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Zambia 2011

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S: ZAMBIA 2011


1: Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

2: In May 2011, I spent three weeks with 18 of my fellow nursing students in a small rural village in Zambia named Chikankata, home to 3000 people. The Salvation Army established a mission here in 1945 which includes a hospital, a nursing school, rural clinics in the surrounding villages, community development projects promoting care of orphan and vulnerable children, and outpatient clinics. The mission also has a high school of students living in residence. This was a Trinity Western University nursing travel study and the course we took was called ‘transcultural health care’. We came alongside Zambian nursing students in the hospital and learned so much from this amazing experience.

3: The compound we stayed at was much nicer than I had expected. Besides from finding a lizard in my bed, eating beans and buns every day, and rationing out toilet paper, it was quite nice to have warm showers and flush toilets. We were very warmly welcomed into the community with so much love. As we drove in on the bumpy road, everyone offered us huge smiles that brightened up their faces as they waved at us. The people seemed so excited to see us, I felt like a celebrity. Some of the young children would even point at us and say 'magoowa!' which means 'white person' in Tonga!

4: I was in awe of the beautiful scenery. Red dirt roads, grass fences and huts, African trees and plants, and the incredible sunrise and sunsets surrounded me. I saw women walking barefoot, carrying a bucket full of water on their head and a baby tied onto their back by a chitange (skirt). Upon entering Zambia, I was immediately struck by how different their pace of life was. Nobody was in a rush, ever. It was quite refreshing to be a part of a much slower paced lifestyle that was centered around a strong sense of community, one in which people actually have time to stop to greet you and smile and talk with you. I was thinking about how in North America, we often find ourselves "too busy" and consequentially we lack that strong community sense that the African culture embraces. We are so focused on being independent in our culture. So, it was so nice to see such a happy and strong community of interconnectedness and people working together.

5: The people were so incredibly warm, friendly, welcoming, and loving. They were full of so much humility and respect. When greeting you, a Zambian stops everything they are doing and gives you a smile that brightens up their whole face, a warm African hank shake, and bends their knees to show respect. When meeting you, they place their hand over their heart to show what a heartfelt pleasure it is to meet you. When I asked someone for directions, they walked alongside me and talked with me and took me all the way to the place I was looking for. Each morning, we started the day by attending chapel with the Zambian nursing students. Singing songs with them and worshiping God was something I loved. Then, a nursing student would come to the front and deliver a powerful message. It was a great way to begin our day with this time of encouragement. It was a time for us to get in the right frame of mind for the day, and prepare our hearts for what would be some very challenging days in the hospital. We would then spend the morning in the hospital with the nursing students. We had an opportunity to be in a different ward each day. After lunch, we had a Zambian guest speaker share with us. Finally, we ended each day with a time of singing, devotions, prayer, and debriefing together as a team. It was a great time to stop and reflect on our experience and worship God.

6: This 9 ward, 200 bed hospital is quite small and very much lacking in resources, very different than the North American hospitals I have been used to. The set up and layout was beautiful. Each unit is in its own building and they are all connected by walkways which are open to the fresh air and beautiful nature outside. At the entrance, a plaque reads "this hospital was opened to the glory of God and the healing of people". It was such a privilege to work in a Christian hospital, in which the nurses prayed together before starting their shift and are free to pray with their patients. HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, upper respiratory diseases, and pneumonia are common illnesses seen in the hospital. Other challenges include a lack of supplies such as medication, oxygen, dressing supplies, linen, and nutritious food. | I was frustrated by the lack of resources available. During our tour of the hospital, we were being shown the blood bank, and the biomedical student opened up their fridge where they store blood and it was completely empty. He said they were praying that no patient needed a blood transfusion. It was quite a shock because in Canada our hospital blood banks have an abundance of blood with all different types. One student spent 30 minutes searching around the hospital for an IV solution, something that we would be able to grab out of the storage room within seconds in a Canadian hospital. Much of the equipment such as BP cuffs and thermometers were old and non-functional. Even gloves were hard to come by. Nurses would start IV’s on HIV positive patients with no gloves. There was no toilet paper in the washrooms. Patients had to bring their own dishes to receive meals in. Nurses would look around the hospital in search of equipment that is at our fingertips in our Canadian hospitals. The nurses were very resourceful and creative. The Zambian nurses even do tasks such as dusting, bed making, and counting pills. We have cleaning staff that dust and make beds, and pharmacists that count out and bag pills. I even made tampons with the nursing students in the maternity ward! Working in the Chikankata hospital, I realized how much we take for granted in Canada.

7: Being in the hospital had its challenges. It was very difficult seeing so much pain and suffering. On our first day in Chikankata we walked past a lady wailing outside of the hospital, mourning the loss of her loved one. It was our first glimpse into the devastating reality of pain and death that the people here are forced to face on a regular basis. Across the street is the morgue, where many times I walked by and saw people grieving. There were numerous funerals. It was very difficult being confronted with these harsh realities. Though in the midst of all the suffering, God's presence was strong. I find comfort in knowing that this suffering is temporary. One day there will be no more suffering, and these beautiful people will be rewarded richly in heaven for their strong faith and for serving Christ. As we sat in chapel on the morning of what would be our first day in the hospital, a nursing student delivered a powerful and very fitting message about not giving up. Not on day one, or day two, or three. He talked about perseverance, strength, and endurance. He talked about the story Joshua and the Israelites marching around the city of Jericho as God had instructed them to do and they did not give up despite the many challenges and in the face of people making fun of them. Aware of the challenges and difficulties we would face, we were encouraged to not give up. | "So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:18

8: I enjoyed spending time with and learning from the Zambian nursing students. They are amazing people. I was blown away by how incredibly smart and talented they are. I was also surprised at how similar the nursing knowledge and skills they have is to what we learn in Canada. They were also very friendly and welcoming. Whenever they met us, they would tell us "you are most welcome here". I love how they call one other 'sister' and 'brother'. It is a good reminder that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. I admire their hard work ethic, loving spirits, and passion for serving God. I have seen them exemplify Christ like characters as they serve patients. | They very much value the privilege of education and study so hard. They push themselves by sleeping less (only four hours a night!) and studying more. Their hard work ethic is so inspiring. They were also very willing and eager to share their knowledge with us. I could tell that they genuinely cared about us and wanted us to learn and practice. They really wanted us to practice our nursing skills, for example give an injection or insert a catheter. However, we were not able to practice any invasive skills as per our instructor. So, it was hard to say no when they were so willing to teach us and wanting us practice. Nonetheless, I learned so much from observing and talking with the nursing students. It felt like we were just getting to know them and then we had to leave. They were very sad to see us leave so soon.

10: Muka Buumi, which means 'mother of life' is the HIV/AIDS outpatient clinic at Chikankata hospital. It was difficult seeing people of all ages- babies, young children, mothers, and adult men lined up for treatment and counseling. There is a stigma attached to HIV/AIDS so the people affected are often treated poorly and neglected. I felt so sad for these people. At the same time, I felt myself having to work hard to dismiss judgmental and stereotypical thoughts. I also had to be very conscious of my body language and work hard to show love and acceptance to these people. They are people just like you and I and deserved to be treated with love, I had to tell myself. In devotions one night, we talked about the importance of seeing Christ in each person. We must remember that when we are serving others, even HIV positive patients, we are really serving Christ. | I went out into the community where we had a clinic for mothers and babies. The mothers walked so far to come and be at this event of teaching, immunizations, and assessments. There were so many women that we ran out of immunizations. Many of the patients who came into the hospital did not speak English. I learned a few words in Tonga. The language barrier was a challenge, but at the same time I was surprised by how effectively we could communicate though we did not speak the same language. It forced me to think creatively and use body language to communicate with the patients. I always brought a smile to their face when I would attempt to say good morning in Tonga- Mwabuga buti. They would start laughing, probably because I was butchering the pronunciation.

11: In the maternity ward, I spent the morning with a nursing student in the antenatal department. After making beds and doing assessments, we went to talk with a patient whom we needed to get consent from for a Caesarean section because her baby was transverse. The student nurse spoke with her in Tonga and translated to me. She agreed to the procedure, wanting nothing else than a healthy baby. Her eyes started tearing up and she looked scared and she told us that she is very poor and cannot afford the surgery. She also shared about how she was having family problems and was feeling very lonely. None of her family nor friends had come to visit her in the hospital. The student invited me to say something to her. What sort of advice or words of hope could I offer in a circumstance that seemed so difficult and hopeless? Presented with this seemingly hopeless situation, I realized that there is hope in God. So, I shared with her about trusting in God that He would provide for her and draw near to her. When we feel lonely, we can find comfort knowing that God is with us and will never leave us. I prayed for her. And God provided for her. The next day someone paid for her surgery! I was surprised to find out that the surgery cost only fifteen dollars. The night before in church, the speaker encouraged us to share the gospel. He said we have all been commissioned to do so and he challenged us with the task of talking with someone each day about God. I was thankful that God provided me with words to say. Psalm 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds."

12: We went to a village called Kasiway, where we hiked up a mountain in chitanges, played with children, attempted to carry water on our heads, and pound corn into their staple food called cheema. The women prepared us lots of food and as we were eating, I could not help but feel guilty. Why were they working so hard, serving us food and waiting on us? We should be the ones serving and helping them. I thought of the sick, malnourished children that we had just been playing with. They needed this food, not us. It just wasn't right.

14: One afternoon we hosted an afternoon of tea, teaching, and foot washing for a group of widows. We served women who were burdened by the loss of her spouse tea and scones. They all came in joyfully singing songs and clapping. Washing the women’s feet, I reflected on how the women are such hard workers. They pound corn, prepare meals, walk miles in bare feet or shoes that don't fit them properly, with buckets of water on their head, and a baby tied onto their back by a chitange. Their calloused feet testified to their incredible work ethic. Hearing their stories of they much they missed their best friend brought tears to my eyes. The women were very grateful. It was a blessing to be able to do something small to make these beautiful women feel special.

15: Experiencing an African evening of singing and dancing was awesome. Guys were playing the African drums and everyone was singing and dancing. Their voices were so powerful, so beautiful. We all sang 'how great thou art' together in different languages. As I looked around at people, black and white, singing in different languages, arms reached out, worshiping God, I was reminded how even though we may live half way across the world, we are all united in Chirst. We are all worshiping the same God and will one day re-unite in heaven with our brothers and sisters. | The high school teacher, Jericho, led us in singing and taught us a song in Tonga. "He lifted me up, he washed me, he raised me up, and put me one high." Jericho then talked about how every encounter is Divine. He emphasized the importance of realizing that there are no coincidences. Each encounter with a person needs to be treasured and considered Divine. We truly have the opportunity to make an impact on someone's life. The effect may not be seen immediately, but showing love to someone, or telling them about Christ may plant a seed in their heart, which may grow later on.

16: We had the opportunity to put on a girls seminar, in which we taught high school girls about important health topics including nutrition, STI's, healthy relationships, puberty, pregnancy, labour and delivery, and some common diseases. My presentation was on staying healthy during pregnancy and postpartum care. It was an exhausting day, delivering the same speech fifteen times; but, a very enjoyable experience. The girls loved learning, and they had their eyes glued on us the whole time, listening so intently. | After the teaching, we gave each girl a bra, which is a sign of status. They were so excited and grateful. I realized what a privilege we had to empower these young girls with education. Looking back on it, I see how God was able to use us to make a meaningful impact on the young girls' lives by promoting health. One girl came up to me at the end and thanked me from the bottom of her heart, she said she had enjoyed the learning so much and was so thankful.

18: I saw children running around barefoot, wearing dirty, ripped clothing. I saw many children who were sick, and children with distended bellies, indicating malnutrition. I saw high school girls walking around in old shoes that are much too small for their feet. I saw women trying to make enough money to feed their families by selling fruits and vegetables at the market. I heard people's stories of the difficulties of growing up in Zambia. Clean water is not a readily available resource. People are struggling to meet their basic needs and it just breaks my heart. I keep on wondering why they have so little and we have such abundance? This injustice is just so sick and wrong. I think about how the things I desire are in such vain and so self-centered. It really puts everything into perspective. Despite having so little, the Africans are so happy. They treasure what they have and are very innovative, creative, and resourceful. They exemplify an amazing attitude as stewards of God's creation. In spite of the many challenges and difficulties these people face, I was so inspired by their incredibly strong faith and trust in God. I admired them very much for this and aspired to live it out as they do. I admired their passion for serving God. In a place faced with the realities of pain, death, and suffering, in a place in which people struggle to meet their basic needs, in which it seems they have 'so little', I saw such strength, courage, and resiliency because they put their trust in God. It was so inspiring to see this community exhibit such courage and resiliency in the face of minimal resources and great challenges. Although they did not have much material possessions, they were not poor; they were rich because they had such strong faith in Christ. Despite financial constraints and a severe lack of resources in Chikankata, God has such a strong presence in this community and continues to provide because they trust in him. I was inspired by the African people's vision and focus on serving God in everything they do. I wonder if it is because this community has “so little” in the sense of material possessions that they have such strong faith and trust in God. In times of despair, we really have no other choice than to fall on our knees and pray and ask God to help us. I was reflecting on how we often forget God and feel in control of our lives when all our needs are met and we have an abundance. It is usually in our times of desperation and need that we turn to God because we have no choice but to depend on Him and ask for help. In Chikankata, as I was stripped of the luxury, comforts, and conveniences of my North American lifestyle, I felt like I was better able to focus on what truly matters in life- serving God. The encouraging chapel services and the lack of distractions created an environment which encouraged me to spend more time with God. I think we have a tendency to think that our way of life is superior to a rural village in Africa. However, I came to see how terribly wrong this mindset is. Sure, we have all the technological gadgets. But, perhaps those devices distract us from what is truly important in life. All of the conveniences we are pampered with daily in Canada can easily haze our focus on Christ. A Zambian nurse's salary is very low. Many of the students told us that they wanted to come to Canada because they could make more money. I felt sorry for them and I wished I could have brought some of them back to Canada with me. But then I wondered if they would get caught up in our consumerist fast-paced lifestyle and lose sight of what is really important in life? "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

19: You bring hope to the hopeless and light to those in the darkness You give peace to the restless And joy to homes that are broken In You I am found You opened the door for me and You laid down your life to set me free All that I am will serve you, Lord Oh you bring, Hillsong

20: "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

21: Seeing so much poverty, I struggled with the question of what can I do to help. What can I or we do to make a difference and help make basic things like food, medications, and clean water more accessible? I wished that I had brought a large sum of donation money for the hospital or a large supply of medical supplies. There must be some way to set up a sustainable system within the community in which they can have a hospital with more resources. I felt overwhelmed by this huge, seemingly impossible task. One day in chapel, a nursing student spoke about how as Christians we need to go a little bit further. No matter what we do, we should strive to go that extra mile, and show that extra love to others. I think giving ourselves, and showing Christ's love to people is how we can make a difference, it is the best gift we can give. Mother Teresa said, "in this life we cannot do great things, only small things with great love".

22: March 25 marks African Freedom Day. It was the most challenging day for me. Since it was a national holiday and the nursing students had the day off, our professor told us that it would be optional to go to the hospital that morning. It was our last day in Chikankata and I decided to go to the hospital and I was placed in the women's ward. I was assisting a nursing student with a dressing change, and I was holding a patient’s hand as she cried aloud in pain. I cringed inside as I watched her wound which covered half of her leg being cleaned. I looked up outside the window and saw a large flatbed truck packed full of students in the back cheering as it drove past. I smiled to myself thinking about how much fun the kids were having celebrating African Freedom Day. About ten minutes later, a loud siren wailed and an ambulance jeep raced by. A nurse rushed in and told us that there was a terrible accident. I immediately hoped that it was not one of those vehicles full of young people that I had seen earlier. Unfortunately, it was. The large truck was carrying 70 high school students and teachers who were heading from Mazabuka to Chikankata for a sports day. The truck took a corner much too fast, hit a large bump, crashed, and overturned. The students and teachers were all injured and rushed via ambulance to this small, under resourced hospital. The whole scene was almost too much for me to handle. It was so incredibly sad. Young people were lying all over the hospital on mattresses on the floor, moaning in pain. There were not enough beds, not enough nurses nor doctors, not enough of anything really. Everything was so disorganized. This hospital was in no position to effectively deal with such a tragedy. Many of the students suffered serious injuries. A teacher who was severely injured and was paralyzed from the accident passed away after being resuscitated several times. Despite the terribly sad tragedy, it was so encouraging to see how the whole community pulled together to help. Even family members of patients helped out. Nursing students ran into the hospital on their day off in their street clothes and were all helping out in whatever way they could.

23: I came alongside Elina, a 19 year old girl who was rushed into the women's ward. My heart broke for her as I saw her lying on a bed, gasping for breath, with no one around to help her. Everyone in the ward could hear her moaning in pain and gasping for breath. Her arms were rigid and shaking. She was in shock. There was no doctors or nurses in sight. I was so frustrated. This girl needed immediate attention and was not getting it. I started experiencing flashback memories as I recalled being at the scene of my close friend’s terrible car accident. I remember seeing my friend being pulled out of her car and placed on a stretcher, surrounded by paramedics. It was almost unbearable to see my friend unconscious like this. My friend was air lifted out to an excellent hospital, where she was surrounded by a number of excellent doctors and nurses. I was so saddened and angered that Elina and the other students involved in the accident were not receiving that same care that my friend had received in Canada. Why was there no doctor to help Elina? If this were Canada, she would be surrounded by a highly skilled health care team and provided with immediate attention and excellent care. It just wasn't fair. A colleague and I came by her side and held her hand, and tried to calm her and coach her to breath easy. What could we do? Resources were scarce. Doctors and nurses were no where to be found. I felt useless. I was so scared as the possibility of death crossed my mind as she struggled to breathe. Feeling helpless, feeling useless, and scared, not knowing what else we could do, my colleague and I prayed with Elina. It was such a privilege to be able to pray with a patient as a nurse. In a situation where there seemed to be no hope, God was there and He was with Elina. After being unresponsive for some while, she looked around frightened and asked me where she was. I told her she was in the hospital and assured her we would take care of her and she was going to be okay as I held her hand. She was in so much pain. Through laboured breathing, she squeezed my hand and whispered to me that she was thirsty. Trying to find a cup to fill with clean water, frustration overcame me. A cup was no where to be found. Why was it so hard to find a cup in a hospital? Cups are readily available at our fingertips in Canadian hospitals. Not so in Zambia. I was angry. However, it forced me to think on my feet and be creative. Together with a colleauge of mine, we ended up finding a small medicine cup to fill with water and I helped to pour it into her mouth. I was full of emotions of anger, sadness, and frustration that day. We found some equipment and took her vital signs. A nurse ended up finding an oxygen machine that worked and hooked it up. The doctor ended up coming. An IV was started and we rushed her on stretcher to the x-ray department, which was jammed full of injured young people lying everywhere. As I waited with her, I remember feeling so happy and so relieved as she looked up at me and said 'I can breathe now' with a smile on her face. Throughout that day, I watched God perform a miracle as I was privileged to watch her improve, despite still being in much pain, I am so thankful that God was with her.

24: Immersed in this totally different and beautiful African culture, I consider myself to be very privileged and blessed to see how amazing these people are. Their love, passion, singing, dancing, focus on God, community focused living, and hard work ethic is so admirable.

27: We headed to Livingstone where we did some sightseeing and shopping. We visited Victoria falls and we also spent a day in Botswana on a safari. The luxurious hotel, food, and hot showers were nice, but I missed the rural village life. I missed the red dirt roads, the smell, the grass fences, and the beautiful loving people.

29: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." Psalm 19: 1-4

30: I never really understood the concept of culture shock until I experienced it in London upon returning from Zambia. I always had thought that culture shock would happen to me upon entering Africa for the first time. But it didn't. I experienced it when I left Africa and arrived in London. It was just so overwhelming. It was so busy. I was immediately struck by how the people were so unfriendly and cold. I missed the loving, charming, friendly African people. As I looked around on the tube, I noticed that everyone seemed to be completely consumed by their personal electronic devices, living in a different reality, ignoring everything and everyone around them. People were bustling everywhere in such a hurry. I pictured the people all around me in such a hurry chasing their insatiable desire of ‘more’... more stuff, more money. It all seemed so meaningless. I felt like I was thrown into this incredibly busy, self-centered, and fast paced life style. I came from one of the poorest nations in the world to one of the richest. Everything seemed so luxurious. As I sat watching the lion king play, I struggled with what a luxurious lifestyle people are living here in Europe. It was an amazing play and I loved it, but I kept on thinking how wrong it is that we are paying money to be entertained by people singing and dancing on stage, while in Africa people are struggling to get enough money to buy food to feed their family. It just was not right. People seemed to having ‘everything’ here in London. But they were not happy. They were not truly satisfied nor fulfilled. In Africa, where people have very little, they are so happy.

31: My African experience went by much too quickly. I loved being there and soaking in every moment of it. I was sad to leave Chikankata. It felt like we had just arrived and started to get comfortable. We were just beginning to get to know the people, and we had to leave so soon. I am very thankful that God gave me this opportunity and rich experience with His beautiful people in Africa. I am thankful for everyone who prayed for me. God kept me safe and healthy and gave me an amazing experience. I miss Africa and cannot wait to go back. It is my hope to return when I finish my nursing education to serve and learn.

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