I have recently returned from my trip to Malawi, Africa and wanted to share about our experiences with you. ONAAT sponsored 4 of our nurses (including myself) so you should be hearing/ may have already heard from the other three nurses. We cannot thank you enough for your huge contribution and for helping us overcome some of the barriers that can be daunting as we look to use our skills to serve others.
From a medical perspective, we saw approximately 675 people. We most commonly saw malaria, asthma, pneumonia, otitis media, dermatologic conditions, tinea capitis, and wounds. For the first time, we had an optometrist and a dentist travel with us. We were pleasantly surprised to find that many of the children did not need glasses or dental extractions. While our men would have loved to be constantly busy with work, we are thankful for the population that these services that are very rare and expensive in rural Malawi are not as desperately needed as we had assumed. One man commented that even though many did not need these “luxurious services,” we provided the community with dignity just by providing the opportunity to be assessed. This stuck out to me as one of the many intangibles that we as healthcare workers can provide through our care—dignity. And everyone deserves that.
ONAAT requests that each scholarship nurse purchase an item on their mission that can be auctioned at our annual fundraiser. The item I purchased for your auction is a laptop case/ ipad case (depending on the size of laptop). It is made out of the traditional wrap fabric (we call it a chitenje in Malawi). The laptop case was sewn at our textile center where 1 man and 3 women from our community currently work. The textile center has had many different employees in the past and has been a means to provide work and a skill to women who may otherwise be forced into prostitution to provide for themselves or their families. We currently have two girls ~ 18 and 19 years old being trained in the textile center. Once their training is complete, we will purchase a sewing machine for each of them and they will return to their villages where they can use their skills in their community. We love the heart behind the textile center and try to support them every chance we get! I will send the case in the mail.
A highlight of my trip was being reunited with a boy named Lefani. Without breaking into a 2000 word story, I will tell you that this boy is the closest my heart has ever known to a mother’s love. I have never known that kind of heartbreak I experienced during the two years that he was gone from The Grace Center. Not knowing where he was or if I would ever see him again was more than difficult to endure and I prayed for him faithfully even when I did not know what to pray. I found out in January of this year that he had returned. He was very broken from all that he had gone through over the previous 2 years, but the healing process began. I am thankful to have been reunited with him and to walk through some of the healing with him—healing for both of us. He is now happy, healthy, and in school!
This was the most difficult trip that I have ever experienced for many different reasons and this post touches on a few of the issues we ran into. We are all healing and coping with our experiences now that we have returned. I am not sure if any of the other three nurses will choose to reference this or not.
As a side note, I ordered Lessons Learned Amazon.com when I returned and breezed through it! It was an amazing read and I really enjoyed hearing from so many different individuals. Great work! Also fun fact for those who read my story in the book– the picture of me with a man and a baby is Kennedy and his son!