Today we took a bold step. We have two consultants from Leeds hospitals with us. We asked them to go into our clinics without us and each sit with a nurse and observe what was happening. I say it was bold because we asked them to report back honestly about what they saw and experienced. So when they reported back we were anxious to say the least.
Their opening words were …this is real medicine…they said that it was an impressive operation and that it was clear that the trust was making a real difference. More praise came for the knowledge and expertise of our two nurses and analyst.
From the opposite side the medical team said they had learnt a lot from the Leeds and would be taking on a number of recommendations. Both sides have requested another opportunity to work together and that’s booked. This is just the start of what we hope will be a really string partnership and a number of good ideas have merged for preventing disease and treating it differently.
Later the medical consultants accompanied our patients to the cerebral palsy centre in ukunda. Again they were delighted with the work being undertaken and shared their expert knowledge . There was real encouragement for one parent after she was told by our leeds team that there was every chance her son may walk in the future.
We are so hopeful that this first visit by the team will result in a long term and growing relationship which will support our medical operation and strengthen the link between Leeds and Funzi. The first step will be a campaign to reduce the number of cholera cases in 2014.
A year ago I was in Funzi and found nursery children learning in a ramshackled old building , sitting on rocks to participate in their lessons.
Although the trust built a new school a few years ago there is now not enough roof to accommodate the smallest children. That is all changing just one year on.
We are into the final stages of completing the new kindergarten . When we turned up today large numbers if local people had gathered to help with the manual labour. Men mixing concrete, women carrying large buckets if stones and people hammering on the roof. It’s great to know that not only will this school bring education benefits but it will also feed families. The work on the school is creating jobs and putting money into local pockets. In a village where some struggle to feed themselves and schools often hand our food aid this is critical.
The kindergarten teacher was fullsome in her enthusiasm for the new construction and the work of the trust. She said it had been a struggle before and children didn’t concentrate. That would all change she said. The little children have been using the trusts library while the work continues but should soon move into the new building.
There will be in addition to this kindergarten,toilets for the small children
with hand washing facilities. A new cook house and store. Then in a month the whole school will undergo renovation with a paint job from top to bottom. The Trust has always believed in being there for people in the long term. Not doing a job and just moving on. I am delighted that our partnership with Funzi school is an example of that approach. Even the constant rain cannot dampen that enthusiasm.
Today we saw Sharka- the little girl with terminal skin cancer. To be fair she saw us first. Or maybe someone had told her we were coming as her eyesight is so poor these days. The cancer on the inside of her eyelids scratches her retina and she finds it ever harder to see. Recently we had to ask for her to be moved to the front of the class to beneath the blackboard as she couldn’t follow her lessons.
It was a real pleasure to see her in school uniform- the grey and white of Bodo primary. We had to fight hard to get her into school here as people with disabilities or conditions like hers are usually told they cannot attend local schools. But she is doing well, enjoying school and learning. She moved close to us – peering from her almost closed eyes. She was clutching a set of crayons. A prized possession.
Sara sat with her and used them to go through her colours. It was very sad. Her eyes are so dim she finds it hard to see or to differentiate. But she was enjoying the company and the interest shown in her, That mattered more than any colours she might know.
Sharke lives in the poorest of circumstances and is currently living in her grandparents house with her small brother. Her parents are estranged. Each day she emerges from a mud hut with not even the most basic of facilities – no running water , electricity or toilets. It is a struggle to be fed and keeping cleaning an almost impossibility. But I felt that Sahrke knew she was valued. That people had come who had shown care and love for her.
She doesnt know the Trust or what it means. But she knows those who visit from it and that they have brought her pain relief, education and care . Her life may be short lived but she knows that she matters as an individual now. Our care and concern for her is there for as long as she needs it.
We have had heavy rain for the past few days.
So bad that we had to turn the boat around and return to Funzi yesterday. The boat was inches deep in rain water within minutes of leaving the shore and we were dripping wet. It made us realise what it must have been like in March when Bodo suffered terrible flooding. Causing a number of houses to collapse – leaving some of the poorest families homeless. Not far from here a major bridge was also washed away . Normally the river beneath is just a trickle. Yesterday we saw the collapsed homes for the first time. The site of one had nothing more than a few sticks , a pile of mud and some roofing tiles left on it.
We met Salma who had lived there. A single parent with six children from tiny tots up to a twenty year old. Before the rains life for her was hard and she struggled to feed her children. After the rains she despaired – not knowing what to do. Neighbours took the family in and since then they have lived in cramped conditions in a neighboring mud hut. Salma told me that she is now happy.
As she picked through the remains of her former home she said that the Funzi and Bodo trust had given her fresh hope of a future. Nearby a wood structure is going up. Her new home. The materials paid for by the Trust. Local people will help her build it in a big community effort. Mud and clay will be collected from the nearby river and stones from a small quarry of coral blocks.
Salma is looking forward to moving into her new home . Two bedrooms and a sitting area. The trust is providing bedding and food for the whole family while the building takes place. To our eyes the house may look like nothing. To salma its home and a place of hope for the future. She smiled broadly as she thanked the trust for what it had done for her and the answer to a crisis – an answer she thought would never come.