The Playground

This blog is an appeal for help.

Fatima is one of the poorest districts in Malawi, the people here struggle to afford food from one day to the next. Education is a luxury that many cannot afford and due to the cost of healthcare it is often only sought when it is too late! These are problems that I cannot hope to solve but what I can do, with your help, is to provide some fun for the children (and relief for tired parents!)

We have all seen the pictures of African children making toys out of old tin cans and the like and that is true here in Fatima as well. I have to guard the pit in which I burn my rubbish, if I don’t the children will be in it trying to find things they can use! But what I would like to provide is an area specifically designed for their play, with climbing frames, slides and swings. I have secured the land, which is attached to a small nursery here in the village, but what I need is to raise the funds to provide the equipment.

Will it be used??? I recently went to a small town where some Dutch volunteers had built a playground; the area was gated and closely monitored thus ensuring the children were safe. This area was a huge success providing hours and hours of fun and helped to keep ‘little people’ out of mischief!

We all know how important play is to a child’s development providing this in a safe and structured environment will have a huge and positive impact for the children of Fatima. Please follow the link and support this cause. Thank you in advance for your kindness and generosity.

The just giving page can be found at. http://www.justgiving.com/lizzypearce1

Lizzy

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The Ugly Side of Life

In Fatima we have had a spate of burglaries, this is obviously very distressing for people. Poverty is such that replacing stolen belongings can be very difficult if not impossible for some people. It is common for Malawians to take justice into their own hands (mob rule). Being suspected of a crime is enough for an individual to be beaten to death.

On Wednesday at 3 am I was woken to the sound of a mob outside my bedroom window, the noise of 30+ people baying for blood is terrifying and something I will not forget for a long time. I opened the curtain to see what was obviously someone being beaten, the mob had clubs, sticks and one had an axe. I stood paralysed for a few moments, I then called my housemate and we tried to decide what to do. We went onto the front porch and tried to shout at the mob, they obviously didn’t listen but one of the medical officers from the hospital who was trying to restrain them told us they had found the thief and they were going to take him to the police. They tied the young man up and marched him towards the hospital. I will never forget that young mans’ look of terror and they marched him past my door. On the way to the hospital the Administrator heard the noise and came out with his gun. He fired into the mob to try and disperse them, this had little effect and the beating continued. By this time they had stripped him naked and the mob was growing my the minute. Another tutor joined him and together they managed to prevent the crowd from killing him. The police were called but were reluctant to come until the administrator told them a police vehicle was being damaged, they then arrived within minutes.

The boy was 17 years old and a known psychiatric patient. He had gone to the guards at the hospital and started throwing stones, he had shouted that he was a thief, his dad forced him to do it and he didn’t want to do it any more. In fact he was not a thief, his father never made him do anything he was delusional and had not been taking his medication. He was well know in the village and at the hospital, someone in that mob must have known but they didn’t care they just wanted revenge for a crime the boy didn’t commit. A similar thing happened, again to an innocent man, about 6 months ago. As yet no action had been taken against any of those involved so I am not hopeful that anything will happen this time.

The whole experience made me feeling very emotional, many of the mob were students that I teach, how could these people that have become my friends do this? I spent quite some time on Thursday crying and I am left feeling very, very sad.

A Life Saved

 

Monday started like any other Monday, 7.30 morning report followed by ward round. I enjoy the ward round, it is a great learning experience for me and I like to think I am a bit of help to the medical officer (pro-active nurses are few and far between here in Malawi). As soon as we got onto the ward the first thing that hit us was the stench – gangrene, there is nothing like it and once smelt never forgotten. It catches you in the back of the throat and I was struggling not to vomit but my Dad’s words came flooding back “mind over matter” and I managed to stay for the whole consultation (even the medical officer did the consultation from the door of the side room). I asked if this elderly gentleman was going to theatre today to have his leg amputated. I was informed that they still needed to do some tests such as checking his blood group and checking his Hb. I pointed out that he was clearly going to die if we didn’t do something quickly. “Hmmm” said the medical officer

 

The following morning my colleague went to morning report, she came back to me saying there is an old man who needs his leg amputating but his Hb is 4.8 and they wont operate without him being transfused but the hospital does not have any blood. The medical officer says he is going to die! I felt so cross, to lose a life for the sake of a unit of blood is ridiculous. I am sure those who know me well can imagine me marching off to the ward; thrusting my arm at the medical officer and saying take my blood! Well, that is what I did, assuring him that I am O negative (for those who don’t have a medical background that means that anyone can have my blood). A few test later, mum, you will be pleased to know that I don’t have syphilis, HIV or hepatitis, and a unit of blood was donated. I then carried my blood, still warm, to the ward and watched until the transfusion was started (I wanted to make sure there were no delays). Two hours later the 89 year old man was on his way to theatre. Two hours after that he was returning to the ward minus the offending leg. I obviously followed his progress quite keenly; I had a lot invested in this man. I am delighted to report that he is doing really well, and should be on his way home shortly.

 

Following my donation, my colleague and some Dutch student nurses that we have at Trinity at the moment also decided to donate, all of their blood has now been used. I have donated many times in the past but have never seen first hand what that pint of blood means to someone else. It was an amazing feeling; that man would have died for the want of a pint of bloodImage 

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Turning 50!

Is it possible, I don’t feel old enough to be 50? But here I am, the big ‘5’ ‘0’ has arrived. I am not sure if I am having some sort of epiphany or just a mid-life crisis but Africa certainly has a pull and I cant imagine this is the last time I will be here. I have a complete absence of stress in my life or at least a whole lot less than I had in the UK. Life here is simple, you very quickly realize that you don’t ‘need’ all those things that you clutter up your life with. I was sat in a mini bus on my way from Fatima to Blantyre this morning, the bus leaves at 5.30 and already the village is coming to life, stalls are being set up, the road swept and water collected. As we drove along the sun slowly started to rise from behind the mountains it illuminated the countryside below. The whole scene was in the soft focus created by the early morning mist. This really is a beautiful place (I hope that hasn’t sent you rushing for the vomit bow).

I arrived in Blantyre at about 9 am, this is a busy city but surprisingly calm, that is except for the roads, they are like the dodgems and crossing a road is risky business! The sun is already warm and the streets are filled with vendors selling anything from oranges to mobile phone credit. The guys shining shoes are busy polishing the patent leather shoes of the city’s bankers and the minibus drivers are sitting on a wall arguing over something or another while they wait for enough customers to make it worth their while setting off.

 

I was here to find the one hairdresser in Blantyre that specializes in European hair. My housemate assures me that they are ‘Vidal Sassoon’ standard and that the ‘birds nest’ I am carrying around on the top of my head will be transformed. Finding the place was my first (an hopefully last) challenge of the day. Various people pointed me in various directions; I called my housemate, whose instructions, despite repeated attempts, just got me more confused. In case you don’t know, directions are not my strong point. An hour (plus a lot of expletives) later I found said hairdresser. What a delight, a real birthday treat, so much so that I decided to throw in an eyebrow shape for good measure. 

 

Next stop, the immigration office to get my visa sorted. Unfortunately, due to my earlier ineptitude at following simple directions I arrived at 12.10 to be informed that they close at 12 and I should come back at 1.30. OK, what should I do???? Well, here in Blantyre we have a very old colonial hotel called Ryalls, well it didn’t seem unreasonable that I should spoil myself a little bit more, after all I had turned 50! So here I am sitting with a glass of chilled white wine waiting for my king prawn Caesar salad, my birthday weekend has started…….

 

As I was leaving Ryalls hotel and heading for the Immigration office I received a call from a friend who told me they had a birthday surprise for me, I was to walk to the top of the road and look around, hmm all very mysterious, but I followed instructions only to find a billboard on a telegraph pole saying ‘happy birthday Elizabeth’, I have included a photo of that just to prove it was real! This really is turning out to be an amazing birthday.

Saturday morning and I met up with Jo, Vicky and later Naomi for cocktails by the pool at yet another rather ‘posh’ Blantyre hotel (I’ve included a photo of that too). Throughout the afternoon more and more friends joined us; it really was lovely. That evening we had a party back at Kabulla Lodge where I spent my first month doing orientation. It was great food, great location, and best of all great friends, which all adds up to a fantastic birthday and one I will never forget.

 

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Photo gallery

This young man is alive today because he bit the crocodile in the eye

This young man is alive today because he bit the crocodile in the eye

One of the many river crossings

One of the many river crossings

This man just wanted his photo takenAnother river crossingThe view at the escarpmentThe driveway to the hospital

The crocodile took his right arm

The crocodile took his right arm

Ah, the long awaited mat!

Ah, the long awaited mat!

Tubing handing out to dry ready for the next patient

Tubing handing out to dry ready for the next patient