Wednesday, March 9, 2011

They Wait Patiently

Where do I begin … my practicum experience has been somewhat unique as I have spent much of my time in the community rather than the hospital. I had the privilege of working alongside some South African missionaries who have set up a camp here to reach out to the surrounding communities. Matoya camp has a school for children, a feeding program for vulnerable babies and their mothers, they employ many people from the community, and the nurse does much to aid in the health of everyone involved. Simply put this place is amazing, it is a beacon of hope for many. As the nurse was out of town on an outreach trip this last week I was asked to work at this camp and be available as health needs arose. Besides troubleshooting some minor problems I also went into peoples' homes located in some of the more poor areas of Mongu. On more than one occasion I would set out to see a sick child at home only to find that there were siblings at home in worse conditions than the one I had set out to see.
I have seen children whose eyes could not be opened due to infections and purulent drainage and the antibiotic these children need is not available in the hospital, or any pharmacy in town, but it may be available tomorrow, and so they wait. I have seen babies that are in the hospital due to excessive malnutrition, but the hospital does not have enough food to feed their patients, and the hours I spend walking around the city looking for the food these babies need is in vain, it is not available until next week, and so they wait. I took a sick child and baby to the hospital the other day, and was given priority over other patients who had been waiting, I was happy to skip the long lines to help these two brothers, although I was also saddened why it worked; the other children did not have a white nurse advocating for them, and so they wait. They wait patiently, and gracefully. They smile at the simplest of gestures, such as saying hello in their local dialect.
Their lives are simple, they live within walls of clay or bamboo, and under roofs made of grass, tin, or plastic, the floor is dirt. They may be poor, but you can see patterns in the sandy dirt left by their brooms made of grass, revealing that someone has swept today. Tiny footprints are remnants of children who may have been playing nearby, often their laughter and excitement to hold your hand is the best welcome to a family's house. They are resilient, their lives are full of heartache and pain, yet they have some of the most infectious smiles you could imagine. Clean laundry may be hung in a tree, or over a fence to dry showing that some of the days chores have been done. They work to eat, they eat to survive, if they cannot work, they often do not eat. They know that we afford a much different lifestyle, and yet they love us, they welcome us into their homes and offer us the best seats in the house. I hope that what I do here can contribute some means of comfort and rest and bring as much healing to their bodies and souls, as they have mine.

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