Monday, November 17, 2008

Stories to Share

I have wondered how I would respond to the question, "How was Africa?" I knew there is no way I could share my thoughts and feelings in the few moments that I would be given to answer the question. At times I have thought, "Why even try?" And then I remember the commitment I made while looking into the faces of the children in Africa that I would share their stories. I am excited to use my blog to answer the question, "How was Africa?" in a little more depth than I could ever do when asked the question in conversation.

The founder of Mothers Without Borders shared quotes with us every morning and evening in meetings where we would share our thoughts from the day. I will include many of these quotes because I learned so much from them. Here were the first two quotes we were given.

"Our eyes give us sight, but our hearts give us vision." S. Shaw

"There is much suffering in the world-very much. And the material suffering is suffering from hunger, suffering from homelessness, from all kinds of disease, but I still think that the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience." Mother Teresa

There was so little we could do to fix the huge problems that we saw while in Africa. But there was one thing we could give without limits-and that was love. As we loved those we met with we were able to lift their spirits for that day. It helped me realize how important love really is and how much more I need to love in my own life.

Our first day was spent visiting a very well run orphanage and then visiting a very run down hospital. The orphanage was full of beautiful African babies. It was sobering to learn that every 18 months more people die of aids than died in the holocaust. Every few days 10,000 children are left orphans. I was glad to see that there are orphanages for some of these children. Unfortunately there are many more children who are left without anyone to care for them.

I still can't get over what we saw at the hospital. It is the best public hospital in Zambia. There are private hospitals for those who have money, but for the rest of the people the have to go to UTH. We pulled up to a building that looked like an old, abandoned apartment complex. It was hard to believe this was home to patients.

On one of the walls was posted the following sign, "This hospital is short staffed and the wait will be very long. Do not harm the staff. This is a federal offense." I found out that the wait can be days before you are seen and that there are cases of people getting so angry that they do attack the very few staff that work there. Many times the nurses don't get paid because there just isn't enough money. They continue to work because they know how much they are needed.

When someone is admitted to the hospital they are required to have family come and care for them. The family is responsible for bringing in their water and their food and to have someone come and stay with them at all times. They are taught how to care for the patient and become the nurse. For those who don't have enough food for themselves it becomes a huge burden to care for family members in the hospital. Often they just don't bring them in.

We had the opportunity to visit the NICU. They normally lose 1-2 babies every day. They are very limited on resources. I looked at those babies and wondered if maybe it would be best for them to die quickly. Then I see the mothers who are clinging to the hope that their baby will survive and I am torn. I pray that these mothers have someone who will love them during their suffering.
We weren't allowed to take pictures of the orphanage or the hospital. However, a team member was asked to take a picture of donations that we brought. She also took a picture of Charity. Charity is the head nurse of the NICU and is as loving as her name would indicate. What a privilege to meet her. She is one of those nurses who continues to work long and hard hours, sometimes not even being paid, so that these babies will have someone to care for them.


Anonymous said...

Heidi - wow. What an amazing experience you've had - to say the least! I can't wait to hear more of your stories. Thanks for sharing.
- Mackenzie

meganconser said...

Keep Sharing! I am glad you are home safe and sound- must have been a beautiful reunion. Love,megan

Andrea Lei said...

What a beautiful Charity. How awesome to deliver such badly needed supplies! Wow!

Stacie Raddatz said...

Can't wait to hear more. Glad you are safe and home.

Elisabeth said...

Welcome home. What a life changing experience. I've been looking forward to reading about your time there.

Mirm said...

Iam sitting here at Becky's doing another night shift with the twins. As I look at these precious babies I don't know if I could handle going through the experiences that you did. I would have to shed a lot of tears. It makes you really appreciate what we are blessed with every day.

brenda said...

Wow, I just went through your whole blog. What have I been doing this last month? Why haven't I read this until now? Thank you so much for putting it all out there. I hope there are more stories to come--I'm hooked. Although I get the sense you could write and write and barely break through the surface of the deep well of emotion of the experience. I'm so glad for you that you have this big thing, this big love in your life. It's just amazing.

Tonya said...

I am so glad that you choose to share your experiences. It is what will move others to action. Keep sharing! I really do love to read your experiences and your insights. Awesome quotes by the way.