).
How do we describe in words the sense of ‘welcome’ that we received?
Our supply truck has not arrived yet we start our day with the faces of children greeting us at our door just after sunrise. (that’s after the 4am rooster ‘alarm clock’….. we think we’ll have chicken for dinner tonight !).
Our days are spent with visits to village health clinics each morning, and lectures/workshops to medical staff each afternoon. The response was overwhelming.
Verbal Snapshots of Morning Clinics>
1. Young man too weak to walk, blind, skinny as a pole, wasted away. Diagnosis is diabetes, non-treatable in this region without refrigeration to keep insulin.
2. Infertility = everyone wants more babies. (as too many die before age 5)
3. Ferried across the Lulua River (in pirogues, poled by local rivermen) to remote clinic (see photo, below)
5. 86-year old man who identified himself as having worked with Dr Piper, the founding UMC physician in this region who lived here 1912-1940’s.
7. Two children who were prevented from attending school due to daily seizures. Their epilepsy began with cerebral malaria at infancy that was untreated.
8. Did we mention infertility?
9. Young woman had fallen into the family cooking fire and severely burned her foot…. 4 months ago. Toes now blackened and falling off, some gangrene noted, surgery required (and done while team was there).
10. Malnutrition everywhere...with devastating effects on the children, for instance... a 13 year old girl who looked the size of a 6-year old.
11. On the road again….stuck in the mud enroute to clinic. (see photos, right)
Verbal Snapshots of afternoon workshops.
1. Dr Lee (OB-GYN)– all the women wanted to attend these workshops! (I wonder why…. Could it be the “ infertility” titles?)
2. Heated but amicable discussions on gender equality, a new concept in this region (for men, at least).
3. Major coup> our interpreter, Chi Chi (a local high school teacher) actually taught the gender equality workshop one day!
4. Nurses eager for knowledge yet hampered by lack of diagnostic equipment and meds that can turn their knowledge into practice.
5. Serendipitous moment> local women’s group approached the ladies on our team to talk at their unwed mothers program on basic hygiene. (front to back, or back to front ???)
6. Did we mention it was HOT? Classes held under the trees in the breeze was just the ticket! (see photo, left)
1. Kids like Plumpy Nut !
2. 5 Congolese ladies passionate about creating an ongoing program to feed the children and teach mommas about what foods are available in the bush for healthy kids.
3. A view of malnutrition > distended bellies, skinny arms, puffy feet and faces, yellowing hair, too many children to count!
1. “A lion bit my face while I was hunting” (requiring surgery)
2. “Snake bite, do you have anti-venom?” (no, due to no refrigeration).
3. Tiny premies in a metal box with 2 hot water bottles.
4. Dr Kashala’s ‘open-door’ policy allows him no time for rest (seeing patients, fielding staff questions, running back and forth to operating room).
5. Impressions of ‘bush surgery’…. Patient lying restrained on operating table, in a Ketamine stupor (no anesthesia), using worn-out instruments, operating under window-lighting rather then standard OR lights. (Dr Lee wore his REI headlamp).
6. Making rounds as the families bring in the daily food they prepared for their patient/family member.
7. No indoor toilets….. what do bed-ridden patients do?
8. Too many pubescent teens requiring C-sections to save their lives and their unborn child’s.
Baba Kurt at his best.
1. “You gotta’ be kidding…. You want me to fix these??? “ (phrase often heard when someone from Samuteb hospital brought out equipment that has not been working for at least 20 years).
2. Success…. Of course he was able to repair most of them!
3. Teaching local electrician about solar panels and how to keep water in the batteries so they function properly
4. Water testing at the source of the water supply 12 kms up the mountain. (water was good).
5. Helping repair bike for youn man without use of his legs. (see photo, left)
Worship on Sundays
1. Joy-filled, spirit filled, song-filled.
2. Powerful music created with traditional instruments.
4. Hot !!
5. Our team was privileged to carry up the first Bibles in the Uruund language to the Lunda people. What an honor for us, and a true joy for the people. (see photo, left, oiff-loading Bibles from UMC plane)
Special thanks to our United Methodist Church missionaries, David and Lori Persons, Jeff and Ellen Hoover, Janice McLain, as well as Gaston from Wings of the Morning and Dan Carlson from MAF. Without them this adventure would not have taken place, the people of Kapanga would not have been served by this team.
How can you help??? Support the awesome Wings of the Morning flight program by donations through your local UMC to Advance # 08597A
Posted April 20 by team Plumpy Nuts Congo 2010
The day dawned with more challenges to our flexibility.
1. two of our interpreters are no longer available (one has malaria)
2. one piece of luggage with medical supplies still not arrived
3. Lee was almost arrested (details below)
But on the lighter side, we spent time with the boys at Jamaa Letu orphanage this afternoon.
(new soccer balls- thanks Tony).
And we got all our medical supplies repacked into 6-passenger plane-approved duffle bags, and scaled down our personal items to 4 pounds per person for the trip to Kapanga tomorrow.
Methodist Connection in action> Rob, Lee, and Tony’s field trip to the pharmacy in Lubumbashi took a side turn today… a little more excitement then our team needed. While Rob and GBGM missionary David Persons were in the back room making their big drug purchase, Lee decided to take a few innocent photos of the outer door of Galaxy pharmacy. He was immediately surrounded by 4 large men who wanted to see his ‘photography authorization card’. A large mob-style crowd gathered, along with a few local police. Cool–hand Luke (aka Lee) brought David into the fracus, who scolded the locals for harassing the team (this was a scam to get money from Lee). They wanted $250 to ‘go away’. After the governor was contacted (by David), the potentially explosive moment ended as quickly as it had begun.
Thoughts of the day>
1. friendships renewed
2. anticipation of flight to Kapanga tomorrow
3. flexibility works!
Posted by Janet Kaiser, April 8, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Other then the general annoyances of airline travel these days, we have made it uneventfully as far as Nairobi where we'll spend the night (getting about 5 hrs rest) before heading back to the airport for our early morning flight into Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo. We are ready for the adventure ahead of us..... we have recently learned that our 9-passenger missionary plane will not be available to take us to Kapanga (Congolese red tape), our cook has taken ill (let's hope not from issues related to food handling), and our advance supply truck has not yet reached Kapanga ahead of us (despite leaving Lubumbashi several weeks ago). So we shift into Plan B (with UMVIM teams there's always a Plan B).
This group was selected not soley for their medical skills, but as importantly, for their ability to be FLEXIBLE!! Ah yes, that key to the success of any UMVIM team. We'll work with our UMC and MAF pilots on flying us in on 6-passenger planes (no aviation fuel available in Congo but they'll work out that teensy little detail somehow. The 9-passenger plane they had planned for us uses jet fuel, widely available).
The advance supply truck may have our medical supplies, our ready-made fortified peanut supplement to start the nutritional program, and our food and water supply, but we have our granola bars!! (So, why are we taking our own food up in advance??? Because the local food resources are so severly limited it would literally take food out of their mouths to feed us. )
So for now, we rest. Let the adventure begin!
~jan kaiser for 'the team'
Saturday, April 3, 2010
The Purpose of this trip. "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."(Unknown)
As this awesome team of friends (from Washington, Colorado, and Idaho) head to a remote region of the Congo in April, we do so because .....
-over 5.2 million Congolese children receive no education
- 38% of children are chronically malnourished and stunted from severe malnutrition
- Malaria kills 400 children a day
-6 out of 10 children die before their 5th birthday
- There are over 5 million orphans in DRC today
Our hope is to establish an ongoing relationship with Samuteb United Methodist Church Hospital with the intent of helping them in their own revitalization of this very isolated outpost and it's neglected people. Samuteb is a referral clinic for about 45 community health workers who live in villages within a 60-mile radius. Supplies come from Lubumbashi, which is about 500 miles away. The trip takes 4-6 days in the dry season but can take up to 3 weeks or more during the wet season. (our team will fly in via missionary plane, landing in a dirt field near the village). There is no electricity. Water comes from about 12 miles away and the delivery system has deteriorated and provides only small sporadic flows. Although the situation appears overwhelming, our team has decided to focus on specific attainable and sustainable goals. We wish to be facilitators and educators while avoiding dependence.
~ The lack of infrastructure (water and electricity) will be addressed by Kurt who will then make recommendations to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which has indicated they want to help revitalize the facility. You can contribute to this effort of infrastructure renewal through any United Methodist Church, by donating to Advance # 00596A Samuteb Hospital .
~ The local Congolese physician, nurses, and community healthcare workers request training and equipment to be able to work more effectively. It is our intent to spend our mornings working one-on-one with the physicians, nurses, and healthcare workers to provide teaching as we see their patients. In the afternoons we will work with small groups at the hospital to teach the requested topics.
~ Samuteb performs about 170 deliveries each month. 10% of the babies and 4% of the mothers DIE! They want to learn how to prevent these deaths.
~ They are very concerned about the high death rate of children between ages 1 and 5. Malnutrition is estimated to contribute to one-third of all child deaths. . We will have discussions with the leadership in Kapanga about the potential of starting a nutritional program at Samuteb, making a fortified peanut supplement composed of local peanuts, powdered milk, sugar, and multivitamins. This has been demonstrated to be a very effective and inexpensive way to save the lives of malnourished children in other parts of Africa.
~ To go along with our teaching we hope to provide bags of essential tools to the staff and community healthcare workers. This will include a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, solar flashlight, tape measure, infant scale, scissor, hemostat, and splinter forceps.
But our main goal is to be with the people.
We will share their laughter and their tears.
They will share ours.
We will be among friends.
posted by jan kaiser, April 3, 2010