Trip Update to Lily of the Valley in March 2011

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment


The Pharmacy Four at Lily

We ended up at Lily completely by chance. Sian and I had been in the pub one night after work with our boss Vin (Preti’s cousin) and he happened to briefly mention TWOWEEKS and Lily of the Valley Orphanage. We quite liked the idea of doing some volunteering and decided we’d head to one of the intro meetings to find out more.  After meeting the lovely TWOWEEKS team and hearing all about Lily it was decided, Africa here we come! It was originally just Sian and I however after hearing about our plans John and Simon soon joined the team and we began planning not only our time at Lily but also our trip down southern Africa starting with Killimanjaro then onto Zanzibar, Zambia, Botswana, Kruger then Lily.

March 20

We were greeted at the airport by Karen, Richard, Pat and Noel. First stop was the supermarket for supplies then off to Lily – our new home for 16 days. After unpacking the first job was the all important room check! This check is basically to check for beasties and creepy crawlies in all the rooms as no one had stayed in this building for a while. First room was John’s and he had a family of spiders under his bed but they didn’t look poisonous (hopefully!) so we let them be. Under the next bed however there was a frog which we proceeded to chase round the room with a cup and a piece of paper. The next shock was in one of the bathrooms where we saw the most MASSIVE spider living under the bath behind the plastic panelling.  We all screamed, even the boys, and no one wanted to move it so that bathroom became a no go area. The rest of the rooms were fine except the lounge where we found a whole family of frogs which we had to run around and try to catch.

March 21

Today we discovered that marshmallows and nutella roasted on a fire are delicious!  We have also started trying to come up with nicknames for everyone; John is “Bear Ghrylls” because of his ability to build fires and his fancy penknife. Simon was dubbed the “Frog Man” from the previous night’s antics where he demonstrated himself as the best frog-catcher by far. My nickname is now “Milo Queen” as my first purchase in the supermarket was a huge tin of the yummy malt-based drink.

March 22

We were in the community this morning: Si and Sian went to Mophela while John and myself went to Sankontshe. We did home visits with Sihle and tried to see how the patients were storing their medicines and whether or not they were taking them as directed. This exercise was a real eye-opener at how people live in the townships and how simple things like getting transport to the clinic to pick up their medicines can often take weeks of saving. After the visit we managed to lay down some aims and objectives and reckon it should be a pretty productive two weeks.

March 23

Today Bear (John) faced his biggest challenge yet: opening a tin of Spar guacamole.  Everyone from the group had tried and failed meaning our hopes of having the perfect nachos for dinner rested on the shoulders of one man. A long time passed and Bear tried several techniques yet the task inevitably defeated him. Luckily thanks to a fork I finally managed to open the elusive jar and the nachos were enjoyed by all!

March 24

Had the most incredibly productive and fun day at Lily so far. Started off the morning with another community visit to Sankontsche and Mophela seeing 11 patients in total. We went around with Sihle and the home based carers and did medicine reviews with the patients. We managed to identify lots of significant interventions and ways of optimising patients’ treatment. For example one lady was taking her 100mg atenolol and amlodipine 10mg twice daily instead of once daily; a huge overdose.   We also wrote a few referral letters for doctors giving advice on prescribing which hopefully fingers crossed they’ll follow up.

Karen and Richard had an interesting day getting stopped by the police for some kind of “illegal” movement at a junction. Luckily they weren’t subjected to the police brutality we’d read about in local newspapers and they got off with a small fine.

In the evening we had a braai and invited the Phase 3 boys to join. The night started off a bit slow and they were your typical non-talkative adolescents but with a few burgers down them and some fizzy pop they soon became chattier. Bear, Frog Man and Richard did a cracking BBQ and us girls made salsa, coleslaw and potato salad which all went down a right treat! The evening soon livened up and the house brother did a DJ set on his laptop which was brilliant and wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Ibiza. The other boys all showed us their brilliant dance moves and it was like watching the movie Step Up or Footloose.

March 25

Had a very hectic day to end the week, only fair I suppose seeing as it was a four day week thanks to the bank holiday. We split up into teams today and focused on different areas: the boys were sent to make a formulary for the children’s clinic while Sian and I went off to Mid Ilovo with Sihle and Dr Leon.

At Mid Ilovo we quickly set up the “clinic” in an empty classroom. There was one rickety table on which Leon put his stethoscope, BP monitor etc. and then another table which was to be the pharmacy with two cardboard boxes full of medicines. By the time we arrived there was already a massive queue of people outside the door waiting so we had to get started quick sharp! Was a very hectic morning and we ended up seeing 43 patients in the space of three hours.

The boys sorted through the medicines cupboard removing medicines that weren’t suitable, such as IV antibiotics, and those that were out of date. They then began compiling a formulary of medicines that should be kept in the cupboard and when and how to give them to the children.


March 26 – 27

Had a brilliant weekend before Karen and Richard left for England. We went to 1000 hills and had a big fry-up breakfast then wandered around the craft shops. We then went down to the beach and hit the shopping centre for a few bits and bobs. On the Sunday the weather decided to turn and it poured down for most the day. Luckily that didn’t stop the Lily kids and they were out playing so we went and spent time with them and did some face painting which got very messy.

March 28– 29

We had a busy few days of home visits and sorting out the medicine cupboard in the children’s village.

March 30

Had a rather hairy evening and tonight was probably the first time I’ve been scared since arriving Africa. We decided to go to the cinema and on the way there we drove past the bus station in Sankontshe and there were swarms of people all over the road and pavement. Lise (Lily’s teacher) thought that maybe there had been a small crash or a bus had broken down or something, being excited about the film though we didn’t give it a second thought.

On the way back we drove into Sankontshe and noticed there was loads of debris on the roads and then we came across a huge ditch that ran the whole way across the road.  It didn’t look deep and stopping the car was NOT an option so John drove slowly through.  BANG!  Turned out to be a really deep ditch and even in a 4×4 it made a crunching noise and did not sound good.  A few minutes later and there was a fire in the middle of the road and another even bigger ditch. It was starting to get freaky so we put all the windows up and John just powered through. There was one more fire and then the third ditch the biggest and baddest of them all. We made it through then sped over the bridge into Mophela and up the hill to Lily.

Ten minutes later we got a call from the other volunteers who had got stuck right in the middle of it and had to be saved by the police from a man wielding some kind of farming implement. We found out the following day that the riots were because a child had been run over earlier that evening and the locals dug up the road as they were petitioning for more speed bumps. We would like to note for any future volunteers that I don’t think this is a regular occurrence and we did all arrive back at Lily safe and sound.

April 5

It’s been a jampacked 48 hours as we raced to finish our final report and knock the socks off Ken. After lots of arguing over the wording of the report and overuse of the phrase “continuity of care” we were finally finished and ready to present. The meeting went well with Ken and Brandon both being super pleased with what we had all done and our ideas for the future.

My two weeks at Lily of the Valley was the highlight of my 6-month trip. I feel the work we did was invaluable and we have identified many more areas in which pharmacists can assist so hopefully it won’t be too long before I visit Lily again!
Words and images by Sarah Belcher

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