Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Street Kids

As much as Roxy and I loved working in the clinic, we were a little jealous of all the playtime some of the other Hostel Hoff volunteers got at their orphanage and school projects. Ali took mercy on our need for a game of football and invited us to Amani Center for Street Children on our last Friday afternoon. Please check out the link above and take a look at their website. They are doing some amazing and necessary work in Moshi and function entirely on donations. In a nutshell, Amani takes in street kids, educates them on site or helps them integrate into local schools, gives them a place to live, food to eat, teaches basic life skills and generally gets them back on their feet. The best part is, Amani social workers work with the children's families, with the final goal of reunification.

We were blown away by the modern facilities in a nice neighborhood and also by the dedication of the workers and volunteers. Amani requires a 6 month volunteer commitment and from my observations of Ali's experience you are truly immersed in Tanzanian culture. Ali's Kiswahili is enviable to me, who can barely get by in town.

On Friday afternoon's the kids get free time, so everyone was outside enjoying the beautiful weather, climbing all over the jungle gym, showing off their bomb acrobatic skillz and playing an intense game of soccer (football, whatever). They were so much fun and were so excited we were there to hang out and play with them. Baraka and Gertruda were particularly playful. I'm a little upset that I'm no longer as quick and bold on a jungle gym as I used to be. Apparently I'm out of practice!

Even though this project isn't part of our fundraising or work in Tanzania, I wanted to include it in the blog to show how great the need is in Tanzania for all variety of donations and volunteers. This is another group doing amazing work over there, and I wanted to get people interested in it, so even when our project is over and our goals are reached you can see that there are so many other places and people who need our support. I hope my project has inspired some of you and I hope that we can having a continuing impact on a community that is so deserving of it.
Also I had to include this amazing picture of Kili that we took while hanging out at Nyumbani Hotel's rooftop bar. Pretty!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Bag Drop

Sorry for the massive delay in posts. We came back from a six day trek up the Machame route on Kilimanjaro. Such an amazing trip. Of course, no fundraising money was used to pay for the climb.

We did get to put some of our fundraising to use today though! We've just returned from the Majengo Health Center where we dropped off over $3000 worth of medical and dental supplies. Thanks to the amazing donors who made it possible to provide the clinic with vital tools like blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, syringes and needles, and IV kits as well as dental instruments. We purchased some of the items in the US and the others were graciously given by a clinic in Missouri and two dental offices in Missouri and Texas. Thank you! Jay brought everything with him on the plane last week, and we waited to deliver the items today so we would have the proper witnesses, etc. Dr. Mariki and the nurses there were extremely appreciative, and are drafting a letter of thanks. I will post it to our fundraising site here and of course to the blog as soon as it is ready! Such a great feeling to see all of our hard work and efforts really come together to make a tangible difference in the daily function of the clinic. Now instead of having to run from room to room trying to find the one BP cuff, each exam room and physician will have their own. 

Now that we have the clinic all taken care of and one final week of volunteering the last goal is to fund the power for the water pump at Path to Africa. I am so impressed and in awe of how so many people have come together to make this trip and these donations possible. I'm happy to be able to report your money and items are going directly to the people who need them the most in Moshi, and I hope you will take the time to promote our cause just a bit longer. We're almost there!

Oh and as promised, for the guys at Hans Bier Haus who helped us raise almost $700 at their bar, we took their shirts all the way to Uhuru Peak at the top of Kilimanjaro. Thanks guys, hope this pic makes it worth it!
Kwa heri! M.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stunning like my Daddy.

Oh goodness. The Daladala we passed walking to the clinic this morning had the title of this post painted on the back along with many pictures of American rappers. They seemed to really like Ludacris. The buses are hilarious and have such random things painted on them. Another favorite is "Cash Money." They like to try to corner you and force you to get onto the bus, which can be funny and also a little alarming. Especially if you become trapped and have to turn around just to avoid them.

Currently I'm blogging because the power is out, and there are no hot showers available. The power is randomly fine for many days and then goes out without warning. You never know if its going to be 20 minutes or 6 hours.

This week at the clinic we have been working in the lab. While the lack of proper protective gear (I literally was ridiculed for almost an hour for wearing gloves while doing blood draws for malaria and HIV. I know. Yikes. I wore them anyways) and sterilization (slides are washed off in soapy water and reused) is very different from home and in many ways not safe, its actually a fairly high tech place. They have two microscopes, one of which is partially broken so its only used for looking at big things like urine and stool samples. The other is very fancy like one you would see in any office in the US and its used for malaria blood smears and TB acid fast stained sputum samples. I should probably mention that when preparing these TB samples no masks are worn because no masks are around. They recommended we keep it away from our faces... yeah. At home we have specialized masks to prevent droplet spread, but hey, this is Africa. Hopefully I won't be contracting TB.

The photo above is of Roxy staining some of the blood smears so we can look at them under the microscope. It similar to a Gram stain, but there are fewer steps and its much less messy. Works just as well too, so I'm not 100% why we don't use this technique at home. Probably because we're drowning in protocol.

This is me recording the findings in these massive government registry books. It sounds easy, but people's names are very unfamiliar and the handwriting usually leaves something to be desired. I guess as best I can and I and make up the others. I think that's the normal system so I don't feel super bad about it. Often we have patients whose name is spelled differently on every form they have. Its a fluid system.

This next one is of me actually pricking someone's finger to make a blood slide. The variety of reactions is very entertaining. Most adults are aware that it doesn't really hurt so they are usually ok, although some are quite dramatic about a finger stick. Little kids' reactions depend mostly on if they've had the test before. Ones that are unsuspecting are really easy and don't fight you, although they tend to have this really horrified look of betrayal on their faces after you have made them bleed a little. Kids who have had the test done before know whats coming, and most freak out before you even touch them. This wouldn't be so bad if A) I could communicate with them or their parents and B) they were actually in the room with me instead of outside the window. Unfortunately those things don't happen so the process can be a bit difficult.

The weather has been really spectacular this week, the sun has been out and we've even seen Kili a few times. Its a bit hazy, so pictures aren't coming out so well. In a little more than a week we'll be climbing! This is both exciting and terrifying. Not sure what the plan is for the clinic next week, but we are going to a coffee plantation on Sunday! Until then kwa heri! M

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Babies and the Animals

Karibu! So sorry for the delay in posting! We took a long weekend away from the project and went on safari for a few days! Much needed pictures later, but first an update from Majengo Clinic.

Roxy and I spent the last week in the labor and delivery building of the clinic, which sees on average one or two deliveries a day. The nurses and midwifes there are amazing, and they were so excited to teach us, it made for a really fun week.

My first ever delivery to watch was also the most dramatic one I saw. The mother had been in labor overnight and had just gone into the back room from the waiting area. This was her fourth baby and so they didn't expect any complications. Everything was going as smoothly as having a baby tends to go, but when the child was born he was an upsetting grey-blue color and was very limp. The nurses were spectacular in their response, and began by rubbing the little guy's back and slapping his feet. When that gained no response they injected him with glucose, ventilated him and continued to try to rouse him physically. It actually came to the point of holding the poor thing upside down and smacking his bottom. I was beginning to get extremely concerned because it felt like forever had gone by and still there was no response. Finally, just as everyone was about to give up hope he started to cry! Such a relief to see a nice pink baby instead of a blue one. The nurse resuscitating him looked to the sky and said "asante" which was quite a sweet moment as it means "thank you" in Kiswahili. When she was describing the delivery later for charting we asked the nurse if it was as dramatic a delivery for her as it had been for us, and I thought her answer was quite interesting. She wasn't concerned with their lack of technology or machines to use for the baby and said only that they do what they know works and this time they were successful. Honestly I believe those gals could give any western medical technology a run for its money. The baby is doing fine by the way, we saw him and his mom the next day for a 24 hour checkup and he continued to be pink and lively.

The strength of the women here completely fascinates me. They lay in pain for however many hours their baby decides in this little room with no privacy, no pain medications, and no support group around them. The only comforts are literally a thermos of warm water and a wool blanket. Pain medications are not offered during or after delivery either, except in the most extreme of cases. In my opinion any situation that involves birthing a child would be extreme, but there's just not enough to go around and so supplies are conserved. Once they have delivered the women get up off the table and walk themselves back to their little bed in the waiting area. They get up and walk. On their own. I think the clinic owns one wheelchair, and so they just pick themselves up and head outside. I wish I could comment on if there is much complaint, and I would be tempted to write that most don't vocalize their pain but my Swahili borders between non-existent and really terrible; suffice to say there's no Hollywood-style screaming and carrying on.

Ok now I'll post what everyone really wants to see. Animals!! Safari was unbelievable and I am so glad we had the opportunity to go to Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorogoro Crater. Truly some of the most beautiful places I've seen on this earth. To be clear no fundraising money was spent on our little side adventure, and we still need your help to reach our goal of $6000. The really baller ladies of Majengo Clinic's labor and delivery would really appreciate a new BP cuff. You can donate here!

Now pics, I promise!
Baby lions:

 Grown-up lions:
 Me and Roxy and our tent:
 Grown up and baby lions together (so many lions!!). The cubs are such sassafrases. One turned around and "roared" at us. He sounded like a house cat. Not impressive, but very funny.
 My personal favorite. Never did get an awesome picture because I was too busy going "a cheetah a cheetah acheetahacheetah!" They are so rare this guy was a real treat. He even ran a bit for us. Gorgeous.
So that's all for now. This coming week we will be in the under five part of the clinic, so I'm sure lots of baby stories are to follow.
Kwaheri (later). M.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Life

So now that we're some what less jet-lagged and are adjusting to living in either a bunk (Roxy) or a tent (me), we finally got to venture a bit more around Moshi. Also, while many of our hostel-mates have recently left for home, we have a new addition from the US and a Brit who was traveling has returned as well. Its nice to have some more friendly faces and a new conversation.

Yesterday was the mass shopping day, in which Rose, Roxy and I joined near-local Valentina to scour the local shops. Shopping here is completely difficult for a few reasons. One: Tanzanian Shillings (Tsh) convert to USD in a most inconvenient way, 1600:1. Try and work that one out on the spot while purchasing somthing for 18,000 Tsh. Right. Two: most shops don't have listed prices, so you never know if you are getting the actual price of an item or a wildly inflated one because you are white. Three: if you are feeling like you are getting ripped off, most of the time you can bargain, but occasionally the attempt to bargain insults the store owner, and if you're like me you get lectured and asked to leave. Not ideal for purchasing. As we flailed through the first few stores, having minimal success, we realized we needed backup, so we phoned hostel manager and awesome person Mary, who showed us all of the best places to buy and let us know if the prices were good. The particular victory in this was my fabric shopping, as the quality can vary widely as can the price. With Mary's help I have many yards of gorgeous wax fabric (so called because wax is used in the dying process, thanks Mom).

Walking around town is a bit like mountain climbing as the sidewalks are so ridiculous. Most are just rubble, but in the nicer parts of town stretches are paved. Mostly you just sort of walk on the side of the road if the sidewalk is too bad, which is a bit scary because the cars are coming from the opposite direction you are expecting them to. Also most cars are dala dalas, which are sort of the most janky type of taxi ever. Men are always leaning out the side trying to get you to ride in their dala dala, and people do, although I've heard you often have to share your leg space with various livestock. I'm constantly grateful we can walk to the Majengo clinic. Our neighborhood is a bit outside of town and the tree-lined streets are very peaceful. In the middle of town are two main roads that are lined with vendors and random men trying to convince you to buy something or come to their shop. They are extremely persistent, but can also get offended if you tell them Hapana, sana (seriously dude, no). The best I have found is either to ignore them, or use them as an opportunity to practice your Swahili. If all else fails hop in a store and they move on to harass some other unsuspecting mzungu (white person). 

Today we tried to sleep in, but lucky me, I got splattered by the acid of a Nairobi fly and have a massive itchy red mark on my arm. Thought it was a bug bite gone wrong at first and was in a benadryl coma for awhile, but once we figured out what the heck it was I was informed toothpaste is helpful. I suppose it helps neutralize the acid. Here's hoping it looks better tomorrow.

We ate lunch at a place called Kilimanjaro Cafe which was quite good, but like everywhere amazingly slow. We are quickly learning to leave for lunch about an hour before we are going to be hungry or else we just sit and starve for awhile. Everyone has been guzzling milkshakes, which I find a bit odd, but after the smoothie incident at DFW in December I'm still avoiding any sort of blended beverage.

The rest of the afternoon and evening I think will be chilling around the hostel, eating dinner and maybe reading a book. I just finished the Hunger Games series this morning, and am in need of something a bit less stressful. Suggestions are welcome.

Tomorrow we start in the labor and delivery ward at the clinic, so more news then. Later. M.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Clinic

Just wanted to post some pictures from the clinic. We have been taking vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, and pulse) on all of the patients coming in to the HIV and outpatient clinics.

This morning it was rainy and muddy, but the light was pretty over the mountains. This just gives you an idea of what a typical building in Majengo looks like.

Here's me in our little room in the clinic.

This is looking out from the room into the main waiting area and the courtyard beyond.

Here's Roxy inside.

 And here's a few of our patients waiting to be seen. I will post more about it this weekend when I have more time to write

Thursday we must have taken 100 little kids temperatures, most of who have either some sort of horrible wheezing lung disease (pneumonia?) and the others are burning up with a fever, most from malaria. Friday was a slower day, but more dramatic as we got questioned by the local medical programs director, who, as far as I can tell, finds his job much more important than anyone else does. He asked me who the heck I was, why I was at the clinic, where I was from, and who said I could be there, followed by a very ominous, "I need to see you in my office." Luckily Roxy and I happened to be extremely busy at that moment and a minute later he came back to tell us nevermind. Of course I was a bit concerned about being hauled off to volunteer jail, but we were soon occupied by a woman brought in from the local police station because she had been hit by someone she knew. It was truly the saddest and most frustrating moment because she only spoke Swahili. We really just wanted to ask her if she was ok and help her navigate the crazy doctors who were being more dismissive than helpful. In the end we saw her about three times, and as our normal doctor and translator was away at a meeting I think we did absolutely nothing helpful. Sucked. Hopefully catching babies next week will be a little better. Later. M.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The First Days

Wow what a whirlwind. I'm pretty sure I've seen and done more new things in the last 48 hours than I have in the last 6 months.

Today was our first day at the clinic and minus that fact that my Swahili is limited to "Jambo" and "Asante" it was a pretty great day. The walk is about 25 minutes from our hostel and passes by an entire art village where the local artists paint and sell their work. I can't tell you how hard it was for me to walk past this! We walk to the town of Majengo, which is notably poorer and a bit more run down than Moshi, turn left at the bright green building and then the clinic is on the right! Everyone was extremely welcoming and seemed to be very glad we were there, and the ones who spoke some English did not hesitate to do so, so I tried to learn as many Swahili words as I could and used them regularly. Surprisingly difficult is remembering names, because very few are ones that I have heard before.

The best things about the clinic were getting to use the microscope ti dianose blood smears of malaria (thanks for that lab Dr. Makenzie!) and telling the Drs (Anastasi and Dr. Mariki) that we can solve their problem of having only one blood pressure cuff. Thanks to our fundraising we can afford the 15 more they so badly need for their more than 100 patients a day.  We would really like to be able to send some more desperately needed items like stethoscopes, but can't do it without your help! Donate here.

Okay everyone's favorite, picture time!
Here's me and Roxy by the sign to the clinic, the crazy green building and the art town on the way to volunteer.

And these are some much needed pictures of our hostel! Out front.

The backyard and "kitchen."

The dining room outside where we eat/ sit and read/ do mostly everything.

These dogs names are no lie Peanut and Butter!! Makes me miss my Butters.

Ok so that's all for now but much more to come!
Later. M.