Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Oasis For Health Care in the DRCongo

The process of choosing humanitarian projects for the church requires that we partner with NGOs (registered non-governmental organizations). Once you have found a good NGO then you have to design the project so that it strengthens the organization and leaves it stronger and more able to meet the needs of those they service. The difficult part of this mission is finding those NGOs and then writing up the project so that it is not just giving things but meets the goal of helping the organization become a stronger and more viable organization.

One of the major initiatives of the church’s humanitarian services is providing wheelchairs for the h
andicapped who are unable to afford a wheelchair. Soon after coming to Kinshasa we went looking for an NGO to partner with who could make wheelchairs, the tricycle wheelchairs needed for the rough terrain here in Kinshasa. We visited a rehabilitation, handicap center. This center is run by the Freres de la Charité, a Catholic organization.

This center is an amazing place. Monday, Wednesday and Friday is clinic day and the center is packed with patients and family coming to clinic. The center is a large complex with several buildings connected with walkways. The buildings are open to the outside and the waiting area is all outside around the walkways. They have a clinic, physical therapy, optical shop, wheelchair manufacturing, prosthetics manufacturing, surgery, social work, and a vocational training center. The complex is clean and well maintained which was very refreshing to see as that is not the normal case for health centers here in the Congo. Over forty percent of their employees are handicapped like the wonderful man who maintains the main gate and keeps the parking area swept clean. He has no hands. Another man working in the main office is confined to a stretcher. He is very gregarious and always makes us feel so good when we come to the center. The directors secretary uses two canes to get around and always has a big smile for us when we visit.

John Baptist Musawu is the director of the center. He is a small man exuding energy. He walks with a bounce and he moves very fast. He is cheerful and bright and always positive making him a perfect representative of this center.

When we first started talking to John Baptist we asked him for a wish list of things that the center desperately needed. At the top of their list was patient beds for surgery recovery.

We went to look at the beds and found them to be deplorable, especially for surgery patients who desperately need a sanitary place to recover from extensive orthopedic surgery. The beds were flat, rusted and the mattresses were bare pieces of foam that didn’t allow for cleaning between patients. The rooms were tiled and the walls were in good shape but needed painting. The center wanted to upgrade the rooms with new beds and vinyl covered mattresses that could be cleaned appropriately when soiled and sanitized between patients.

Since we don’t just give gifts to associations we needed to find a way to strengthen the organization to make this a project worthy of humanitarian funds. We wondered how the patients did after going home to finish their recovery and wondered if the conditions for recovery were adequate or was the hospital seeing much infection after surgery. We have had great success with the church’s program of Family Health and Hygiene and wondered if it could be applied to post op teaching of these families and enhance the recovery process for these patients.

We worked with the social workers to see if they would be interested in the Family Health and Hygiene training and they were very receptive. We wrote the proposal to include 40 new beds and mattresses and 100 each of the Family Health and Hygiene manuals and 100 supplements which are the picture book of the FHH program. Both manuals can be used to educate professionals, parents and children in how to improve nutrition, teach proper hygiene practices and educate on prevention of disease.

The project was approv
ed by the Area Authorities and we immediately ordered the beds and the printing of the manuals. We delivered the manuals to the Social Work department so they could get started teaching. They organized open classes and are teaching post op patient families and also families that are coming to the clinics.

We had to order the beds from a supply house here in Kinshasa. The beds are very simple but they are of the type that will work great here. The beds can’t be electric as the electricity is not dependable. The beds are metal frames with metal springs. The one end of the bed can be manually raised and lowered to accommodate the raising of the foot of the bed or for raising the head of the bed. The mattresses are foam covered with vinyl.

At the handicap center patients come in the day of surgery and then stay at the hospital from 3 days to a week or more. During their stay the family is responsible to stay with the patient and provide food and clean linens and clothing. They come to the center with cooking utensils and a bucket for washing clothes and bedding. There is always linen hung out to dry just outside the patients rooms.

During our visits to the center we have run into a man who has brought his son in for surgery 3 different times. He is
from out of town and has no money but wants to help his son be able to walk so brings him in to get the needed surgery. He sees us coming and asks if we can give him some money to buy food for his son. We have given him a few francs each time and he immediately goes out on the street and buys food from a vendor and brings it back to his son. We find ourselves worrying about him when we don’t go to the center and wonder how he is feeding his son. This is typical of the families here at the handicap center as they are all poor and are trying to survive and care for their handicapped family member. The handicap center evaluates each patient’s family for financial resources and charges the patients according to their ability to pay for the services. That is one of the jobs of the social workers. The center is dependent on charity dollars to serve the poor.

On January 11th we had our ceremony to give the beds to the center. Pres.Iyomi, Stake President of the Kinshasa Stake gave a speech donating the beds and training materials to the center in behalf of de Église de Jésus-Christ des Saints des Derniers Jours (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The Director, John Baptist spoke. He said it usually takes a lot of talking and finessing to get things done but this bed project happened quickly.
Now the center will have proper beds for their surgical patients. The prayer given at the ceremony acknowledged that we are all family and we should think of and help each other. Our church really does believe this and the humanitarian services practices this belief in trying to serve and help all of God’s children.

We visited the patient rooms to view the beds in service and were delighted to see the rooms had been scrubbed and painted. The beds did indeed create a much more sanitary environment for the patients and the ability to raise the foot of the bed was enhancing the care of the patients as they had their foot or leg raised to reduce the swelling to the surgical site and promote healing. The Family Health and Hygiene classes are in full swing and will continue indefinitely.

We have fallen in lov
e with the Center. We admire the people there and are grateful for such a good partner. We have other projects in the works with the center including a wheelchair project.
We are very busy trying to find ways to spend those Humanitarian dollars you keep paying to the church. Heavenly Father is mindful of us as we work here trying to do good things. We are being led and directed daily to good partners and wonderful people. We are blessed with good health and safe keeping each day. Would you like a wonderful experience. Come on a mission!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Many exciting projects in 2007! A lot of work and a lot of good things happening

Vision Major Initiative: Dr. Hunsaker brought suture-less cataract surgery to the Congo. This project happened our first week in the Congo. Since then we have had two shipments of supplies for the Ophthalmology department of Kinshasa General hospital. The church has furnished a surgery microscope, slit lamp, 2 ophthalmoscopes, 3 current converters and many surgical supplies including the lenses for the cataract surgery. Dr. Hunsaker has become a beloved friend of all these doctors here in Kinshasa.

Child Soldiers Container Project: IFESH contacted us and asked for help in getting a container from SLC to the eastern side of the Congo to help with a program they have to rehabilitate child soldiers. Many children have been forced to fight in the conflicts. IFESH, an NGO out of Arizona , had grant money to pay for shipping if the church would donate some supplies. They asked for medical supplies, wheelchairs, clothing, school supplies, and food. They will work with these young boys helping them to get over the trauma (mental and physical) and integrate them back into society with a skill for them to be able to support themselves. We were unable to go to this area for distribution of the supplies as it is very remote and not always a safe place to be.

Neonatal Resuscitation Major Initiative: You may have seen this initiative highlighted in October between conference sessions. This is an initiative the church sponsors in many third world countries. This project was done in the DRC in 2006 but had difficulty getting the NRT kits to the participants. The project this year was done in Kinshasa, DRC and in Brazzaville, RC. (See previous blog for details) We are in the process of gathering information from the participants to see how many people they have taught the technique since the training. Kinshasa statistics are very good showing that most all participants have taught others from 5 more to 100 by one doctor. This was done without kits as
we were delayed in getting the kits to the participants (customs issues). They now have their kits and are re-teaching not only their own facility but other practitioners of other facilities.
The follow-up in Brazzaville is much more complicated as the participants were from all over the country, some of them from very remote areas. We have asked for the government liaison for the project to do the follow-up as language and distance is too big a barrier for us to cross. We have funded gas and phone cards and the government is going to work on ways to get the reports from the more remote areas.
Training Perpetuation for NRT: While doing the follow-up for the NRT it became apparent that those being trained needed to have the basic supplies of ambu-bag, infant mask and bulb syringe. These supplies are not available here in the DRC. We submitted for an area project for 100 more basic resuscitation kits to supplement the training provide supplies for some of those being trained that did not have the materials. It was approved. This will give 100 more facilities the needed supplies to put into practice the NRT program. We are very excited to see this projects success. A lot of money was spent but each person we talk to tells us how they have changed their practice and are saving babies. They are so excited an so grateful for the opportunity to learn this simple lifesaving technique.

Measles Campaign: This year the church helped with the measles vaccination program in the Republic of Congo. The church commits to do the publicity and provide volunteers for the national measles program. They provided banners, posters, fliers, and the volunteers for all the centers were the measles vaccine were offered through out the country. They also produced and paid for TV and Radio campaigns in two different languages, French and Lingala. A special couple, the Seiters from Arizona came and set up the campaign. We just had to support them in their efforts. The campaign was very successful and the government was very pleased with the publicity campaign that the church did. The government liaison told us that he was worried the campaign wouldn't go well but when he saw the church was involved he told his people that it will go because that church gets things done. We had worked with him in the NRT program and he felt the team had been very successful and remembered that when the measles project came around.

Literacy Training: 480 people are being taught to read and write in Lingala and then in French. This project last ten months and has been a success from the very beginning as mostly women have committed to coming to class for 2 hours two days a week so they can learn to read. This is a very rewarding experience to watch these people learn to read for the first time. Classes are held outside under the mango trees or in a community church.

Hospital Beds and Family Health/Hygiene Training Program for CRHP (Handicap Center): 40 new hospital beds including mattresses were purchased to replace rusted flat beds with foam pieces serving as mattresses. The beds were made in Kinshasa and have the capability of raising the foot or head of the bed for orthopedic patients. Along with the beds the social work department of the facility will use the church’s Family Health and Hygiene manuals as the basis for a new program they will be teaching the patient and families upon discharge from the hospital. The program is aimed at improving the recovery of surgical patients and reducing readmissions for infection.

Library for Presbyterian school: 650 textbooks for a school that has been teaching teacher to student without textbooks for the last 13 years. This project was pure joy! We now have wonderful friends in the Presbyterian Church that call us their partners with Christ.

Latrines and Family Health and Hygiene Training: We have partnered with HPP Congo, an NGO who focuses on helping communities become self sustaining. Humanitarian funds will provide 30 latrines for at risk families in the community of Malueka, a suburb of Kinshasa. The families become a part of a community group where they are taught how to improve their living conditions by having a proper latrine, hand washing principles, safe water, safe food, nutrition, first aide and disease prevention. The program uses the Family Health and Hygiene manuals from the church to teach the Health and Hygiene principles.
The materials for the latrines were provided to 30 families who are widowed, house orphans, are handicapped or very, very poor.

Family/Community Garden: A community of Kinshasa called Pigeon Quarters requested funding of their community garden project. They have joined about 10 families together to plant a vegetable garden. They plan on feeding their starving families and also perpetuating the garden by selling half of the harvest to buy more seeds and fertilizer. This project comes with a great story that we will have to tell in detail later. Humanitarian missionaries have not had great success with gardens but we will give this one a try. There have been many delays in this project due to heavy rains, malaria and who knows what. We are trying to keep the faith but we are doubtful about the success of this project. Hope we are wrong. This picture shows Farrell buying the seeds. We never give money but go with the people to make their purchases and pay. When we got to this man to buy the seeds the price doubled when he saw Farrell was American and white. There was quite an argument and the man came back down to the original price.

Major Water Projects:
"Water is Life" The water project we have been working with since we came to the Congo was a 5 phase water
project that has been changed to a 3 phase water project. The first phase Camp Luka was suppose to service 15,000 people with
clean water and at present is servicing 40,000 people. The second phase is Laloux which will finish next week. Both of these projects are comprised of a well, a reservoir, an electrical pump to pump
the water to the reservoir and fountains through the
community to dispense the water.
These people have been walking great distances for water , down steep ravines and dipping water from stagnant pools. Now they will be able to get their water in short order by accessing the fountains. The third phase is small and will be a hand pump and will only take a short time to complete. Providing clean water to families is giving them a great blessing. Clean water is a large problem in the DRC.

Looking ahead at 2008
Most of these projects will finish in 2008 but we also have some project just recently approved.
Luputa Water Project: This is a very large water project that is planned to take place over a three year period and will cost $2.6 million. Luputa is a remote area in the central part of the Congo and doing this project will be a great adventure.
Cassava Food Project: This project was just authorized this week and provides for the organization of a community, Luputa, to farm cassava plants, perpetuating large harvests and processing the cassava making it ready for market. This will provide food for the community and an income for those participating in the program.
More Latrines and Hygiene Training: Our last Latrine/Hygiene project was so successful and productive we opted for another one but this time it will provide 50 latrines. Can't wait to get this one started.

We can't believe that our mission is half over. We have been busy and time just seems to zip by while we are having fun. The best part of all of this is the relationship that we are building with each other. Nothing like taking a couple to a strange land and making them work together 24/7 to make them grow together and learn to depend on one another. Our Father in Heaven has blessed us abundantly and blessed our family, each and everyone of them.

Our famiy is sure that all their blessings are directly related to our service. We have a new granddaughter. We have lost our beautiful nephew, Joe. Our mothers just keep on ticking and surviving without us. We love what we are doing and realize 2007 has been a memorable year, one we will never forget.