Thursday, 28 April 2016

Guest blog: Rhi-flections

I’m currently spending 5 months visiting Ellie at Kaniki and yesterday I celebrated my 31st birthday. After an early morning Skype with the rest of our family and making the most of the power and water (before it turned off at 1pm), we were soon heading out to meet friends for ice cream. Although I miss my friends and family in the UK, it is great to be able to enjoy a warm and sunny birthday, especially when I hear it has been really cold in England!

Early morning family Skype

Birthday celebrations at the ice cream parlour

Birthdays are often a time to reflect and think about where you are in life. As someone who does not really enjoy stopping to reflect, I thought I would try and have a go at it this year. In some ways I am exactly where I thought I would be, and yet in many other ways I am not. Since I was 16 years old I have wanted to be an Occupational Therapist working in Africa, and for the next few months that is exactly what I am doing. It only took 15 years!

First trip to Africa - aged 16

My dream of living in Africa after I graduated from university didn’t happen like I thought it would, thanks to two quite serious medical conditions. After a miraculous healing from both illnesses I then set my sights on working in the USA to gain some experience of working in both the private sector and another country. However, after two job offers in the US and a 3 and a half year wait for a visa that never materialised, I decided to withdraw my application. Coming to Zambia to work with Ellie for a few months was an easy decision after that.

Sisters in Africa

I have primarily come to Kaniki to help Ellie with the Arise orphan project, and to support a 9 year old boy who is a pupil at Kapumpe and has cerebral palsy. Having never worked in paediatrics I am relying on advice from friends, textbooks and the internet to help understand how to best implement my OT skills with the children at Kapumpe School. A massive thank you goes out to my friends Vikki Forster, Laura Baker, Hannah Spink and Alice Sibley for all of their help. So far it has been a lot of fun!

Daily therapy session at Kapumpe

Here in Zambia I am impressed at the way in which people face disability. Although there is very limited healthcare available and the causes of disability are not widely understood, people are very creative in their problem solving. I have seen equipment that would be quickly discarded in the UK, being used and adapted to meet individuals’ needs. In the last week I have been able to visit two different hospitals here - a mission hospital and a childrens’ hospital. Last Wednesday a few of us visited the mission hospital in nearby Mpongwe for a tour. The staff were very welcoming and happy to talk to us about their work. Needless to say, I was in my element and had a lot of questions for them! Then earlier this week we collected one of the Arise children from Arthur Davidson Childrens’ Hospital after his operation for an umbilical hernia. I will write more about these experiences in a future blog post on healthcare, but for now I’d encourage those of you in the UK to appreciate the work of the wonderful NHS!

Adapted equipment

I’ve found that it is sometimes difficult to work out how best to help the community here in Kaniki. With many cultural differences, limited resources and the amount of time it takes to do even the most simple tasks it can be challenging to find an effective way to meet the level of need here. Arise and Kapumpe are much-needed lifelines and give hope to many of the families in the surrounding areas. Seeing the work that Ellie, Rosie and Naomi are doing here to give the children a brighter future and empower the local people has been inspirational.

Fun playing with bubbles

Sometimes being here in Zambia can feel very far from friends and family, so Facebook is a good way for me to keep in touch and see what others are doing. Seeing photos and posts from friends around the globe has made me appreciate the differences in our lives and how varied our journeys are. So as I turn 31 I realise that whatever experiences we are currently going through - whether it is work, education, travel, babies or something else - we should try and enjoy it, work hard at it and ensure that our own grass is as green as we would like it to be.

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