I spent my last week in Mongu at the Save a Life Centre within the Village of Hope. The time I spent there was the best time I’ve had my entire stay in Africa. I have learned so much this week. I worked with amazing people, had many different experiences, and had the opportunity to be much more immersed in the Zambian culture.
The mission of the Save a Life Centre is to provide rehabilitation and care for malnourished children and babies. Children who are severely malnourished are admitted to the center until they are well enough to return home. Children who are not admitted, or who are discharged once they are well, are part of a feeding program that typically lasts up to six months. Admitted babies and children reside at the center with a caregiver, who may be the mother, the grandmother, an aunt etc. In some cases, these parents of these malnourished children have died from HIV/AIDS and have caregivers who cannot afford to supply them with the nutrition they need. In other cases, the parents of the children do not have the means themselves.
This past week there was one young girl admitted at the center. She is just a year old and weighs about twelve pounds. Her mother has been staying at the center with her also. This young girl really touched my heart. She was very quiet and reserved when we first met her, and she’d just gaze at us with her big, brown eyes. We were finally able to get her to smile the other day, and when she did she gave us the biggest grin. She smiles with all she’s got. She scrunches her nose and bares her teeth for us while letting out the cutest giggle. You can actually see the happiness radiate from her. Her mother says she’s happiest when she has a full belly, which makes sense and is true for most of us too. Her diet is very regimented in order for her to put on weight. In addition to snacks and meals that she would typically eat at home, she drinks a milk-based solution high in fat and calories, and eats eggs and groundnuts as sources of protein. She seems to really like this other food too. She takes everything she’s given without a fuss. On Thursday she was well enough to be discharged from the center. I went along to drop she and her mom off at their home. It is important that the director of the center knows exactly where they stay for home visits in the future. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the young girl. I was happy she was well enough to leave the center, but I was sad that she wouldn’t be around to visit with anymore. I really enjoyed all the time I spent with this little angel.
It amazes me how much we take for granted in Canada – things like health, nutritious food, running water, plumbing, electricity, and transportation. The people of Zambia have so little, yet they are so resourceful and grateful for what they do have. They find ways to survive as best they can. This center is an absolute blessing for those children whose families struggle to provide for them. Since working with the Save a Life Centre and learning about of all the great work they do I have decided to sponsor a child on the feeding program for six months. Fortunately, I have the advantage of knowing exactly where the money is going and whom I’m helping with my effort. I strongly encourage anyone reading this blog to visit the Save a Life Centre website (http://zam.co.za/Save_a_Life.html) and consider sponsoring a child yourself. If you do choose to sponsor a child you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many kids here who could use your help.