Our last day of teaching ended up being one of the hardest days for me on this trip for several reasons. Some of it was related to the obvious realization that our time was nearly up on this incredible journey. While I was anxious to get home to my family, there was part of me that didn’t want to leave.
But the hardest part of this day was related to some of the things that I saw.
In some aspects, there was this amazing beauty everywhere I looked. The land was beautiful, and so were the people. At times it’s easy to overlook the tragic lives that the people here are forced to live.
It wasn’t until our second day at this location that I really started talking with Rev. Joseph Bwambale. He was the pastor of the church that we were in, and he was my translator that morning as I taught.
I knew that I liked the guy when I would say three words, and his translation sounded like about five sentences followed a great deal of laughter from our audience. Considering that I wasn’t telling a joke, I knew that he had a style that the people connected with, and he did what was needed to communicate my basic message into something that his people really wanted to hear.
He knew his people well, and I liked that about him.
After I finished teaching I had the opportunity to talk more with him about the roles that he filled. I was blown away by what he told me and showed me.
First of all, he didn’t have any fancy tools. His office was simple and lacked the amenities of even the most meager workplaces here in the States. No computer. No desk phone. Only a small wooden desk with a few papers stacked on it.
He also showed me his study. This was the place where he went to read and learn. Most of the texts were well worn and several years old. But there I found the resources for the things that he was passionate about… theology and medical care. I imagine that every book he owned was difficult to come across. I didn’t see many Barnes and Nobles stores around, even in the more rural areas.
Reverend Joseph seemed to treasure his books in a way that few people do back home.
But what really got me was realizing exactly what he did for the community there. Not only did he run the church, but he also was responsible for a school and a medical center.
While the school was something along the lines of what I expected to see there, I don’t know that I was ready to witness the conditions of the medical center.
As Reverend Joseph showed me around, he explained to me that they did not have electricity in the buildings. In fact he told me about how they had gotten a grant from the government to build a new medical theater, but it was useless to them because they had neither electricity to power it or the doctors to staff it.
The reception area of the main building was dark, and obviously worn down. It was hardly the kind of place that would make you think that this is where one would go to get better from an illness.
I saw an injection room where the conditions not only seemed unsanitary, but also under-equipped. One can only wonder how many times needles must be used there before they became medical waste. Re-using needles wouldn’t be considered a reckless act here, it would be a necessity.
The conditions simply were not acceptable. I could see that it broke Reverend Joseph’s heart to know that he was not able to adequately meet the medical needs of the people. He told me about how the nearest (fully equipped) hospital was over an hour drive from there (through unpaved mountain roads).
He told me that if a woman was having a baby and there were complications, they would have to transport her in the back of a (nearly broken down) pick-up truck to the hospital. The journey alone would often make a bad situation worse.
Being the father of a child with Type 1 Diabetes, I couldn’t help but to wonder what life would be like for my son in a place like this. I wonder how many die because they simply are not able to correctly diagnose or properly treat those types of conditions.
Needless to say, this day was one that I will not soon forget.
Check out more from this series in the africa diaries.
That was a humbling experience for me to read, so I can just imagine what it was like for you to actually experience (I have a Type 1 diabetic child, too). We're so blessed to have it so good here, especially when it comes to medical care. It amazes me how people such as Reverend Joseph can do so much with so little.
this was arguably one of the most humbling, earth-shattering experiences of my life. to this day, i still get a pit in my stomach when i think about the conditions of that medical center. you are totally right when you mention how blessed we are over here.
i recently visited my doctor for my annual checkup, and talked to her about a recent trip that she made into kenya to provide medical care. we both just sat there broken-hearted about the drastic conditions that we saw over there… wish i could do more…