Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 4 – Motel Bispo 1 & 2 (Manga, Beira, Moçambique)

The time here is starting to fly by. It seems like I was just sitting down here to blog yesterday. Today was not nearly as eventful as yesterday, but nonetheless very educational and enjoyable. We are continuing to go to more villages to learn more about the different areas where CFL works, as well as doing some kind of vocational training for the kids at each stop. I am loving it and it makes me super excited to get started with my health work next week. Our stops today were at two villages in the Motel Bispo  Zone. In the morning we spent quite a bit of time teaching the youth how to make brick molds to be used to construct latrines (or anything else made out of bricks. Research has shown that the use of a latrine is one of the biggest indicators for health in a third world setting. Who would have known? After doing this training with the kids, we split off with some of the field officers and headed house to house to meet some of the households that are working with CFL right now and more specifically to learn more about their working model here in Mozambique.

A very brief overview: CFL identifies villages based primarily on need and potential for impact. Once a village is identified, CFL enters and meets with each family to establish a list of 10 goals in 5 specific areas: health, education, income generation, agriculture, and child development. Once goals are set, incentives are also established to be received if the goals are met over a 6 month period. Some examples of goals include: drinking only treated water, sleeping under a mosquito net, starting a small business, planting a garden which can sustain the family alimentary needs, variety in food consumption, etc. Incentives, at first, always work toward the construction of a permanent, cement latrine (for the reason mentioned above,; see the picture below), and they are always based on helping the families achieve their loner-term goals. Once goals and incentives have been set, a field worker stops by every other week to check on the progress toward their goals. If goals are being met each week over the six month period, the family receives the incentive. A similar system is also established at the village level.

Before I came I read a book on the history of postcolonial Lusophone Africa that explained that one of Mozambique’s biggest hindrances to its development is its dependence on foreign aid and NGOs. This troubled me because I was about to spend a month of my life working for one of these NGOs on the basis of helping people, not hindering the development of the country. When I got here, I started looking for answers and speaking to the directors, both local and from the U.S., to see why CFL was different, why it was making a difference. I was once again comforted as I started to find answers that made sense to me. CFL is different because it’s focus is not just on “helping” (as is the case with every other NGO out there), but rather in promoting self-reliance and sustainability. CFL does this by requiring the people to work! It’s interesting to see that initially this is often met with quite a bit of resistance from the village people (no, not the band :) ) because they are so used to being given things without having to do anything to earn them. What’s even more interesting though is that after having been in a village for 32 months (the normal length of stay), a complete behavioral transformation occurs. When asked recently if given the option would he go back to their old way of living once CFL stopped working in the village, he answered, “Why would we ever go back?” It’s even more encouraging to see that not only do the people change while CFL is working in the village, but in follow-up research conducted in years after CFL had left the village, more people were doing the things implemented in the villages then when CFL had left. Pretty cool, huh? It’s so interesting to me that truly “helping” is often so different than what we initially assume.

Want to know something cool? As we were driving in the middle of NOWHERE, we saw this:

Cool (or scary???) to know that Justin Bieber has such a strong influence EVERYWHERE :)

Tonight we had the treat of having dinner Solomão’s, the local CFL director’s, house. Such a nice and humble family. One the way home, I spent a long time chatting with Tom and Christina, the president and program director for Esperança, one of CFLs sister organizations. Esperança has several programs worldwide focused almost entirely on health. Tom and Christina have the privilege of getting to travel to each of their program sites 1-2 times a year to evaluate the progress and impact. Pretty cool job, huh? Anyway, we talked for a long time about how each country, village, and individual has different attitudes toward health, different ways of expressing their needs and concerns. Consequently, it requires us to get to know them on that level to have any hope of truly helping them. Local solutions for local problems. I am so excited to be a part of a profession that requires me to get to know each person on such a level.

Sorry, I didn’t realize how long this is getting. I hope I haven’t put you to sleep! Hope everyone is doing well. I miss you all! Thanks for reading.

Pics from today:

One family's goal was to establish a small business. Guess what their small business is? Making moonshine :)

The finished product.

The startings of a new latrine. 

This garden has helped this family to be 100% self-reliant for food. Pretty impressive. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 3 – Baby Orphanage and Ngupa 1 (Manga, Beira, Moçambique)

Sorry for the late post! Internet was down last night...

What a day! Today was our first real field day and it was so much fun. We are spending today and tomorrow to visit all of the project sites and to get up to speed with what Care for Life currently has going on. Our first stop this morning was at the baby orphanage which is put on through a partnership between the City of Moçambique and a woman named Dona Ana. I won’t really be doing too much work with the orphanages, but after today, I wish that I could! The moment we walked in, a rush of bald headed (they shave all of their heads) kids ages 0-5 came running up to give us hugs. Not a bad way to start the day! It was such a heart-wrenching experience to find out the background behind why so many of the kids were there at the orphanage. The majority of them weren’t there because of the parents deciding they didn’t want a child, but rather because they were rescued from an abusive situation. We were there today to help out during their “play-time,” something that Care for Life has been doing for years as a sort of break time for us in between our various field sites. We ended up playing a much cooler version of “duck, duck, goose” and then sat back as the kids had a dance off. Wish I had moves like they do… Maybe someday. I wish I had pictures to post! Dona Ana asked that we save pictures for our last trip there. I promise it will be worth the wait J

Our afternoon was spent in a village called Ngupa 1. The villages are settlements outside of the city. They are significantly poorer and is where Care for Life has spent most of its time and efforts. Whenever a village his some of the milestone goals they have established, they throw a “celebration.” I wasn’t totally sure of what to expect but when I got there I could tell that it was going to be fun. The celebration ended up being a gathering of the entire village (150 people or so) and a series of skits, songs, and dances. There is so much I could tell you, but I’ll try to be brief and just talk about a couple of experiences from the celebration.

Ngupa - Fernando is the one in the blue shorts on the right.

First off, I want to tell you about Fernando. Fernando is a young man that on first glance, looks to be about 11 , max. I was spending quite a bit of time trying to get to know the people better. I wanted to understand how they thought, and specifically, how they perceived the situation they were in. It was an enlightening experience. Getting back, as I was doing so, I ran into Fernando. We started to chat and he was much more talkative than the rest of the boys his age. It soon came out that he was actually fourteen, and could speak English (and decently well!). As I asked more, I found out that he had learned English completely on his own, looking through a dictionary and another book in English he had. What??? Who learns a foreign language looking through a dictionary? I offered to help him with his English if he would help me learn the local African dialect, Senna, which was something that has been at the top of my bucket list while I’m here and which I have no hope of doing other than to have one of the locals teach me because there are no books on the language. He graciously consented and we spent the next half hour together using our Portuguese to improve his English and my Senna. Toward the end of our time together, I stopped for a second my eyes were opened to see the immense potential this child had. I could see him excelling through school, college, and onto a prestigious profession. As I was dreaming off, reality hit me hard, very hard. He isn’t ever going to finish school or go off to college, much less leave that little village where he lives. A huge feeling of injustice sunk in as I imagined how much more he deserved even an ounce of the opportunities that I, or you, or anyone else enjoy, but that he would never even dream of having . Why???  As he won over my heart, I thought of how I could rush in and save him from his impoverished existence and take him to a decent school, etc. As my mind kept on running through these hypothetical options, I realized that there are thousands, no millions, of Fernandos out there with just as much potential as he has and that is why we don’t rush in to give an opportunity to the one, but rather work to help them build that reality themselves so that Fernando’s kids, or grandkids, or great-grandkids, might have a chance at realizing their rich potential. The world is an unfair place! It’s hard to realize that.

On a lighter note…. Soon after Fernando and I finished talking, some Mozambican techno music started playing and the dance party started. As soon as the music stated, the little kids went CRAZY. Be jealous… I had a dance party with 50 Mozambican kids. Needless to say, my less-than-fluid dance moves helped me to stand out even more than before, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Please notice the cloud of dust in the crowd shot of the little kids. Just to give you an idea of how much they love to dance :) …

For your viewing pleasure (sorry some are out of order):

The village paramedics and ambulance.

Our bedroom pet
A gift from a village. Soon to be dinner

The drive to one of the villages. Lion King anyone?

The village celebration at Ngupa.

Some of the kids watching the celebration.

A celebratory dance.

More kids watching. I'd love to know this kid's story.

Kids taking care of kids. All too common...

After a few hours at the celebration we had made a lot of friends :)

Couldn't help but to take this picture. The future of Moçambique (the kids) in front an arch made up of some of the goals and initiatives we work on here.

Notice the cloud of dust... The dance party!  You can't really tell but they are all dancing. I'll try and get a video up soon!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 2 - Care for Life Home Base (Manga, Safala, Moçambique)

Arriving in Beira today felt like coming home in a way. As many as you know, I spent two years in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil serving a mission for my church., and like Salvador, Beira is an old Portuguese colony with strong African influences, and also like Salvador, is very poor. As I got off the plane, I was inundated with the rich, but ravaged, culture of this country. We piled our bags into the back of an old Land Rover truck and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that the benches in the bed of the old truck would also be our mode of transportation to the Care for Life home base. Needless to say that the pothole-filled roads made for a bumpy ride (which explains why the pic below is so blurry :) ). As we made our way to home base, I started to understand why so many people dedicate so much time to helping this country—they definitely need it.

Our living situation here is pretty humble, but I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. It’s such a great opportunity to take a step back and think about how blessed we really are and how much more we can (and should) be doing to help others.

The main house.

Our "apartment."

One of Care for Life’s sister organizations  (Esperança) has its President/CEO and Project Director down here this week checking out one of the projects that CFL and Esperança collaborate on. I am actually rooming with the president and it has been so fun to talk to him about sustainable and self-perpetuating ways of making a difference when there is SO MUCH that needs to be done in the world. After talking for a long time tonight we came to the conclusion that our biggest goal in doing work like this is by making ourselves and the people’s need for us obsolete. It’s tempting  so often to just go out and just “fix” things. The more I think about it, the more I realize that that is a very self-centered (though often subconsciously so) way of serving.

Tomorrow it’s off to the villages! I am in for a treat—one of the villages reached some of their village-wide goals and will be throwing a “celebration.” To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I’m sure it will be lots of fun! 

On a side note, today was probably one of the best Memorial Days I felt so lucky as I sat immersed in a country which lacks all that we celebrate on this holiday. I feel so grateful to all those who have sacrificed so much in such a selfless way to preserve freedom for you and me.

Until tomorrow!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 1 - The Afton Guest House (Jo'burg, South Africa)

Village Meeting
Photo from Some original photos to follow shortly!
***A bit of background:***
Allie has convinced me to chronicle my and her adventures in Africa this Summer by contributing to the blog. She had to twist my arm pretty hard, but I finally gave in. As any good husband would, right? So what are we doing in Africa? Well, I'll be spending the month of June in Mozambique with an NGO called Care for Life working with their Health Director on health development in the villages surrounding the city of Beira. 

A little background on Mozambique: Moz was first colonized by the Portuguese in the early 16th century and remained that way until the late 1960's when, like the rest of colonized Africa, they started pushing for their independence. The head of the independence movement was a Marxist group called FRELIMO which today continues to be the predominant political party in the country. In 1975, FRELIMO was able to negotiate (as in negotiating with their guns...) and achieve independence from Portugal. While independence was great, the exit of the Portuguese  left a significant void in political leadership and FRELIMO was unable to maintain any sense of political unity in the country. This opened up the door for a right-wing rebel group, RENAMO, to challenge their authority as leaders, and long story short, this led to twenty-year civil war which left the country in shambles. Eventually the UN got involved in peace negotiations and was able to instigate a democratic electoral process with both FRELIMO and RENAMO serving as political parties. The peace negotiations were surprisingly successful and since 1994, Mozambique has been war-free. Despite the "peace", Moz has had an extremely difficult time recovering from the crippling effects of the two decades of civil war. Consequently, Moz is consistently named as the poorest country in the world.  

This is where Care for Life comes in. Care for Life (CFL) is part of this rebuilding effort. CFL uses a multi-faceted approach called the "Family Preservation Program" which seeks to provide sustainable, long-term solutions to many of the most significant problems facing the country. What does sustainable mean? It means no handouts, no top-down reform changes, no one-size-fits-all initiatives. Basically no more of the programs which have crippled Moz even more and have made it completely dependent on foreign aid for the past decade. Sustainable means identifying key indicators for physical, mental, and social health and helping the people create goals and plans for achieving those indicators. It's about behavior and lifestyle transformation in a way prescribed by the people, for the people. I will be specifically involved in training the health promoters in each of the villages on some of these indicators which make the biggest difference in quality of health (e.g. water sanitation, principles of hygiene, sexual health, disease communication, etc.). The health promoters will in turn teach the individuals in the villages these principles and create systems of plans and goals for their implementation. I am both excited and anxious at the responsibility! 

I'm officially in Africa! After two (very) long days of traveling, I finally made it to Johannesburg. I'll be here for a day and a half while I wait to catch up with the rest of my Care for Life group heading to Mozambique. The place I'm staying at is a bed-and-breakfast-style place called the Afton Guesthouse. It's been pretty interesting sharing all of my meals with a bunch of big game trophy hunters--there stories definitely blow the old "big fish stories" out of the water. And they have pictures to prove it! Not to mention that stuffed animal the size of their living room they'll be shipping home. Elephants, lions, buffalo, wildebeests... you name it! A couple of guys at my table even talked about the zebra they hunted today. Sorry Allie...

While it's been fun getting cultured into the world of hunting today, I CAN'T WAIT to head to Moz tomorrow. I promise the posts will get more exciting :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

From MCAT to Mozambique

Here's a recap of the past few weeks via my iphone. 

I was welcomed home from Ecuador with a sweet surprise from Ashley and these two cuties on my doorstep! I love the zebra on the "L". :)

I made it back to the US just in time to be the supportive wife for Justin while he took the mcat. He doesn't find out his score for a while but we are just relieved it's over! 

For our post-mcat celebratory lunch, Justin picked to eat at Braza Express (a local Brazilian grill... not surprising). We had a can of Guarana to share. So good. 
The next day, we went over to Jana's for some Mother's Day festivities. Justin took a few well-deserved breaks to catch up on some zzz's.

 This week we got to go to Marissa's end of school performance. She sang in the choir and performed baton-twirling!  She has some serious skills and it was super fun to watch.

On Thursday, we got a quick visit from my mom! She took us out to breakfast at Kneader's and then I took her to the airport. It was Justin's first time eating Kneader's famous french toast and he loved it. Check that off our Provo bucket list! I loved catching up with my mom, even if it was only a few hours. 

Justin is now en route to Mozambique! We only had one minor crisis in the process of leaving: he forgot his computer charger. This might seem like a minor thing, except he has all of his files for finishing his medical school application on his computer. He called me in a panic and we tried to think of solutions... miss his flight and go get one, try to buy one on a layover in London (but wrong outlet!), etc. 

I was sitting at work but luckily had just sent all but one of my patients home so I jumped on the computer. It dawned on me that he had a quick layover in San Francisco. I googled the stores in the airport and started calling each of them. Two stores in a row said they had just sold out (seriously how many people forget their charger?!). I was about to give up but the third tech store I called saved the day. I put a charger on hold under his name just to be safe and he picked it up during his layover. 

Crisis avoided. I think I my losing/forgetting stuff has rubbed off on him in a bad way....

I am just holding down the fort and working some shifts at the hospital until I get to meet him there in two weeks. I convinced him to post every once in a while on here so I can see what he's up to!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Peds, bomberos, and a health fair

Kenzie found a friend at the Peds hospital! This little baby girl was so scared of us at first, but she slowly warmed up to Kenzie. By the end, she was almost crying when we had to leave. 

Listening to this patient's itty-bitty lungs

This is my friend, Leticia. We communicated over email before I even got there, setting up presentations and clinicals. It was so fun to finally meet my pen pal. She was so kind and let us go all over the pediatrics hospital. 

I got to visit my friend, Michael, again! I brought him some colored pencils and a drawing book to help keep him occupied during his month-long stay. I was so sad to say goodbye to him. 

It was this cute little patient's birthday so we all sang and a volunteer brought a big cake!

Thumb wars

This is another favorite patient of mine. Wilson is 13 years old and so sweet. He loved just talking to the nursing students and walking around. He had just had open-heart surgery but he was still so happy. 


After clinical at the pediatric hospital, we all jumped in a van to go teach the firemen (bomberos)! Susie is our amazing trauma/ER nurse and taught them about mechanisms of injury and how to treat them. 

Our alert and happy bunch didn't last long..

Feria de Salud

At the health fair we put on, I was assign to the guaderia (nursery), which means I got to babysit all the ninos. Kinda crazy, kinda fun.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Last day at Sotomayor

This was my last group to take to Sotomayor. We got to see some births and hold babies so everyone was happy!  

Showing off their capri scrubs

I love this picture. One basinet, five babies. 

Don't mind if I do shove my IV in your face 

Tender photo of the day award goes to Ty. So cute, right?

This picture is Ty and I with a sweet volunteer at the hospital. She comes once a week to visit the laboring women and teach the ones that are in postpartum. She said she teaches them how to show love to their babies, how to care for them, and how to breastfeed. I'm so glad they have started this program with volunteers. She was such a sweet lady and I'm sure the women love having her around. Another cool thing we learned was that the hospital will give the women 75% off their hospital care if they attend all their prenatal appointments. I love this idea because many of the women never come in and have complications that could be prevented. It's fun to hear of new things the hospital system is trying to provide better care.