Sunday, April 27, 2008

And the Training goes on and on and on . . . . . .

You all know about the Neonatal Resuscitation Training Program that the church sponsors throughout the world. We hosted the program last October here in Kinshasa and in Brazzaville. See our August 2007 blog.

While doing the follow-up to the program we realized that those physicians and nurses who had been trained were perpetuating the training far beyond their own centers. Many people had been trained but were without the resuscitation kits to practice their new found skills. We submitted an Area Project for 100 resuscitation kits to give to these newly trained centers.

The other day we met with Dr. Ngoy from St Joseph’s hospital. We wanted to give him 4 kits to share with any of the centers he had trained. He invited us to a session he was having the next week where he was training 35 people from 30 centers around Kinshasa. We told him we would bring him 31 more kits for his training session. He was elated and told us this was an answer to his prayer.
We went to the Dr. Ngoy’s training session and were delighted to see the teaching method being passed on to 35 birthing attendants, nurses and midwives. The instruction was being given by Dr. Ngoy and another doctor who had also been in the original training in August. The session was patterned after the training they had received from Dr. Preece and the team. This was confirmation that the NRT Program was truly successful. Perpetuation of the training is the key.
Well we submitted for a new NRT project for 2008 and we have approval. We have plans to take the training to Lubumbashi on the other side of the DRC. We have found a champion there who had never heard of the program and was very escited to get involved. He will help us set up the program and Dr. Preece will come and help us with the arrangements in June. While he is here we plan to have a special training session for the Kingasani hospital here in Kinshasa. Kingasani births more babies in a month than any other hospital. They give a large amount of charity care and have other centers besides their main hospital. This hospital has yet to participate in the NRT training but we hope by doing a special training for them we can guarantee that every person attending births in their system can be competent in the NRT program. Dr. Preece will conduct this training and use some of the doctors he trained last August who are carriny on the training.

Dr. Preece will return with a team to the DRC before we finish our mission so we can do the training in Lubumbashi. Got to love this program. In the words of Marie Josee, a nurse in Luputa who called us one Sunday morning very excited to tell us that because of the training she received on NRT, they were saving babies in Luputa.

Today Dr. Ngoy cancelled an appointment with us because he was busy training again. He was so excited. He said that this morning they were delivering babies and two babies were born who refused to breath. In the past they would have just pronounced them dead and moved on with heavy hearts but today they followed the algorythum set up by the NRT program and both babies started breathing. Their APGAR scores were good and they felt like they would be fine healthy babies. He praised the program and expressed his appreciation for the new skills he had learned that he felt were making such a difference in their maternal health practice. It seems to prove the theory that if you give people good training and the right equipment they can do their job, be proud of what they are doing and most of all love what tyou are doing.

Hooray for the NRT program!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bishop Kuteka, A Spiritual Giant

Our Bishop, A Spiritual Giant

Bishop Kuteka is bishop of the Malueka Ward here in Kinshasa. This ward covers a population that is quite poor and has many needs.

Bishop Kuteka is a man who lives by the spirit. In 1994, President Howard W. Hunter advised all worthy Latter-day Saints to get a temple recommend, even if they lived far from a temple. Bishop Kuteka, living far from any temple was touched by these words and he asked his branch president for an interview so he could have a temple recommend. He says he did not realize then that Father in Heaven had a great blessing in store for him. It wasn’t long before he felt the Lord’s hand touching his life. Through his work he was given an opportunity to go to Korea for some meetings. He arranged to lay over in Switzerland on the way home and was able to attend the temple and receive his endowment. You can read his full account of this experience in the Liahona, Aug 1997 “From Zaire to the Lord’s House.”

Last week we witnessed a wonderful example of shepherding the flock when Bishop Kuteka again followed the Spirit.

We had been given a bag of clothing by the out going missionary office couple, the Thomas. We wanted to take it out to our ward to help the members but were unsure how it would be received. We took the clothing out and gave it to the bishop to use at his discretion.

He later told us of his experience. He took the clothing to welfare meeting as promted by the spirit in directed his welfare committee in how to use the clothing. He knew he had many members of the committee who needed the clothing for them selves and their own families but he asked them to think about the ward members and as a committee they should decide who was in most need. As he held up each article of clothing he asked the committee to think about the ward members and who that article of clothing could benefit. The committee assigned each piece to a member and then the bishop assigned two members of the committee to deliver the clothing. He said he witnessed the confirming of the spirit as the committee chose the same people he had in mind and who he knew were in great need. The bishop could have made the decision on his own or given the clothing to the Relief Society Pres. to disperse but instead he took the opportunity to teach his counsel in the welfare plan.

Here in the middle of Africa we have a wonderful bishop, living by the Spirit, shepherding his flock, teaching the principles of the gospel and training his ward officers in the true principles of welfare.

The Thomas will never know how many people benefited from their bag of clothing nor does it matter. The blessing of this clothing is the lessons learned from a bishop who listens to the spirit and then acts upon the spirit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

High Fashion in the DRC

High fashion in the Market. We found this lady and her gorgeous outfit in the market in the little village of Luputa. She was selling plastic tubing and other hardware items. She was so elegant we had to take her picture.

Older people in the congo can remember when clothes were made out of raffia and bark. Today the Congo is the African center of fashion. Beautiful colorful textiles are produced from 100% cotton fabric wax dyed in brilliant, colors and patterns unique to the Congo. Women wear long dresses with detail work and then cover the skirt of their dress with a pagne, a piece of cloth wrapped around and tucked in the band to anchor it around the waste. The Pagne is a versital piece which is part of the the dress but can be removed and used as a shawl or worn over the head as a cover from the sun or rain. It can be wrapped around an infant and tied on the mothers back to carry the child and leave her hands free. We have been told that the pagne is suppose to only be worn by married women and is noted as an honor and sign prestige.

Dress designs are unique and dresses are decorated with machine embroidery, bias tape, lace and often the fabric itself is used in a way to create a unique design to the dress. Some parts of the dress may be cut on the diagonal or strip pieced with two coordinating fabrics. Much attention can be paid to detail making the dresses artful creations.

Men's shirts are made of the same fabrics as the womens and the design of the shirt is often adding borders or turning one piece of the shirt one way and the other side a different angle.

Fabric can be bought at the market where you will find women selling fabric in small stalls. The stalls often have similar fabrics as the women usually buy their fabrics from the same wholesaler. Fabric is sold in 6 yrd lengths for about $10. The dresses are fashioned so as to leave the salvage edge as the bottom of the dress and the salvage edge shows along with the fabric design label. Often the salvage edge is decorated with medallions or emblems (mark of the dyer) that add to the uniquness of the fabric. Fabric is labeled with glued on paper labels which have to be removed carefully or they become a permanent part of the fabric. It isn’t unusual to see these labels left in place after a dress is made.

Note the sewing machine being carried on top of the head.

Dressmakers and tailors are educated in technical universities and colleges. The skill is very detailed. Most sewing machines are the treddle Singer sewing machines because of the inconsistancy of electricity. It is not unusual to see seamstresses and tailors sewing outside under the mango tree and often they are teaching someone else how to sew.

The following women are all from small villages and what they are wearing is their everyday clothing.

Dressed alike for a funeral Momma and her baby I bought this same fabric -fishes

Sunday Dress in Luputa a small village in central Africa

Sunday dress for church Dressed up for announcement of water project

Dressed up for Sunday

These women are preparing a garden plot. These are their work clothes.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Trip to the Grand Marche

Today was an interesting day. We started work on a new project. We are working to strengthen the handicap center’s Vocational School. This school is for the physically and mentally handicapped who are unable to function in a regular school and whose families are unable to afford special school. It’s curriculum is to prepare the students to become independent and have a way of earning some money. They teach French, reading and writing, health and hygiene, math, business skills, cooking and sewing. While we were doing our wheelchair project the instructors of the school invited us in to see their school which consisted of three rooms at the center. It was obvious they were working with very little materials but were giving help to many families by helping their handicapped family member be productive and more independent.

They needed 6 sewing machines and a freezer to meet the needs of their sewing and cooking classes. We added a service component to the project by furnishing bolts of material for the sewing class to make surgical drapes and gowns for the handicap surgical center and we added copies of the church’s Family Health and Hygiene book to be used in their personal health and hygiene class.
Today we took the sewing instructor shopping for the goods. We rode in the back of a van (like The Luputa vans) and we went to the Congolese market area. I wish I could show you a panorama of this place. It is just unbelievable. It is just a two way street with businesses on both sides and parallel parking on both sides. Nothing to get excited about but add the Congolese to the mix and it becomes quite an adventure.

The one teacher that went with us worried about me and was afraid I was going to get robbed. She told Farrell, “The sister needs to be more careful there are robbers and mean people around here.” I kept walking out in front of her or lagging behind her so she finally came and grabbed my hand and drug me down the street. She would have been real nervous if she had known I was carrying $1000 in my purse to pay for all the things we bought. We had to go to 3 different stores to get the supplies. The store where we bought the sewing machines was just a little walk-in with a counter and boxes piled clear to the ceiling. We could barely fit three people in the store. The store where we bought the freezer was larger but had hardly any merchandise in the store. The fabric store was packefd with bolts of material for making drapes and hardly had any room to walk down the two isles. The fabric was cut on a table about 3 feet by 5 feet. Not big enough for a bolt of fabric and I was glad we were buying full bolts of cloth and not having to go through the chore of cutting fabric.

Our transport was unable to find a parking place so he circled the area while we shopped. We purchased everything and then hauled it all to the van. Several men helped us with the hauling and then each felt they should be paid for their service but we were not sure who had really helped and who just were the groupies. Farrell paid everyone something. Some were not happy saying it wasn’t enough and others were pleased to get 500 francs.

Although we had a large van the driver neglected to put the seats up and just laid the sewing machines on top of the benches. We were unable to get all the machines in the van so we ended up having to go back the next morning. The pictures of the streets are from the 8:00 AM traffic. By noon the congestion is complete but I was unable to take pictures at that time as many people do not like you taking pictures and get very angry and the police may confiscate your camera. Therefore you will need to use your imagination to visualize the true congestion we encountered.

There are so many people on this street. If I had to guess I would say at least 2000 in a 3 block stretch. Like Farrell says, it was pandemonium.

I wish I could have taken pictures of all that was happening, better yet a movie. This is a part of the Congo that is impossible to describe. I am sure there are placed like these elsewhere but I have never seen them nor do I think I will ever go anywhere that is quite the same.

When we were buying the sewing machines the instructor from the school that was with us admired some watches in the store. She Pointed to my watch and indicated that she really liked my watch and it was just like the ones in the store. When we were riding back to the handicapped center she again pointed to my watch and then to her own wrist. I thought she wanted my watch but finally I realized she had wanted me to buy her the watch in the store. I was turned off by this behavior when we were trying so hard to help the school and felt she was brazen to expect me to buy her a watch. After I had thought about it I realized, well, she didn’t have a watch and she is a teacher trying to run a school without a timepiece to help her know what time it is. She probably really needs a watch and really needs one. I wish I had had on a junk watch like the dozen or so I have at home (the USA) in my drawer but the one I had on was a memento from my IHC days and not one I wanted to give up. I will have to think about getting her a watch. Shucks, I should get each of the instructors a watch. Now if I can only get that passed Farrell. He continues to tell me I can’t feed everyone in the Congo.

Instructors for the Handicapped Vocational School (one on the right asked for the watch)

Everyday we are inundated by people wanting something. I can pass many up but I can’t handle those homeless boys who know when they see the red truck with the moondele lady they are sure to get a handout. Those with braces on get more than just the ragged little beggars and I am in tears when the little boy without an arm hits us up. This is the hardest part of this mission. Farrell talks tough but if I keep a firm upper lip and don’t give the handout he usually succumbs. Just part of life in the Congo.

One of "our" homeless boys.