January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
Our Trip to Lily of the Valley in November 2011 was full of emotion, challenges, successes, trials and appreciation. I feel renewed, refreshed and grateful. We did so much; ranging from piloting a new health program for children in the local communities surrounding Lily, working with local social workers on a suspected case of child abuse, nursing a very sick child with AIDs and conducting medical examinations on children in need. Within seeing 20 children, Samina and I had picked up two heart murmurs, two urinary infections, one likely case of diabetes and three children with HIV/AIDS. And that was just one class in one school. The possibilities to identify more cases of illness and disease is immense! We are proud that we were here at the start and that from our past efforts a bigger program will be rolled out to this district and perhaps even the whole of Durban which would be fantastic. Because of the huge need, we were told that our volunteers would always be needed with such a program.
We had a lot of meetings to establish links with old and new institutions, NGOs and people who TWOWEEKS need to work with in South Africa and who are related to the new ‘regime’ at Lily. Our trip was not free of sadness. One of the reports I completed was on a three-year-old girl who I reviewed in a school in a district adjacent to Lily as suspicions of child abuse arose due to her behaviour when examined and further medical tests undertaken. We made sure that we sought advice from social workers, psychologists and Lily before proceeding as it was a sensitive issue that meant potentially accusing innocent parents of child abuse, which we knew would not go down well with that community and news would spread also.
We discussed the situation and our suspicions with the head of the local social worker division and followed her advice to report our concerns to the headmistress of the school. She confirmed our suspicions and said that this child was always sad, withdrawn, never played and always sat alone in a corner. However, she went on to say that she would not do anything as there would be repercussions to herself, family and position at the school. “I know her stepfather”, she said, “and it would not be good for me.” Despite our protestations, the Zulu nurse attending this meeting with us explained that this is a real concern and retaliation is commonplace with situations like this. Needless to say we left that meeting very upset, confused and disappointed but in truth I do not live in this lady’s shoes and therefore cannot pass judgement. However, we could not abandon this child and so we are now handing over our concern to the social workers for them to help this little girl. We need to protect our children and sadly abuse if rife in South Africa – a bewildering and unpallatable fact that needs to be addressed.
Another sad situation arose when we tried to help a 12-year-old girl called Thobeka who had come to Lily about three months ago. She had full-blown AIDS and fell ill three weeks after arriving at Lily. She was admitted to hospital back in June and had remained there ever since. She had previously suffered with meningitis and as a result had paralysis on the right side of her body. But she made progress and picked up whilst admitted in hospital. However, South African public hospital care is very different from that in the UK and on the ward children are jampacked in together with all ailments (contagious or otherwise). So she not only had a low white cell count (i.e. AIDS) to deal with but she also caught TB and then meningitis again. Her immune system was just too weak.
Samina and I were asked to review her and find out if there was any way to improve her situation and prognosis. We went to the hospital that was a good 40 minutes drive away and spoke with the resident paediatrician in charge of her care. On our first visit he expressed hope and a determination to fight in her corner but as the days passed and she deteriorated further, it became clear that her chances of survival were fading fast and so we tried our best to get her transferred to a palliative care hospital as the care she was receiving at this particular hospital was abysmal. In South African public hospitals, parents are only allowed to stay with their children if they are being breast fed, so most of the children there stay alone. And even though Thobeka was an orphan, the Lily volunteers and staff at the village and clinic tried their very best to see her as often as they could in that small window of visiting hours, which was between 1-3pm each day. When we visited, Thobeka was often dirty, lying in soiled sheets and the nurses showed no care or attention. Her lips were cracked and sore and she often cried and moaned when we were there. Bless Thobeka. It was so hard leaving her when we visited and although we bought her cuddly toys and things to brighten her bed situated in a dimly lit area of the ward, it was not the same as a touch of a hand or a stroke of her brow which she appreciated when we were there. The Lily long-term volunteers also did what they could and two even took a guitar and sang to her. Whilst sitting with her I thought about all the people who ask, ‘What can I do in two weeks?’ Merely having a volunteer sit with this little girl each day and perhaps with the other children on the ward would have made such a big difference to her suffering.
We tried so hard to help this little girl but money was always the barrier. To move her to a semi-private hospital would have cost £100 a day and we tried to think of ways to raise the money; phonecalls, emails etc. We just needed time. With the global economic downturn, NGOs and charities such as Lily and TWOWEEKS have all felt the effects of reduced donations and cash flow and if you take £100 a day and give it to this one child, you take it away from helping the remaining 129 children who live at Lily. So we tried to think of ways to help little Thobeka and we even went to a hospice and asked for their help. A plan began to develop that if they could accept Thobeka in a side room and Lily hired a nurse to sit with her (a far cheaper option than transferring her to a private hospital), then she would be cared for and be nearer to Lily so that more people could visit. We just needed more time. But sadly on the 30th November we learned that Thobeka had died that morning. So sad. And whilst her suffering is no more, I just wish we could have made her final days with us more comfortable and surrounded by love. Lily now plan to build a small hospice facility to care for children in situations just like this and we hope to support them with this aim. Poor little Thobeka, she had such a hard struggle and who knows how her life was before she came to Lily. I pray she is now at peace.
Kamal did some stellar work at Lily and focused her time on working with the older children who will one day grow to adulthood and have to leave Lily. Most of them have lived at Lily for most of their lives and so the concept of leaving and having to fend for themselves is quite foreign to them and now being addressed in a big way. Kamal did a workshop on job interviews with the children to get them thinking about the process of looking and securing a job. She also worked a lot in the IT class which is situated near the clinic in the community projects that Lily has developed. She taught adults and children from the local community how to navigate around the net, search for things and jobs and produce a CV and covering letter. It was really touching as on the last day a couple of her students that she had taught from the community came up to her and said thank you and took pictures with her. It was smiles all round and I felt very proud of her as it was clear that she had made a difference to these two ladies who expressed their appreciation so warmly.
So that was our trip. There is still so much to be done but we are on the case.
Words by Karen Patten
January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
The march trip to South Africa had four pharmacists travel, along with Richard (who also happens to be my brother) and I. The pharmacists did medication reviews in the community and also assisted with the clinic and the children at Lily. They really opened my eyes to what pharmacists can do. But they did not stop there – they also did fundraising by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and jumped out of a plane for TWOWEEKS as well. Bless them! And after coming back from their ‘world tour of adventures’, they continued to look at ways to get cheap meds from drug companies to help supply the Lily clinic.
Richard was meant to help with food distribution, but as is often the case in South Africa, things rarely go to plan. So we arrived at Lily to be informed that they had already distributed the food that they had for the month. He was understandably really disappointed, but ended up working with the older children at Lily and playing football with the men in the township as there is a pitch at Lily that many of the township folks come to. Now, this may sound a bit frivolous, but it was in fact a very good thing. We often go out into the community and a lot of our preparation for volunteers focuses on educating them about being safe. Crime is a real problem in South Africa and all of our volunteers must be aware and prepared. But after Richard played football and also went to a football tournament in the township, we subsequently went into the township and the young men that we had often viewed with suspicion and caution were now asking after Richard and knew that I was his sister. They even went as far as to compliment him on his ability to play football. After this, our trips into the community seemed less threatening and in truth, less stressful. It was a really good thing and we felt safer for it.
Words by Karen Patten
January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
August heralded a further trip to Lily comprising of Patricia (trustee and doctor) and Natasha (a nurse). They had aimed to assist with the clinic at Lily, but it turned out that they did more than assist as the doctor that usually runs the clinic at Lily and the nurse practitioner both became unwell just after Patricia arrived. She therefore ended up running the clinic singlehandedly, bless her. She was so busy seeing patients and from all reports, did an excellent job.
Natasha assisted in the clinic, but also did some sex education with the older children at Lily. Now in the past, Lily, being a Christian organisation, taught abstinence regarding this sensitive matter. However, we had been saying that whilst this is a good idea in some respects, it is not realistic in others and now that our children are living longer and getting older, it is important to address this situation as a number of them have HIV & AIDS. Well, it took a few years, but Lily finally agreed and 2011 was our first year with ‘Sex Ed’ and it went down a storm. In fact, news of Natasha’s work shops spread and she ended up going to a local school in the township and another orphanage linked to Lily called Makaphutu. On my return in November, people were still asking after her and whether she could come back and talk to their children or students. It nearly got to the stage that I was
taking bookings – I was so proud.
But again, that was not where her dedication and passion ended. Natasha came back to the UK and realising that a lot of the older girls were without bras (due to underwear being a luxury there), she is now in the process of setting up a charity to provide bras (and pants) to the older girls at Lily and perhaps one day, the ladies in the township as well. Again – fantastic!!! So once again, even thought someone was present at the project for only two weeks, they have gone on to do other things and continue the work they started. Natasha is hoping to return to Lily in 2012.
January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
November was our final trip of the year. Again we had a small team going out to Lily with Samina (trustee and doctor), Kamal (IT specialist and soon-to-be-teacher) and myself. Our team was small due to issues regarding accommodation that had plagued our trips in 2011 and this was the time to sort it out.
So we headed to Lily and had meeting after meeting with folks old and new, to try and sort out various issues that the TWOWEEKS team and volunteers had been experiencing. It was tiring and sometimes frustrating as we constantly had to ‘educate’ folks about the vision and work of TWOWEEKS and provide evidence of our effectiveness but little by little with each meeting, we began to win folks round and they saw what we had achieved and the potential of what we could do in the future. Our mission was accomplished and we have been given permission to build a house at Lily for our volunteers. We will also buy a vehicle of our own as well, as hiring one when we go on trips is very costly. Now all we have to do is raise the money!!!! But once we have built our TWOWEEKS home, it will be much easier to send volunteers and also leave equipment and supplies, which will save time and money and valuable space in our suitcases!
Kamal worked with the older children on their careers and future and this went well. With our children getting older and surviving, Lily never had to think about their future or things like securing jobs for them. They are truly ‘institutionalised’ and getting them to be inspired and out of the orphanage ‘everything is given to me’ mentality is not easy. Kamal also worked with the community in the IT school and provided classes on developing CVs and covering letters. She also taught students how to navigate the internet and look up things and send documents. This was a great success also. On our final day at Lily, two of her students approached Kamal and asked to take pictures with her. They thanked her for her help and it was smiles all around. It was a good moment and illustrated how much she had achieved as they talked about the jobs they hoped to get now that they had a CV and covering letter. It made me realise that whilst we have been gathering statistics to present to sponsors and supporters (to prove effectiveness), at the end of the day it is all about the individual and the impact our help can make for even one person, their family and their future. Again, I was really proud of what Kamal achieved.
I should also add that Kamal held a fundraising house warming party before our trip and her friends and family generously donated £480 to TWOWEEKS.
Samina and I not only met with what seemed like every hospital and NGO official in the district, but we also attended to children and staff at Lily, worked in the clinic and piloted a new scheme to roll out health checks to children in local schools in surrounding townships. This was really exciting as within seeing our first few children in a kindergarten class, we picked up heart murmurs, suspected urinary tract infections, cases of HIV & AIDS and a suspected case of diabetes. And that was just one class! We went on to discover even more with each class and school we visited and it really illustrated the need for such a service. Getting check ups are not really done in the poorer communities of South Africa and as a result many things get missed which invariably affects education, development and indeed survival. We presented our findings to Lily and also with local institutions and one hospital director and they were really interested in what we had done and asked for our report as they would like to extend this scheme.
This is really exciting for us and indeed the communities it will help and we hope to continue assisting with this program in the future with not only medical volunteers, but other specialists as the scope for developing this program with dentists, special needs teachers, social workers and so on, is huge.