Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reaching out

Janeva, Jeevan, Mark and Steph went on an outreach together with South African Doctor Nilene and two Zambian translators, Banks and Nesilele.

Our adventure started with a 3 hour 'speedboat' ride across the Zambezi floodplains to the Western side of the Zambezi River where we arrived in Kama Village. Upon arrival we were greeted by a mob of local children eager to see the mukuwas (white people) and help carry our stuff to camp. All week, they enjoyed watching us set up camp, make lunch, eat lunch, clean up, sit by the fire, etc.
After a night of fitful sleep on yoga mats in our tents (the 3 girls in one, Mark in his own with all the food) we woke up in anticipation of seeing the locals who were already lined up outside of the little clinic building in the village. It was odd to be sitting and eating our breakfast while people simply waited patiently for us.

Throughout our 3 days of seeing patients, we played many different roles. We worked as nursing assistants, nurses, doctors and pharmacists. One of us would screen the patients by taking vital signs and a brief history. After being screened, patients had anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes to wait to be seen. During this wait, they used the time by seemingly just enjoying watching the mukuwa's work.

After their wait, they moved to diagnostics. There were two rooms set up where two students were waiting with a translator to assess, diagnose, prescribe medications and refer under the guidance of Dr. Nilene.

They then took their booklets to the next building where the 'pharmacy' was. Here they patiently waited again. Then they received their medications and education about said medication.
Over the course of 3 days, we saw 388 patients, often working long into the evening. Our first night, most of us were crammed into the pharmacy with our headlamps on finishing orders for the day. There was no electricity in this building and we shared it with a colony of bats. But everyone got their meds and were on there merry way.
There was a back room in the pharmacy that was used for IV initiation, draining abscesses, debriding wounds, giving injections and more.

On Wednesday, Janeva and Mark left the clinic in the capable hands of Jeevan and Steph to go the school and teach about sexual health and hygiene. Banks was incredibly helpful in translating and engaging the learners. We were so blessed to have him with us. Here we distributed the Days for Girls kits which were a huge hit. These kits are for girls to assist with hygiene while they are menstruating, and last for 3 years if taken care of properly. The kits were really well received and many girls came to our campsite later to ask for more kits. It was really heart breaking when we ran out of kits and had to turn girls away. For more information and to find out how to support Days for Girls please follow this link:

Some of the experiences that stood out to us were:
- the amount of malaria and how sick patients can suddenly become
- the number of STIs in a small, rural village showing us the lack of sexual education and knowledge
- how HIV is so much a part of life here. Whether we were saying "you have HIV", or "hakuna HIV" (no HIV) it didn't seem to phase the patient.
- seeing what a borehole with clean water can do for a village (everyone walked to it every day)
- giving out referrals and not knowing whether they could actually make it all the way across the floodplains on a longboat to Mongu

Together we would like to thank our translators Banks and Nesilele for keeping us entertained and helping so much in the clinic. There is no way we could have done this without them. We would also like to thank Dr. Nilene and Village of Hope for organizing everything and helping guide our clinical decision making. We will always remember sitting around the fire cooking dinner and laughing about escalators and policemen.


Janeva, Jeevan, Mark and Steph


  1. Putting Mark in the food tent probably wasn't a good idea. I met him in Florida when he was visiting and he can and will eat anything. I am truly enjoying your blog because I am a critical care nurse since 1968. I have been on 13 medical mission trips and reading your blog gives me a vicarious pleasure seeing you grow professionally. Keep learning and don't forget that to really learn ASK questions. There are no stupid questions.

  2. So great to see you in action! Would it be alright to forward your picture with you in the classroom to the Kinsmen Club?
    You're doing such great work.