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!


Nathan said...

Woo hoo! The church is true!

Matthew said...

I wish I were in Africa with you instead of buried in snow and work here ...

Scarehaircare said...

I want to come! Thanks for sending the picture of your special guy you see on the street. Would you mind posting a little bit about him?