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