I have been in Fatima for 3 weeks now and the questions just keep coming!
I am undoubtedly having quite and adventure and my personal growth and to a certain extent my professional development is undeniable what is less certain is the impact my actions are having on those around me.
The past two weeks have been spent in the classroom, I have been teaching the year two-student nurses. You couldn’t hope to meet a nicer group of people. They are so eager to learn and are a pleasure to teach (if not a little daunting being faced with 60 students all hanging off what I have to say). However, there are some areas of concern. I have been reading through some of the exam papers that have been set for the students (these are done by the colleges, the final exam being the only one set by the Malawian Nursing and Midwifery Council) there are some blatant mistakes and misinformation. I have to be somewhat judicious with the concerns I raise as upsetting the tutors would be in no-ones interest. I was asked if I would help teach a clinical examination class that was a real eye-opener!! Listening to the tutor inform the students that the apex of the heart could be located at the sternal notch was a little worrying and in that instance I found a way to correct the situation and was ask if I would lead the teaching session, the relief from the tutor when I agreed was palpable! There were three classes before the one I helped with so there are now umpteen students coming out of Trinity college who believe they will locate the apex beat at the sternal notch!!! I wont tell you how they were listening to breath sounds or examining the abdomen!
One of the biggest areas VSO don’t prepare you for is the begging. I have found this so distressing. Everyday there are people knocking at the door asking for money. Some of the students have also approached me for funds for various things ranging from their fees (MK57000 that equates to half my monthly allowance!) To money for transport, ‘sisters shoes’, books or simply a bar of soap. You very quickly realize that you can’t help everyone, so how do you choose??? Every story is heart-rending and I have found myself in tears on more than one occasion. I spoke to one of the tutors who told me “Malawi is a nation of beggars, they believe the white man is rich, so why shouldn’t he help, they need to stand on their own” This sounds quite harsh but I am not sure that just giving money is the answer either. Thus my plan is to buy goods (I may need another suitcase to bring home all the gifts I acquire)! I have included a photo of a local man and his family, he made me a fantastic rush mat for the living room and one for my bedroom.
I went back to Blantyre last week to catch up with friends, it was the first time we had got together since going to our placements so there was lots to catch up on! Friday night was a party to say good-bye to one of the medics who was heading back to Germany. My hangover the follow day tells me it was a great night!!
Saturday was spent doing the usual Saturday things – shopping! The weekend passed way to quickly, as weekends usually do.
Just found out that uploading photos is not possible here in Fatima. The next time I am in Blantyre I will post as many as I can.