Davinder’s update from South Africa

November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Our wonderful volunteers have been busy in South Africa and sending us updates when they can via email and text. The photos are all from previous trips to Lily in South Africa but we’ll be posting new photos soon.

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So I’m sat at the airport heading home … so sad to be going. I’ve had the most amazing time here. The children are an absolute delight and all the medicine is so interesting and it genuinely feels like we are doing something to help here. Just thought I’d drop an email about the very hard work everyone has done!

We’ve completed over 450 school checks in total so far. It takes a while to do especially now the children are younger so can’t speak much English and increasingly need a translator to help. We’re currently up to class 5C with new school checks and working our way to the younger ones.

We’ve done a fair few smears on the Lily house mums but still more to do. On Thursdays we went to 1000 Hills clinic, which was just an absolute pleasure to be at. Very interesting, and the whole set up was so organised and supportive to all staff. It was one of my personal highlights of the whole time here and we would have loved to spend longer there.

We’ve completed the pharmacy stocktake at Lily clinic and the two-week house boxes inventory has also been completed.

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Jess’ update from South Africa

November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Our wonderful volunteers have been busy in South Africa and sending us updates when they can via email and text. The photos are all from previous trips to Lily in South Africa but we’ll be posting new photos soon.

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Collected Dav from the airport and she’s fine. I hired a little car (surprising how it manages the dirt tracks!) It’s been essential, just for more freedom. Last week we did school checks mainly. This week we’ve reviewed the Lily children and a couple of community cases, we’ve undertaken smear for house mums and helped out at the 1000 Hills clinic as they were short on two doctors and very appreciative for the help. Next week we’re doing health talks with the mums at Makaphutu and school health checks. So a lot of work to be done!

1000 Hills clinic is great and very busy so we saw a lot of patients. Kirsty, the GP, only works there on a Thursday so they would love doctors being there more frequently. They loved Ellie and Emma and were sad to see them go so I think it’s a really great place for volunteers to go.

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Alice’s update from South Africa

November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

 

Our wonderful volunteers have been busy in South Africa and sending us updates when they can via email and text. The photos are all from previous trips to Lily in South Africa but we’ll be posting new photos soon.

 

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Thought I’d give you an update from Team B at Bushwillow. Having SUCH a brilliant time. These two weeks have gone too quickly and we wish we weren’t leaving next week. We have just come back from dishing out 120+ ice creams in the village with Mbali – as it’s Sabina’s last day tomorrow (we went a bit crazy in Pick ‘n’ Pay and bought a lot!). Those 5L tubs of ice cream vanilla, choc and neapolitan (with sprinkles and choc sauce in a cone) went down a treat. Some of the kids looked like they’d never seen an ice cream before and didn’t know what to do with it! We made sure all the house mums got a big share and they seemed very happy!

All going well here otherwise. The Health Visitor at 1000 Hills clinic has been on holiday for two weeks so I ran the baby clinic with Ellie, which has been amazing. They were such cuties and bonny babies. It is a lovely clinic and all hopefully doing well. They give out formula and clothes and they come every week for the first three months.

Sankotshe School has been great. Grade 7, 6 and half of 5 have been completed. We made good progress last week; lots of reviews, follow-ups, tineas sprayed and improved, URTIs that have picked up and lots of waxy ears syringed! This week however, they have Government exams so understandably the principal said its appropriate that we don’t come in this week so we have been seeing patients in the Lily clinic, did a stocktake for the WHOLE pharmacy (so many bottles of cough syrup and theophylline!), been to Makaphuto, on community visits and Sabina’s been doing her daily yoga lessons which has been so popular! Today we also did basic health reviews on the children at the crèche at 1000 Hills, which was really interesting.

Had a great time in Tala. Sean picked us up in a truck, and saw a couple of white rhino, which were amazing, lot of giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

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Phoebe and Eleanor’s TWOWEEKS update from South Africa

November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

 

Our wonderful volunteers have been busy in South Africa and sending us updates when they can via email and text. The photos are all from previous trips to Lily in South Africa but we’ll be posting new photos soon.

 

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We thought we would write you an email to let you know our progress and give you a couple of tips to help make things a little easier when you get here!

We have been doing a range of things and as we expected there is a lot to do here. We spent some time at the Lily clinic doing health checks on the Lily children as Dr Volker was away and we also saw some community patients, which is very different to being a GP at home in the UK! We have also been doing health checks on the children at Sankontshe School. Flexibility is key. You often end up doing things you hadn’t planned for!

For the health checks, a translator is essential as the children are too young to be able to speak good English. Staff in the clinic have been helping with this duty but it needs to be arranged daily and be aware this can sometimes be difficult as by coming with us they do not have time to do their usual daily duties.

The school bus goes from the village at 6.30am which we have taken but unfortunately the interpreters were unable to get to Lily for this time so sometimes we had to get a lift, however we always got the school bus home which is great fun.
We (Phoebe and Eleanor) will be going to Makaphutu today and staying for the remainder of the time we are here. We are sad to leave Lily as it has been such an amazing experience and we have already become very fond of lots of the children, but we are excited to take on a new challenge at Makaphutu.

On a side note there is a lot to do at the weekend (although not medical)! We have been holding sessions for the kids and also assisting Helen with her budgeting exercise with the teens. All the kids love one to one attention so reading, playing on the trampoline or even a chat is very appreciated and beneficial to the children.

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Christine’s update from South Africa

November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Our wonderful volunteers have been busy in South Africa and sending us updates when they can via email and text. The photos are all from previous trips to Lily in South Africa but we’ll be posting new photos soon.

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The budgeting program we are doing has been really great so far for us! Helen and I are working together to pilot the program of having the older houses do their own food shopping. We have finalised a good plan and have been working with the teenagers to assess their money skills. She has been so great, so helpful and so on top of things. We are finding out a lot of details about our teens too, in terms of where they are at with their money. So this has been helpful! It will definitely be great for another person to continue later.

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TWOWEEKS 2013 Trip to SKIP

October 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

SKIP and TWOWEEKS have established a partnership and are working together to provide healthcare to children and families that so desperately need it in El Povenir, Peru. Our volunteers are there right now and are sending updates of their progress and the wonderful work they’re doing so we will be sharing that on the blog across the course of their trip.

For those of you who don’t know about our relationship with SKIP – you can read about our partnership with them here. In brief, SKIP is a non-profit organisation that works in one of the poorest areas in Trujillo called El Povenir. Education services in Peru are not free and as a result the poorest families and communities cannot afford to send their children to school. SKIP act to bring about positive changes in the lives of disadvantaged children and their families through providing education and helping families to find ways to improve their economic situation, which in turn can enable them to afford the cost of their children’s education. 

*Photos included are from previous trips to SKIP. We will update recent 2013 images soon.

Image from TWOWEEKS trip to SKIP in 2011.

Image from TWOWEEKS 2011 trip to SKIP.

UPDATE FROM DHRU

Our first day has gone well we think. We are all settled into the hotel now. It’s nice, clean, has Wi-Fi and friendly staff along with good distance to SKIP house and town. A few rooms were a little noisy on the main street side but that’s now sorted and is an issue all Peruvians and locals seem to deal with. The food so far has been great and we cannot complain on the portion sizes. There’s some Trujillo Spring Festival Stuff on too, which keeps the whole town lively most evenings.

We met Silvia the volunteer co-ordinator at SKIP today and then met Liz Wilson, Director at SKIP, who told us more about the day-to-day workings of SKIP and our current role and the needs they have at present and the they anticipate us helping.

First clinic session today was Fareed and Joan as ‘The A Team’ and they did health checks and saw two families: a mother and two children and another family. And me, as Team B, saw another two families with lots of kids – most of them healthy.

Team Steph took one look at the medicines and store cupboard and decided to give it a once over and stock it more like a sensible hospital pharmacy. So tomorrow we will have a very well functioning treatment centre type of thing going on.

So far. So good.

UPDATE FROM JOAN

I thought I would send a brief addendum and update to Dhru’s postings (I’m operating somewhere between UK and Peruvian time so tend to be awake from about 4am in the morning).

This morning may be our first opportunity to see some of the older children as it will be the first day of the week so far that will coincide with us being at the SKIP office and the secondary school kids being in class. Stephanie and I (thanks to Silvia interpreting) made contact with the local pharmacist as we felt it was important to do so and it was very useful to find out information about stocks held in the pharmacy and costs of medication.

We are really enjoying the experience and the hotel has worked out really well, comfortable, free Wi-Fi in the rooms is SO useful, and the coffee in the morning is such a treat. We have been invited to the ‘family’ meal at SKIP house this evening and booked a tour to Chan Chan on Saturday.

Image from TWOWEEKS 2011 trip to SKIP.

Image from TWOWEEKS 2011 trip to SKIP.

2013 Fundraising: Nick and Becky Boulton’s London to Brighton bike ride

August 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

TWOWEEKS fundraising

In June, Nick and Becky Boulton kindly donned their cycling shoes and took to the road on their bikes for the London to Brighton bike ride to raise money for TWOWEEKS. Inspired by the superhuman accomplishments of the amazing athletes at the Paralympics (including gold medallists Hannah Cockcroft, Divid Weir and Johnny Peacock), Nick, a public servant, and Becky, a pharmacist,  wanted to tackle a challenge in the name of a good cause. We asked them to tell us about their experience and fundraising effort. For those who would like to add to their wonderful fundraising effort – you can visit the Virgin Giving site here.

Tell us about yourselves – what do you enjoy doing?

Becky: I love baking, and crafts such as sewing and quilting. I now have a great love of cycling (although it’s much more enjoyable on a fine sunny day). I also enjoy Kickboxing, street dance, yoga and Judo although most of the time I can be found bimbling around my home, cooking and reading or going to the cinema.

Nick: I like to practice martial arts, read, watch films and train in the gym.

Why did you choose to fundraise for TWOWEEKS?

Becky: I have always wanted to get involved in aid work but as I have always had a full time job throughout my adult life I have never had the chance to pursue this dream. I love the fact that with TWOWEEKS, professionals can volunteer on a short-term basis, meaning that I can help out with a worthy project across the globe without having to take a sabbatical from work. So when I decided that I wanted to do the London to Brighton bike ride there was no question as to what charity I would raise money for.

Nick: I like the idea of going abroad and directly helping people in need and getting the satisfaction of knowing you will make a difference rather than just giving money to a charity.

How did you train for the bike ride?

Becky: I started training in March and I could have started earlier if it wasn’t for all the snow! Starting was slow and initially I started just by cycling to and from work although, as I live on Reigate Hill on the North Downs, the 4-mile ride to work and back again was a rather good start. I then went into full swing with training by cycling to work on weekdays and taking time on the weekends to go on long cycles in the Surrey Hills or along the Brighton coast.  As the training progressed I got fitter and could go faster and longer. It now only takes me 8 minutes to cycle the 2 miles to work in the morning and only 12 minutes to get back in the evening (give me a break – it’s mostly uphill on the way back!). I was also able to increase the length, difficulty and distance of my weekend rides. Going from just 10 miles along the Brighton prom to a 23-mile ride around the Surrey Hills including part of the route that the cyclist did at the Olympics. Although I did have to stop for a breather a couple of times on the zigzag road on Box Hill (but who can blame me?).

What were the highs of training?

Becky: The feeling of achievement after having done a long ride or beating my personal best for my morning ride to work or evening ride back. I’m a very competitive person so any time I beat my husband is also a high point. However, he has always been a lot fitter than I am so this doesn’t happen very often.

Nick: Resting and relaxing afterwards…

Tell us about the ride itself.

Becky: We set out from Clapham Common at 9.30am, filled with excitement and apprehension. There was a lot of queuing to get out of London but we didn’t mind much as the atmosphere of the people around us was great and frankly it forced us to take it slowly. The hills were a bit bothersome for many reasons; one because there was a lot of up and little down, and two because almost everyone got off and pushed on them so it was impossible to get up them quickly. There was a few times that were well worth the hard work though. This included the really steep downhill bits where I could go as fast as I would brave (hit 35mph on one of the hills in Brighton!) and the support from cyclists and spectators alike.

Why do you think fundraising for charity matters?

Becky: We are very lucky to live in a country where we get free, good-quality healthcare, schools and other public services and live to a very high standard of living compared to a lot of places in the world. I therefore think it’s only fair that we help and support countries and communities that are not so lucky. I would love to think that by getting on my bike, getting fit, and having a fabulous and memorable day, I may have helped to change somebody’s life for the better.

TWOWEEKS News: We are building a house at Lily of the Valley!

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Aside from the usual tasks at hand on our April 2012 trip to South Africa my other focus on the trip was planning for the future and our ongoing partnership with Lily of the Valley Orphanage.

As time has gone on we have rolled out more trips and had more and more volunteers donating their time and sharing their skills with the team at Lily and communities in the surrounding townships. However, as Lily has also expanded, the pressures on accommodation have become more acute and so TWOWEEKS is now building a house there. Our very first TWOWEEKS home that will accommodation both long and short-term volunteers!

Our aim is that this will not only serve as a place for our volunteers to stay whilst they are working at Lily but also serve as a base for this region as requests for help from other volunteers and NGOs has increased in recent months, if not years.

TWOWEEKS has been working with Lily for over six years and our team and volunteers have enjoyed our time working with the staff and volunteers at Lily and within the surrounding communities immensely. We initially started out as a couple of doctors looking after the children at the orphanage but as time has gone on and our remit and vision has developed and extended we have found ourselves being approached by other organisations, charities and NGOs in the Durban region. They have all asked us to assist them with their needs and it is part of the TWOWEEKS vision to work with organisations that have sustainable and ongoing enterprises and reach out to the community.

With our progression and success, issues with accommodation have arisen which have meant we have had to turn volunteers away due to a limited capacity to accommodate them at Lily. So, with this and other issues in mind we would like to address this by building our very own accommodation – our first ‘TWOWEEKS Home’. This will serve as a base for our volunteers to stay in, to assist not only with the children at Lily of the Valley but also with other partners and organisations in the surrounding areas. Our vision is to develop a student volunteer and elective program for students training in different professions. These would initially include medical, nursing and dental students who need experience in a different environment but who could also assist the staff and volunteers at Lily and contribute to sustainable enterprises.

TWOWEEKS HOME REQUIREMENTS

TWOWEEKS now proposes that we build a dedicated home at Lily for future volunteers – both long and short term. We will be responsible for the fundraising to build and furnish this house.

We will seek contributions from elective students and corporate sponsorship to pay for overheads such as running water and electricity so that Lily does not incur any additional costs.

WHAT IS NEEDED?

  • A four to six bedroom home, which can accommodate two people per bedroom
  • Ideally two separate living areas – a lounge and a kitchen/diner
  • Two bathrooms/shower rooms
  • Ideally two rooms with en-suite shower rooms which would be reserved for long-term volunteers
  • Secure storage space/cupboards
  • The property would be located near to other residential sites. We have already started looking at accommodation near to Bushwillow
  • Opportunity to extend the property with a view to accommodating long-term volunteers
  • Areas that enable outside living and relaxation

WHY IS IT NEEDED?

Back in 2010, I was part of a team that had medical volunteers and we did our usual trip into the community to see the sick and dying. One of the people we saw was an elderly lady and her mature son who had severe learning disabilities. He was in his 30s and this poor lady was struggling with his care. She loved her son dearly but found it difficult to ensure that he did not wander away and cause himself harm. He also suffered with epilepsy and so ensuring this added issue did not lead to serious harm caused her to lock him away in a small wooden shed to ensure that he did not get lost and that she could care for him as she herself did not have the best mobility and health.

We obviously were all affected by what we saw and other members of the team had seen similar cases such as this in the community. Other situations became evident when volunteers assisted in the local township schools and saw mature adults with learning difficulties put into corners and left to their own devices (with supervision to ensure that they did not come to harm). However, there was no dedicated therapy or education and so we quickly concluded that a teacher with special needs training and assistance from an occupational therapist would help people in these situations immensely. They would not only provide assistance for the time they were there, but also try and impart some knowledge of even simple things that could be done by teachers and parents/carers to help make these individuals lives better.

Remarkably, on our return back to the UK we held an introductory meeting soon after and a teacher with special needs experience attended and expressed an interest in joining the trip going out later that year. However, after all was said and done, there was not sufficient accommodation available at Lily at that time and we were unable to utilise this lady’s skills. It was an opportunity lost and it was at that stage that we realised that if we are to continue to develop what we are doing and expand, we need a more long-term solution for our accommodation and storage of equipment. Lily has their hands full feeding and providing for their 126 children and we have all felt the effects of the recession so money to build further accommodation is limited. We have decided to do it on their behalf and raise the money ourselves.

We have the site and land set aside for us and we also have the plans and vision of building a 6-bedroom property. Now we need £10,000 to complete it. Please join us in completing this task so that more people can go and help.

Any ideas or extra pairs of hands to help us with our cause would be very much appreciated.Join us and turn this house into a home, a TWOWEEKS home.

Karen Patten | karen@twoweeks.org.uk

TRIP UPDATE TO LILY OF THE VALLEY IN APRIL 2012

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Images of the April 2012 trip can be found on our Facebook page.

April heralded the first trip of 2012 for TWOWEEKS to Lily of the Valley in South Africa. Our team comprised of Jennifer Tomlins, Mimi Hou, Davinia Powell and myself Karen Patten. Ying Teo was to join the team a week later due to work commitments.

We arrived on the Sunday and by Monday the team was getting stuck in to their planned activities. As ever, it is always a pleasure going back to Lily of the Valley and seeing the children there. However, on this trip I was struck how some of our ‘sweet Lily babies’ have now grown into young adults. This was especially noticeable when I showed some pictures to some of the volunteers and we saw how small the children had looked when I first went to Lily in 2005. Back then our focus had been wholly on reviewing the health of the children and ensuring that all medical complaints were identified and that those with HIV/AIDS were on the correct medication. Well, with the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, staff at Lily and also in the associated hospitals and health centres in South Africa, the children at Lily are now much healthier and living longer. In fact, hearing that a child has died at Lily is now a rarity and we all rejoice in this change. However, with this development comes a new challenge in that Lily and the extended Lily family need to prepare these children and young adults for the time that they will leave. We not only want our Lily children to survive, we want them to flourish.

This is not an easy thing. 130 children need food and clothes and a solid education to equip them with skills to earn a wage and pay those bills. However, they also need other training and skills like learning how to cook, how to buy a pair of shoes, how to open a bank account. When you live in an orphanage you do not ‘pop to the shops’ or bank with your mother or father, things are brought to you, given to you and there is little insight into how the process of acquiring and working for these things has occurred.

So with this in mind, Lily has now developed their school and extended the classes and age groups they teach. Lilyvale School http://www.lov.org.za/our-work/lilyvale-school/ now teaches Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10. They have a dedicated headmaster and teachers who originate from the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe and it is truly wonderful to see the great work that this dedicated team do.

Davinia, who works in marketing, has skills in mentoring and doing workshops and her focus on this trip was to work with the older children at Lily, preparing then for life after Lily. She worked primarily with Grade 10 youngsters who are between the ages of 14 to 21 (yes, 21 years is the oldest ‘child’ at Lily now – an amazing achievement!). She held classes and workshops for the children and I was privileged enough to sit in on a couple of her sessions. For one of them, she asked the class to draw and develop ‘vision boards’. A vision board is where you put all your hopes and dreams on a poster. It’s your vision of what you would like to be, do and acquire in your life and the focus on how you will achieve them then follows. I will always remember the speech that Davinia gave before she talked about doing the vision boards as she spoke about her father and where he came from in Jamaica. How he worked hard to save and travel to England and start with very little to get a job, a home and provide for his family. She explained that whilst he may not have acquired all he had hoped for regarding his life, his vision was not just about himself, but he was thinking of the future for his children and one day grandchildren and now as his daughter, Davinia had received a good education, has a good job and achieved many things in her life all because of his hard work and ambition in taking this initial step. It reminded me of the sacrifices that my parents had made as well and I think it showed the children that success does not begin and end with them, but is an ongoing process for generations to come.

The children then set about drawing and developing their vision boards and as I walked around the class, I cannot lie, tears came to my eyes. Some of our children drew fast cars and fancy jewellery and similar luxury items. Others stated that they wanted to become lawyers, businessmen, teachers and one was most specific regarding their future chosen profession and wanted to become a cardiothoracic surgeon! But many of them drew simple houses, with a family outside, their family. Wherever we come from, we seem to all have the same dream – a family a home, a place and people to call our own.

I am not sure how it happened but I also got roped into doing some teaching with the older children at Lily. I was asked to do some classes on childbirth and pregnancy and other health-related issues including diet and hygiene. One of my favourite classes was when I taught on the different parts of the body and asked the children to draw where they thought they were but on a live subject called Pete who is a long-term volunteer at Lily. The session on childbirth was also great fun and trying to show the children how women give birth was a particular highlight as I could not show any gory films so used a very willing male assistant from the class. He loved stuffing a jumper under his t-shirt to mimic being pregnant and the actual delivery was an event in itself! It caused a lot of laughter and we all had a lot of fun that day.

But not all of the sessions were as joyful. I decided to make the last class with the older children a Q&A session as there were often so many questions asked during the other classes. So I thought that it would be a good idea to let them talk about things that they wanted to know. At the beginning of the session Davinia and I handed out blank pieces of paper and let them write their questions anonymously and we then picked them out of a box, reading each one and addressing the question posed. But the first question that I picked up was, ‘I have a disease that cannot be cured, what will happen to me? Will I live?’. The question just stopped me in my tracks and I was left speechless and stayed silent for a while as I tried to compose myself and then took a deep breath and answered the question as best as I could. I was reminded that teenagers have very different things to worry about and with all of the laughter and joking aside, this is what many of them have to live with every day. A sobering thought and a very difficult reality that needs to be addressed as well. Other questions asked were about cancer, contraception and ‘why is life so hard?’. These children have had to grow up a lot faster than others and this session highlighted and reminded us how much they have been through.

The medical side of the team comprised of Jennifer and Mimi, and we were later joined by Ying. They primarily assisted in the clinic at Lily seeing walk-in patients in the mornings and also assisted with the circumcision program that is being rolled out in South Africa. Research has shown that the spread of HIV & AIDS is reduced when men are circumcised so there is a big program to perform as many procedures as possible in male populations in the townships and the take-up has been very good. The team assisted the surgical team that visited from McCords hospital and also did pre-assessment and post-assessment reviews of the patients.

They also went out into the community and did ‘head to toe’ reviews of children in local township crèches and picked up a number of newly diagnosed complaints, recorded heights and weights and treated many fungal scalp infections. We also did community visits in the township and reviewed the equipment that had been donated to the clinic and sorted through this checking what would be useful and what had expired. So in short, they were very busy during their time there!

Luckily it was not all work and our team were blessed with particularly good weather during their stay and so many an evening was spent sat around the fire pit outside our accommodation sharing life stories and listening to the sounds of Africa all around us as we were staying on the borders of the Tala game reserve.

Before we knew it, our two weeks were coming to an end. We had many good times, a few challenges and even more memorable moments that we would carry home with us and keep for years to come.

However, as is always our vision and hope, the work with Lily and TWOWEEKS does not always need to stop when volunteers return home. After working with the Lilyvale school and seeing their needs, Davinia returned to the UK and contacted the Pearsons office in South Africa and a consignment of very valuable school books were sent to the school which were much appreciated. This is testimony to the vision that even though a volunteer may work for two weeks at a partner organisation like Lily, things do not have to end there. It can actually be the beginning of another initiative or development of a program to help. The possibilities to help are endless and so we continue on.

Once again, thank you all for your help and support and please join us on our mission to raise money for our TWOWEEKS Lily home and for us to continue doing our trips to help the many disadvantaged and needy people in South Africa.

Karen Patten

TWOWEEKS Volunteer Profile: John Baylis

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

John Baylis supported TWOWEEKS by fundraising and making a 2-week trip out to Lily of the Valley in March 2011 and he’s continued supporting TWOWEEKS ever since. John has a background in both hospital and community pharmacy and currently works as a clinical pharmacist in the mental health setting. The work his team undertook at Lily last year made an enormous difference to the ongoing healthcare support that TWOWEEKS provides to the local communities in Mophela, South Africa. We asked John a few questions about what motivates him and how he found his TWOWEEKS volunteering experience.

What do you enjoy about the work you do?

No matter which area of pharmacy I find myself working in, I like to focus on providing the best healthcare outcomes to patients. Working as a clinical pharmacist requires good problem-solving skills and the ability to communicate sometimes complex information to other staff, patients or carers. Of course such skills were needed in South Africa where the differences in healthcare provision and available resources meant we had to think on our feet everyday.

Tell us about your TWOWEEKS experience.

My experience of TWOWEEKS is focused around the two weeks I spent at Lily of the Valley Orphanage and the surrounding community in March of 2011. The important point I took from my experience was to keep in mind (throughout all our work) the underlying principle and philosophy of TWOWEEKS, which is, not to try and change everything in such a short period of time but to leave behind training, education and structure which can help future workers and volunteers build upon the work long term. Two weeks to leave a legacy so to speak.

But initially the idea started when a colleague mentioned doing some volunteer work in South Africa. I first went to an introductory meeting with two members of the TWOWEEKS team. The meeting was friendly and informal and put me at ease. I got the impression this was a charity that did not want anything from me other than the skills I could provide for the benefit of others.

After discussing some general points and further planning we met again prior to our trip. This was to discuss specifics such as timetables, safety, people, places etc and was a great primer offered by the TWOWEEKS team to make sure we knew who to ask, where to go and how to stay safe in South Africa. I felt confident at this point that under the guidance of the TWOWEEKS team we could start to concentrate our efforts away from such ‘logistics’ and focus on the role-specific task at hand.

With this in mind, we were somewhat heading down an unknown path. Up until this point TWOWEEKS had never used pharmacists to provide healthcare services at any of its sites or projects, so we didn’t know of how much use we could be. However, in the back of my mind I was confident we could aid Lily of the Valley and the local community by utilising our specific skill-set as pharmacists.

When we got to Lily of the Valley, we were shown to our on-site home for two weeks. It was great being situated on the edge of a game park as we shared our ‘back garden’ with many African species. Very early on we were introduced to some of the key members of the Lily of the Valley team; from managerial to healthcare staff and the House Mothers who live in with the children as surrogate mothers or in some cases fathers. The whole team were very friendly and so glad to have us there. Of course we also met the kids. In this we were not given a choice, as on getting out of the 4×4 within the children’s complex, we were immediately mobbed and pressed into playing football, trampolining and generally running around making strange noises and all sorts of things we had not participated in since our own childhood.

Our work was largely split three ways. The first area we worked in was the Lily of the Valley Orphanage itself. Here we looked at the children’s clinic and the provision of ARV (antiretroviral) medications to the children. We quickly identified some problems, pharmaceutical in nature and set about planning to rectify what we could with limited time. Some of the simpler measures included basic dispensary formularies, storage, disposal and stock rotation. Whilst some of the more advanced interventions surrounded the education of non-healthcare professionals, who were responsible for administration of the ARV medication. It was important to impart the messages of dose timing and adherence to get the best out of the children’s medication and improve clinical outcomes.

Our second main area of work was the community clinic. Here we also looked at basic dispensary process and stock issues. We also looked at the potential of the clinic for further expanded use and indeed have recently continued to do so from the UK.

The third area was working in the community. Here we were guided around the two local townships by a member of that community and a local nurse based out of the community clinic. We undertook medicines use assessments and clinical medicine checks, for example checking doses, indications, interactions and any problems patients may have had when taking their medications. We found many issues and when appropriate wrote referral letters to local doctors to make interventions in patients’ medicine regimens. One example that sticks in my mind was a young man who had started to experience seizures, despite taking his medication, around twice a week. His mother described the seizures as increasing in severity (increasing the risk of brain damage). The simple intervention, given his current dose, was to make a small stepwise increase until he was rendered seizure-free. So many times it was addressing the basics to make a huge difference.

What makes you tick outside of your work and volunteering?

I really enjoy mountain biking and am lucky enough to have the South Downs on my doorstep, which provides miles of countryside trails to explore. This helps me keep fit and get fresh air. If I am not feeling active enough (some Sundays!) to get out on my bike, I like to walk in local countryside for the same reasons: sunlight and fresh air! I do find however, that the UK doesn’t hold enough adventure/wilderness for me. After travelling to Alaska in late 2010, hiking trails, using ATV’s for off-road travel and having a couple of close bear encounters whilst camping, I am keen to go back.

My second big passion is target shooting. It is a slightly misunderstood sport and when telling people I am often wary of quizzical or worried responses. This is largely due to public mis-education about firearms for sporting use. Like mountain biking, shooting lets me get outside. I shoot rain or shine; mainly at the home of British shooting, Bisley Ranges in Surrey. Shooting lets me forget the everyday trappings of life as it requires a great deal of skill, knowledge and concentration to place a bullet travelling at over twice the speed of sound into a six-inch circle at 600 yards.

I also enjoy drawing and art and play the bass guitar. These hobbies have been somewhat neglected of late!