Sunday, 16 August 2015

Guest Blog - A Visit from Rhi

Rhi, my younger sister, recently came to visit me in Kaniki. I asked her to write a post about her experience...

Most people who know me would be able to tell you how much I love my job as an Occupational Therapist. I have the privilege of visiting patients in their own homes and helping them find ways of improving their independence and quality of life. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to join Ellie and Rosie on some of their regular visits to people supported by Arise during my time in Kaniki.

Twice a week, Ellie and/or Rosie drive out to the surrounding areas to visit the families who are part of the Arise project. As they only have about two hours each time and there are over 80 families in the project, they get to meet about three or four families per visit. Either Lister or Evangeline, the two Arise volunteers, joins them to help translate between English and Bemba. These visits allow the Arise team to see how the families are, find out what challenges they are currently facing and offer encouragement and support. It also means that the Arise team can ensure that the money being donated to the charity is used for the most urgent needs.

Eva, Rosie, Ellie and Lister

I found the Arise visits both encouraging and incredibly humbling. Over the past year Zambia has faced a poor rainfall, so many families have been unable to harvest enough food for the coming months. Understandably, this was often mentioned as the biggest challenge that the families face. We also met families with other needs, such as an elderly lady caring for her orphaned granddaughter who didn’t even own a pair of shoes, and an orphaned child living with her grandparents who didn’t have a coat, despite the fact that it can get very cold at night and in the mornings. Being face-to-face with such extreme need can feel uncomfortable, especially when you have four pairs of flip-flops in your suitcase and lots of coats hanging up at home, not to mention seven supermarkets within a mile of your home in England. It is difficult not to jump in straight away and buy them whatever they ask for. But this level of need is on such a large scale, and so wisdom is required when providing support. Ellie and Rosie try to find out what the most urgent needs are and ensure the families know that the Arise project is there for support during desperate times.

Visiting an Arise guardian

The most memorable family that we visited during my time in Kaniki was a lady called Charity and her three sons. Charity is malnourished and bedbound, suffering from a very severe and undiagnosed condition which results in open, weeping sores on her hands, head, face and feet. She also has Herpes which has similar effects on other areas of her body. In England, if a patient is bedbound we would be able to provide them with a pressure-relieving mattress, equipment for moving them, toileting equipment, and sometimes a profiling hospital bed. In Charity’s case, she lives in a small mud hut and sleeps on a single wooden bed with a worn blanket and a bowl underneath for toileting. Charity’s teenage sons live with her and are the only family she has nearby. In England the family would receive help from carers to meet Charity’s care needs and to help with domestic tasks. Her sons would receive support from local organisations and at school, and the family would receive the financial benefits that they would be entitled to. In reality the family relies solely on the generosity of donations from the Arise project to provide their food, and fortnightly visits from the Arise team to provide encouragement and support. Rosie and Ellie have been trying to get support from the local clinic and church, but at present Charity’s sons are expected to wash her, care for her, run the household, provide the meals and go to school. The boys are very hardworking, but aren’t able to earn the money needed to sustain the family.

Rhi showing the boys how to treat Charity's hands

It is difficult to put into words the frustration and helplessness that I as an Occupational Therapist felt visiting Charity and her boys. In England there would be so many solutions and avenues of support that I could offer to them. In Kaniki, I felt powerless. It was in feeling like this that I noticed the one thing we were able to offer them is the one thing I am not allowed to offer to patients in the UK; God. We sang and prayed with Charity and her sons, and the peace and hope that defies all unfair, desperate situations was tangible in her home. Charity was joyful, dancing in her bed, whilst singing to God. She seemed a different woman from the one we found crying out in distress when we arrived.

Seeing first-hand the amazing work that Ellie, Rosie and others are doing through the Arise project was exciting. There is so much need out there, and they are using whatever resources are at their disposal to meet it as best they can. The Arise project brings love and support to people who have nowhere else to turn, and through the Arise sponsorship programme they are giving children and young adults opportunities for education and training that would otherwise be beyond their grasp. To say that I am proud of my sister would be a massive understatement.

Ellie, Rosie and Rhi

P.S. The elderly lady got some shoes and the child got a coat! 

A new coat!

1 comment:

  1. It's so easy to forget how privileged we are in England. Thanks Rhi - such an interesting and humbling post to read.