Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday

So, even after the power came back on yesterday, the internet was down for all but about ten minutes (during which time I managed to post the blog and send out the e-mail which I had typed out). Today I was supposed to spend the day with a friend but something came up and he had to cancel, giving me one more day to just relax here at the guesthouse. The internet was up and running again this morning and so, except for a trip down the road for pizza and ice cream, I spent the whole day online catching up on e-mails and blogs just as I had hoped to do yesterday... Have I mentioned lately that God is so good to me?

Tomorrow however, I re-enter Africa so to speak. Many of you will remember Kids Club, where we distributed all those school supplies back in January. Well, tomorrow I will be visiting them once again. In the morning I will be meeting up with my friend Bonny and he will be taking me to see a set of three-year-old triplets that they sponsor (who were just babies the last time I saw them in 2007!) and then we will head to Kids Club in Katanga. I am looking forward to catching up with Bonny, seeing the kids we gave the school bags to once again, and also being able to experience a "normal" week of Kids Club. At the same time however, the thought of it all just makes me feel tired. Please pray that God would give me the energy I need to make it through what looks like it's going to be a busy day and that, even when I feel like I have given all I have to give, that He would fill me once again so that I can pour out His love on all those I come in contact with.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good To Be "Home"

Hi everyone. I'm sure there must be some of you out there that have been wondering what happened and why I haven't been blogging these past three months... Well, as it turns out, the village where I was staying had no internet and often no electricity, making blogging virtually impossible. My mom has been sending out occasional updates to those on my e-mail list however I know that some of you would not have received those updates. Anyway, I'm back in Uganda now and will do my best to catch you up over the next few days/weeks. In the meantime, it's good to be "home"... At around 4:30 yesterday afternoon I crossed the border into Uganda and everything in me just breathed a sigh of relief as though a weight had been lifted and my spirit just felt lighter somehow. Don’t get me wrong, the last three months have held many good moments but they have held many difficult moments as well and, as hard as it was to say goodbye, it feels good to be back here in Uganda, my second home.

I plan on spending the next few days gradually updating my blog with stories (and pictures!) from the Congo so keep checking back however, in the meantime I would like to ask for your continued prayers over the course of these last two weeks of my trip. Today I am simply spending the day at the guesthouse, catching up on sleep, food, quiet, etc. but tomorrow it will be time for me to shift gears as I begin reconnecting with my friends in Kampala and at the end of the week I will be heading back to Jinja to visit the friends and ministries I know there. I’ll be honest and say that at this point I’m exhausted and simply want to relax and have fun with my friends. I’m sure that these next two weeks will indeed be fun but at the same time, I don’t know when or even if I will ever see my Ugandan friends again and I want to use this time well, that I may be able to be a blessing and encouragement to them. Please pray that God would give me all I need to make it through these last two weeks and that I would make the most of every opportunity He gives me to continue to be an ambassador of His love.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Maternity


Seeing as I’ve been spending so much time at the clinic lately, I’ve started to make friends over there. I know I keep saying that nobody here speaks French however it’s not that there is no one who speaks French, all the “professionals” (the pastor, principle of the school, doctor, NGO workers, etc.) speak French however they are pretty much all middle-aged men and although we speak the same language, we really don’t have anything to talk about. Then there’s Suzanne. I met Suzanne at the clinic where she introduced herself as the wife of the doctor. She speaks perfect French and so whenever I’m at the clinic (which lately has been daily) we always chat for a few minutes. Last week she told me to come and see her office. I hadn’t realized she actually worked there but when she told me she had an office I figured she does some administration or something. As it turns out, she is a midwife and she runs the maternity (which I didn’t even know existed) right behind where I take the kids to see the doctor. She took me back to see where she works conducting prenatal exams, delivering babies and vaccinating infants. There were two women in the recovery room and as she picked up their babies to show me I asked if I could hold one. She handed me a beautiful little girl and when I asked how old she was Suzanne looked down at her watch and said, “Oh, about 30 minutes… I just delivered her.” Priceless!

Suzanne was telling me that every Monday she has 150-200 women come for prenatal exams and she invited me to come and see what she does so this week I took her up on it. I did preschool with the kids early and then headed over to the clinic. There were indeed at least 100 women there between the ages of 18-45, some for whom this was their first pregnancy, others for whom it was their 6th or 8th and one for whom this was going to be her 12th child. Suzanne said that this is the only reputable maternity in the area and so women come from many surrounding villages, some on them walking 3 or even 4 hours to get there (at 8 or 9 months pregnant!). Each month they deliver 40-50 babies. On Mondays they begin by educating the women on how to protect themselves from HIV and also how to protect their babies if they themselves are infected. Then the women are weighed and begin filling into the examination room where they measure their stomachs, check the position of the baby and listen to its heartbeat. It was truly a hands on experience as Suzanne showed me how to tell how far along they are, feel for what position the baby was in and listen to the baby’s heartbeat.

Suzanne and some of the women...

Feeling for the head...

Listening to the baby's heartbeat...

On Tuesdays Suzanne vaccinates the infants and as I was leaving on Monday she invited me to come back the next day to see what that is like. Let see, spend the morning with a bunch of little African babies… obviously I took her up on it. Once again, I did preschool with the kids here and then spent the rest of the morning at the maternity. There were a couple dozen women there with their babies, all between the ages of 1-10 months. As is the case in nearly all impoverished countries, the mortality rate for children under the age of five is quite high here so they are doing their best to prevent that by ensuring that the health of these young children is followed closely. Suzanne starts off the morning by educating the women about proper nutrition for them and their babies. Suzanne told me that they often see babies who are malnourished even though they nurse regularly because the mother herself is malnourished and therefore her milk does not contain the nutrients that the baby needs. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have your child totally dependent on you for nourishment and know that you don’t have what they need… After that all the babies are weighed and then vaccinated against Polio, Rubella, Yellow Fever, etc. depending on their age. I spent the morning helping to weigh the babies and register those who were there for the first time… and I managed to find time to hold a couple as well :)

Suzanne and I with some precious little ones...

Weighing the babies...

Without a doubt however, today was the best day of them all. As I mentioned, Suzanne’s job includes prenatal check-ups, vaccinating infants and delivering babies… can you see where this is going? As I was leaving on Tuesday, Suzanne told me that now all I needed to experience was a delivery and she would call me over sometime to witness one. Well, this morning as I was outside with the kids, one of Suzanne’s assistants came over and told me to come to the clinic right away. Since Tuesday I’ve been excited about the idea of watching a baby being born but at the same time not sure how I would handle it, whether all the blood, etc. would make me feel sick, how I would deal with the woman screaming, etc. Well, I don’t know if I’d feel the same watching a woman give birth back home but here everything is so matter-of-fact that it just seemed natural (which it is I suppose). It was scary for a while though. It was a tough delivery and when the baby finally came out the umbilical cord was wrapped so tightly around his neck that he wasn’t breathing and it took them several minutes to resuscitate him. My heart was racing as I stood there watching and praying and when he finally let out that first cry I breathed a big sigh of relief. Suzanne had told me to bring my camera and so I did, looking forward to getting some pictures of a brand new baby. As I was watching the mother give birth however Suzanne kept saying, “Take pictures of the head coming out”, “Take pictures of the placenta”, etc. Welcome to Africa, no such thing as privacy here… Needless to say, I will not be showing those pictures here however I thought you might like to see the newest resident of Bideka…

Resuscitating him...
 
Finally, he lets ot his first cry...

Tying / cutting the umbilical cord…

Weighing him… 3.4 kilos


Welcome to the world little guy…

Update: Before I left the Congo, Suzanne called me back to the maternity to witness one more birth...
Here's a few more pictures...
(excuse the less than professional quality, Suzanne had never held a camera before...)

About 10 seconds old...

If I ever get tired of loving on orphans (like that could ever happen!), I could so work in an African maternity!

Just after I placed her new baby in her arms... Priceless!

Myself with some of the moms and their new babies...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter

Being that yesterday was Easter, the kids had a four day weekend and, as my time here is quickly drawing to a close and my goal is to give my best with the kids, I decided to put all my energy and creativity into trying to make it a fun holiday for the kids and plan a special activity for each day. On Thursday we spent the afternoon playing organized games such as British Bulldog, What Time Is It Mr. Wolf? and Red Rover. Then, on Friday, the kids painted Easter eggs which I had traced onto paper. On Saturday I had planned for us to play with balloons but it was raining outside and there was no way I was going to give balloons to 28 already loud and crazy kids confined to a room not much bigger than my living room. So instead, since there was electricity, we listened to music and looked at pictures on my laptop and then I read them the Easter story from a children’s bible I brought along with me. Because we didn’t use the balloons on Saturday it made Sunday an extra special day as not only did we play with balloons but we also had an Easter egg hunt!

As you can see, I tried to bring in a bit of Western tradition to our Easter celebration. On Friday, before painting the Easter eggs, I explained to the kids why we use the egg as a symbol for Easter and then told them that I was going to give them each an egg drawn on a piece of paper and they could decorate it (showing them a couple of examples that I had made). Something must have gotten lost in translation however as I soon realized that all the kids were drawing eggs on their paper, complete with a yellow yoke in the center! So, I explained again and eventually they got the idea. As for the Easter egg hunt on Sunday, it was a huge success. Ok, it wasn’t exactly your traditional Easter egg hunt but sometimes you just have to make do with what you have. I cut small eggs out of coloured paper that my mother had sent and hid them around the room. In order to avoid fighting and utter chaos, the little kids went first and I brought them in three at a time until each one found an egg. Then, for the older kids, I wrote their names on the eggs and they had to find the eggs with their name on it (2 each). The kids had a blast looking for the eggs and they would have been quite content if the activity simply ended there but what’s an Easter egg hunt without chocolate, right? I had asked Dechi to send me some chocolate from Bukavu and once all the kids had found their eggs each one received a mini MilkyWay chocolate bar. Not exactly a Cadbury egg but they didn’t know any different. The kids were in their glory! Without a doubt, my favourite comment of the day came from 6 year old Furaha. I had explained to the kids that in Canada one of our Easter traditions was having an Easter egg hunt, in Canada we give the children chocolate for Easter, etc. Anyway, as the kids were standing around eating their chocolate, Furaha came up to me with a big smile on her face and, holding her half eaten chocolate in one hand and displaying a thumbs up sign with the other, said, “Mama, sema Canada très bien!” which, in our own special Creole combining words that I know in Swahili with words that the kids know in French, means “Tell Canada, very good!”. So, there you have it Canada, our Easter traditions receive the stamp of approval from our kids here in the Congo :)

Some pictures from the weekend...

British Bulldog




What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?




Red Rover





Painting Easter Eggs





Even one of the mamas got in on the fun...







Balloons!





Easter Egg Hunt