After a grueling 14 hours in the team van yesterday, we were rewarded with a day of rest and reconnection today.
We have settled in to our new accommodations at the Country Lodge in Mongu in the Western Provience of Zambia , and had a chance to connect with our new local coordinator and her community today by attending church and holding a mini-clinic for the congregation.
When we arrived on the grounds of St Francis Catholic Church in central Mongu for Sunday Mass we were welcomed by a boy, Emmanuelle, who is 7 years old and in Grade 1 in school. Upon first look at Emmanuelle you can’t help but to notice his extremely misshapen head, likely caused by some type of cranionsynstosis that was not able to be fully treated ( this is a condition in which the cranial sutures are fused at birth instead of open). Since his condition was not able to be treated it has resulted also in some mild disabilities in speech and muscle control of his limbs. Despite his physical limitations and differences, Emmanuelle is a bright and happy child who was an active participant in the church community, the church service and our after church health clinic activities. He loves to sing and dance and play games. He was also very intrigued by Marcus’ camera and the two of them became fast friends. Meeting Emmanuelle was a good reminder of the important work we are doing here in Zambia and the limited available resources to provide for children who are born needing specialty care and interventions; which we can easily access and take for granted in the US.
The priest and congregation gave us a warm welcome and said a blessing for our work in their community this upcoming week. Although the service had many familiar parts for the Catholics in our group there were some parts that seemed completely unique to Africa. I especially enjoyed the dancing altar boys who had moves like the Temptations, the step-dancing choir with incredible voices and it wouldn’t have been complete without the live drummers who put an African beat in every song.
After the church service our team offered a mini-clinic on the church grounds where we tended to the needs of adults by offering blood pressure screening and fittings for reading glasses; and for the kids we offered ear cleaning and basic first aid. Since the kids from the Mongu Parish didn’t have the same acute needs as the kids in the rural villages we spent most of the time with them playing games and singing songs.
We made it back to our hotel around 2PM (a pretty early day for us) and were able to do a bit of shopping at the local convenience store and then had the whole afternoon to relax and hang out together and learn more about each other by playing a guessing game. I learned who in our group was almost kicked out of nursing school, who has 6 brothers, who has cliff dived, who was crowned prom queen, who can’t speak Spanish, and who vomited while skydiving.
Less than a week ago we were a group of complete strangers but when you choose to put your passion in to action and join an adventure like this, there is no way to stay strangers for long. I’m truly looking forward to the next week in Zambia with these amazing people!
Kathi Randall – from California