Village Partners International
seeks to develop and enhance communities with profound need.
|Reflections: Papoli's Pediatric Clinic|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 00:00|
Walking into the Robert H. Cooley Pediatric Clinic, I didn’t know what to expect.
Would I find a place full of despair – a place filled with illness and hopelessness? How could one building with no electricity and no water take care of the needs for a few sick children – much less 30 or 40 children every day?
What I found was a place filled with laughter and hope! Yes, the building is crowded beyond capacity. Yes, it is true that there is no electricity available or indoor plumbing. YES, it is a place filled with care and love for the children.
This is a place that deserves any support we can give as Harriet (head nurse) and her staff go about caring for children whose primary complaint is malnutrition; with secondary issues of malaria, AID/HIV, and more. If it were not for the care given these children on a regular, day-to-day basis, many would not survive.
Back to my first visit to the clinic. I walked into a small entry room that also served as the waiting room. To the right, there is a treatment room about the size of a moderate bedroom in one of our homes. IV’s were being used that were gravity-fed (remember: there is no electricity available). Children were in small beds holding onto a single stuffed toy. Infants, showing the distended bellies of severe malnutrition, sucked on their own fingers for comfort. Mattresses were worn but everything was clean and orderly.
Next to the treatment room was the day-room for all the ambulatory children. Every weekday morning, caregivers of these children drop them off at the clinic. Sometimes these are only 20…sometimes there are twice that number. With minimal staff, each child is bathed, fed and cared for before being picked up and taken home for the night. Children cannot stay overnight due to lack of electricity, plumbing and staff.
If you are a parent or grandparent of small children, think about the “bath time” ritual in your home. Warm water is available and electricity is available…you have a tub…you have towels and abundant soap. Probably, the soap is a “no tears” formula and the children have bath toys. Now, think about bath time in Papoli with 20, 30 or 40 children. First, the adult staff must walk to the bore holes (water wells) and fill 5-gallon containers with water. Water is carried back to an open-roofed room with concrete floor. Two caretakers are needed as children come one at a time to be bathed. One adult will pour the water and the other will use a bar of soap for the child’s skin and hair. The child is rinsed and the process starts over. Cold water, outdoors, bar soap – but oh how good the bath feels and how good that these children are able to be truly clean.
Everyday, a wood fire is built within the mud and dung walls of a cooking hut. Large vats of porridge are cooked over the open flame. As available, additions are made to the porridge to increase its nutritional value. Children are well-behaved as they sit under an open-sided, thatched dining room. Some will sit on low, wood benches and others will sit on mats over the dirt floor. All will be given porridge in a blue cup. For some, it is the only meal they will have that day. The smiles on the faces of these children warm my heart. They are truly appreciative of this food and of the care they are receiving. I am truly appreciative of the chance God has given me to witness this sight.
Children’s laughter can be heard throughout the cluster of buildings. A small play yard with outdoor swings and see-saws are available. Care-givers teach new songs and dances as the children play under the trees. Most still show signs of malnutrition, wear torn clothing and no shoes but have the biggest smile imaginable. In terms of material possessions, they have very little. What they gave me as they welcomed me into their world was priceless.
It is difficult to express the gentle and loving spirit of the people of Papoli to those that have never seen it for themselves. I know that I could not have fully understood their welcoming nature before visiting. However, I hope that I have been able to give you a glimpse into the life of the clinic children AND how we make a difference with our support to the people of Papoli and to the pediatric clinic. With limited medical supplies, they do so much. Illnesses are addressed. Children are given physical and emotional care. Tummy’s are filled with porridge. Lives are saved. Look around you and really LOOK at all have. Now, think of these children. The question we should now ask ourself is “Just what should I be doing to continue God’s work in this place?”
Malinda M. Pope