Saturday, February 26, 2011

The other side of the river:

"We've reached the Zambezi," my friend Tibour tells me over the loud hum of the boat engine behind us. I emerge from under my pile of protective clothing that I have draped over me to keep me from burning in the intense sun to take in the view. Miranda and I are on our way to Kalabo on the other side of the Zambezi to help Lihanna, a nurse from South Africa living in Mongu, start up a feeding program there for malnourished children. I wish I could post a picture to give an idea of what the flood plains look like, but even then it wouldn't do it justice. In every direction that I look all I can see is water, grass and sky. On the two hour boat ride that it took to get to Kalabo, only five minutes was spent on the Zambezi River. The rest of the time the boat navigated through the tall grass on watery roads that had been cut by the boats. It was beautiful.

Our time in Kalabo was short but we managed to do a lot. Our two full days that we spent there consisted of visiting the hospital, helping in an under five clinic, training volunteers to run the feeding program, launching the program and admitting the first 8 children and then visiting them in their homes. It was my first time actually going into a village and visiting people in their homes. Some families had cement houses, others had grass or mud houses. All the families that I visited took such good care of their homes and what little they had. Their house was clean, and yet their shelves were empty. One family that we visited had no source of income and so they ate only when they could find food. The baby that was on the feeding program was almost two years old and still unable to walk. His twin sister on the other hand was walking about the whole time we were at their house. It was heartbreaking to see, and yet we spent an hour laughing and talking under a tree outside their house. It always amazes me that I have found so much joy in the most bleak situations. I left that house feeling helpless, knowing that there was nothing that I could do to save them from their circumstance. We had given them a bag of powdered cow milk to feed the baby that was malnourished. At least we did something. I have learned to think more like the people here: do what you can with what you have, and pray for the rest. With the feeding program we trained the women that we had in the amount of time that we had, we took on the number of children that our supplies could feed, and we prayed that it would continue successfully.


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