0730 is not a great time to set off after a broken and short night’s sleep, but there you go. Needs must as the Kampala traffic is unforgiving during rush hour and we needed to get to the school in Bombo to get set up for the clinic on Monday morning.
The bus was loaded on Sunday night with drawer sets full of medicines, dressings, clothes for distribution as part of the general health clinic, MOT and all over wellbeing check.
From the moment we turned off the village road onto the bumpy track that leads up to the school and CRMI Project centre we could see women dressed in their best, brightly coloured flowing dresses with gargantuan shouder pads, boys in ill-fitting suits and small children in an assortment of clothes.
This was going to be a long and pretty testing day.
For all the project’s good work – and there is loads of it – there is still a huge level of poverty and illness, paucity of education and some very hard lives in and around the Bombo area and around a hundred people had walked to the centre with the promise of better health.
A quick scan of the room and the school and the team sprung into action – tarpaulin was stretched over the school’s quad, stations for triage, dressings, testing, doctors and general checks and we set up the ‘shop’ with clothes for people of all ages, two holdalls of shoes and toys for babies and children.
Our first client came into the clinic doors at about 10 am via Peter the doorman (no dinner suit or tattoos) past Margaret (who’d make an excellent surgery receptionist according to one of the team) after waiting outside since 7 am after an walk from the local village of a mile or so. Her blue ticket proudly displaying the number 1, she sat at the first station and then we were off – a steady stream of people, each clutching their tickets, babies and children filed into the room, sat at chairs patiently and moved through the clinicians picking up diagnoses, medicines and glasses of water and biscuits. Business at the clothing boutique was brisk with Herbert – an aspiring electrical engineer – Margaret – who wants to teach – and I going out and finding children with poorly-fitting clothes and shoes.
Word spread fast and we were soon down to a dwindling selection of shoes for ladies of a certain age – many of whom were able to find something that fit them. I have a feeling we will see some of those new outfits in church next week.
After a lunch at 2pm, cooldown and decompress, it wss decided that aside fro toothbrushes and toothpaste and babies clothes there wasn’t much more to issue from the shop so while the doctoring and nursing went on Ruby, Annie and I became the ‘entertainments team’ and handed out mini-footballs, Frisbees and skipping ropes to keep the, by now, restless and fed-up children occupied.
Always one to help people with useful skills for life, I taught a young lad called James how to use a Frisbee and pretty soon we had a hexagon going…mostly! Football was a great success and periodically large-eyed boys and gorls would sidle up to us and say ‘ball?’ with a hard-to resist look. We soon had none left.
During the day we met Victoria and her sister who, in matching uniforms, came to the clinic with their grandmother and brother to see the medical team. Victoria is an instantly engaging little girl with a beautiful smile who – Geoffrey from the project tells me – is faster to learn than many of the other kids in her class. Victoria falls over a lot. Victoria doesn’t like help. Victoria is fiercely independent. Victoria has cerebral palsy.
When she falls over, her sister picks her up, she cuddles her, she cares for her.
Victoria is a sponsored child as well as her sister and made a huge impact on us all. Hers is the picture on the top of the blog.
Victoria’s story is one of those ones that makes you realize how important charity work is in Africa. Yes, it may be seen as a drop in the ocean and unless structural and cultural changes are made in African countries some of ‘our charity donations’ are wasted but, you know, without charity donations Victoria’s life would not be so bright.
Victoria’s and millions like hers.
By the time 6 o’clock came round and our team of 16 were ready to go, we had seen around 80 patients. Some patients were treated there and then, some got antibiotics and painkillers and one girl was sent immediately to the hospital in Kampala for an X-ray on an injured arm. One of the team related a story of a 76 year old man complaining of a bad back who got some advice along the lines of the Pharma Sutra!
Empty holdalls were loaded back on the bus, medicines stock-checked and we made sure Marilyn was back on the bus…where’s Dr Mike? Mike is still speaking to the Ugandan GP Dr Wilson in the playground of the school surrounded by children kicking balls and others picking up empty bottles and sweet wrappers.
With a quick blast on the horn from Joel, Mike jumped and realized there were lots of hungry sweaty people ready for a shower and meal…after a 90 minute trek through the dust and fumes of a Kampala rush-hour…which, frankly could be any hour.
Thanks for reading, there will be more soon.
The picture for this blog post is of Victoria (on the left) and her sister. Ruby is the photographer and she will be offering prints for sale after we return for the CRMI Project.