This week, Amanda and I were placed at the Save A Life Clinic which is part of a property called the Village Of Hope. Within the grounds of this village there is also a church, a school and an orphanage. The clinic, Save a Life, is primarily run for the purpose of children who are severely malnourished. In addition, the clinic is also open to the public three days a week. What is very wonderful about this clinic, is that many of the staff are volunteers from around the world that come to help make this clinic run. The dedication and time that is put in, comes from the passion for their jobs, and wanting to make a difference. And it does.
My stay this past week was short lived due to health concerns; however, I was challenged during the two days I spent at the clinic. The first day, I was able to watched the morning feeding clinic. Mothers from the community can walk up to two hours to make the 0800 session. I was amazed to see that many of the children at the session were accompanied by aunts, siblings, and grandmothers. What fascinated me about the clinic, was that the food was not just given. In order to create sustainability, the family members were taught how to create a successful business. They were educated on the principles of buying and selling their product in order to make a profit. As well, they were educated on what items would expand their finances to make enough kwatcha to pay for their families weekly necessities.
Baby girl Hope: a child staying at the clinic due to malnutrition
This week also took me back to Lewanika General Hospital, where we took a boy for a chest X-Ray. I felt very uncomfortable during our visit because white privilege was very prominent. When we arrived, we were able to go directly to the front of the line in order to receive a referral to x-Ray. The clinic was packed, and many sat for hours waiting to see a physician; yet when we walked in we got service right away. I felt fortunate not to have to wait, but extremely uncomfortable by the looks and stars from the people who had been waiting. Understandable, I would be upset as well. What made this African child accompanied by a white doctor so much better than all the other children and adults waiting in line? It still makes me question my own character for walking to the front of the line, knowing I have white privilege. However, what I do know, is that time did not permit us to wait for five hours to get a referral.
Sometimes in Africa, what gets to my head is the power we have as students. Back home in Canada, it is less likely that a doctor would come back to the hospital from the request of a student nurse. We would not be treated as colleagues, nor would doctors immediately stop what they are doing and rush to come help us. In fact, what I love most about this practicum is the ability to learn so much from the doctors here. This week however, I got to help "be" one of the doctors. At the clinic we got to assess the children, which proved to be quite difficult when a translator was communicating between myself and the client. Then, from the information collected I would discuss with the doctor which drug to give, and then have to go collect it independently. I remember thinking, "I would never be allowed to do this back home." It was one of the most uncomfortable positions I have ever been in, but very rewarding when I look back on how I worked outside of my comfort zone.
This week challenged myself not only on my clinical skills, but challenged me to think about the privilege I have here in Africa.
I was also placed at Save a Life Clinic this week with Natalie and experienced the same emotions and struggles as she has mentioned above.
This week I had the opportunity to participate in community home visits. Myself and another member of the team went on several home visits, where we would check in with families who were part of the weekly feeding program as well as children who had been discharged from the programs. The purpose of the home visits is to ensure that the child is healthy and doing well. During a home visit we also checked: the cleanliness of the child, home, and the containers that food and milk are stored in. We also checked the sleeping arrangement for the child and if a mosquito net was present, and the attitude and spirits of the mother.
I had the privilege of being present in people's homes this week. In the hospital setting, sometimes it is hard to see the person as a whole; but when you visit the patient in their home you get to see what makes them who they are as people. This was a valuable experience. I got to see where they live, how they live and who they live with. Each visit we were greeted with excited smiles, handshakes, and lots of laughter (especially when I tried to speak Slozi to them). In the homes, I felt there were moments where I had the opportunity to look through a new lense and gain perspective of what life would be like living in a place like this.
The feelings I had when entering the first home were truly undescribable. Most huts are made of mud and straw with dirt floors and some homes didn't even have a mattress to sleep on. I couldn't help but think and compare these homes to my own in Canada, and feel more than grateful for my own privilege. As we walked from house to house (sometimes very far distances) I couldn't help but think how far away some people lived from a health care clinic. The distance that some have to walk to access health care is unimaginable and a hard concept to process. I was seeing and experiencing first hand the social determinants of health and understanding how they played a role in the health of the people here in Mongu. The poverty rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is 46.8% according to The World Bank (2011). The WHO (2015) quotes that "The poor are exposed to greater personal and environmental health risks, are less well nourished, have less information and are less able to access health care; they thus have a higher risk of illness and disability". I was able to understand how the environmental health risks and access to health care from the homes I visited could affect the health of individuals.
I experienced a shocking reality of how most people live here in Mongu. Throughout the past 3 weeks I have experienced culture shock and acknowledged many of the differences here. When I felt like I had finally emotionally adjusted with the poverty, I was surprised again this week with the local living situations. I realized that this would not be the last time that I would find myself reflecting on the vast amount of poverty that surrounds me. One cannot truly understand what poverty is or looks like until you see it first hand.
In reflection, seeing and experiencing the poverty and living conditions here in the community tugged my emotions to a place they had never been before. I have never felt so grateful for the white privilege I experience every day in my life. Although shockingly different, this is the way of life here in Mongu. I had to accept that these conditions were something I could not change. Looking back on each home visit I was surrounded by welcoming, kind, smiling individuals who appeared truly happy with the life they have, which is all that I could ask for.
My week at the Village of Hope and Save a Life Clinic opened my eyes to the passionate people and amazing work that they all do here in Mongu, Zambia. I feel at peace knowing that there is positive work like this being done here.
Later in the week I had the opportunity to visit the children at the orphanage. I brought bubbles and stickers which made for an exciting, laughter filled afternoon.
Words cannot explain moments like these.