The first person we visited had been complaining with stomach pains, leaving him unable to work, complicated by his developing HIV/AIDS. He had never been to see a doctor because the hospital is several hours walk, no one in the village has any kind of transportation and he’s not up to making the journey on foot. He had been suffering from the same condition since 1992 and has taken nothing but paracetemol for it.
The story was pretty similar with each patient that we visited. Desperate situations that go on way too long but thankfully supportive communities and families who rally round and support the person. The stigma of HIV is being reduced now that it is a much more openly discussed topic. This in itself is a wonderful breakthrough.
At the second family we visited the patient was an eight year old girl called Memory who also has HIV/AIDS. The family was very different from the first we visited. There was silence there, almost a cloud of sadness and Memory clung to her Mum, desperately shy. The effects of HIV/AIDS meant that she is under developed and unable to speak but since receiving antiretrovirals she has started to say a few words and is more able to play with her siblings and the other children in the village.
|Memory and her mother playing with the hula hoop she loved|
It took a bit of coaxing but the lure of a skipping rope and hula hoop had the children come out from behind the bags of maize and they were charging around with us in no time. One of the most touching sights was Memory running along the dust path rolling the hula hoop with an enormous smile on her face. The hoop belonged to the Ndubs but the team bought it off them so they could give it to Memory. Money well spent when we saw the smile on her face to be left with it.
Our final patient was an elderly lady suffering from what seemed to be the effects of high blood pressure but again she had only been given paracetamol. She had been suffering with intense migranes for eight years. It’s hard to comprehend that level of suffering. We painted her house, introduced her grandchildren to the wonders of bubbles and cooked the family dinner.
|We love bubbles!|
It felt like so little to offer but they commented that our being there raised their spirits, simply by being remembered by a world that seems to be racing on without them. We split into two team for the day and the other group encountered a lady who was unable to have an operation because it cost £25. The kids immediately pulled out their pocket money and gave it to her. For that lady the future has changed. Even the lifting of Memory’s spirits with a hula hoop felt like something. It might be a drop in the ocean but what is the ocean if not a collection of drops?
The next day we embarked on a practical project plastering a room in a recently built house for a teacher who would be teaching at the new secondary school. I quickly learned that I cannot plaster, AT ALL, but have some skills in cement mixing. It was hot, hard work but satisfying to finish and that evening we were treated to one of the greatest moment of the trip for me so far.
We set up a campfire and the word spread to the local villages that it was an open invitation. Soon people started emerging from the bush and tentatively taking a seat with us. We sang some songs and the Miloso Church Choir absolutely wowed, and happily upstaged (!), us with their singing. Sitting there, under the stars listening to these beautiful voices was one of those moments where I almost descend above myself and thought ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’
We then sang a song together in Bemba and in English called ‘There’s no one like Jesus.’ It’s a real Zambian favourite that I remembered from my last trip. There is something remarkable about sitting down with someone on the other side of the globe, where you have seemingly nothing in common, and talking about God. It’s truly amazing as you realise you have the same struggles, the same hopes and that there is something tangible in the nature of God that they have experienced too. There is nothing more unifying than that. We prayed together in our different languages and my perceptions of who God is and what he is doing in this world blew right open all over again. It was amazing.
Finally we spent our last day in Miloso at the local primary school where our team taught for the day. There are 1,500 children in the school and five classrooms. The teacher teach in shifts with eighty children in each class. They split them into groups of forty and teach from 7am to 12.20pm and then from 12.30pm to 5pm. Yes, that’s a ten minute break ALL DAY. Imagine the marking, imagine the lesson planning! These people are heroes.
|Miloso Middle Basic School, that inside of the tyre on the right is the school bell!|
Many of the children we had met in the villages or over the campfire were at the school and we were greeted like old friends before being thoroughly destroyed on the netball court. Those are some skilled children! I was hugely encouraged to see these posters on the walls in the classroom and reminded again of how fundamental, how life changing, education is.
It is here that norms begin to change, that rights for women and children that are so vital for development are discussed. Here the first seeds of change are planted. The secondary school will be another major step in the right direction.
While wandering between classrooms I also came across this little gem which I have adopted as my house motto, thanks Miloso School!!
And that was Miloso, a remarkable few days that I would re live in a heartbeat.