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This is Africa

Arrival in Makaphutu

View Sala Kahle on arianemeena's travel map.

After an exhausting week of skiing and an even more tiring weekend of pole dancing (photos redacted) it was no wonder I slept most of the way to Johannesburg. I had a couple of hours to kill at the airport and swiftly found Woolworths- confusingly, this is the South African version of M&S, although without Percy Pigs so a pretty poor showing.

After a speedy flight to Durban I was met by a smiley welcoming committee- Karen and Samina, two of the TWOWEEKS trustees, who were in their last days of a whistle-stop trip. My first evening in Makaphutu Children's Village was marked by an impressive electrical storm, illuminating the stunning surrounding hills.

There are two other TWOWEEKS volunteers here at the moment- Hannah, a fellow F3 and her boyfriend Chris, a lawyer, who had come out ten days before my arrival. There are also two Zulu volunteers, a German and an American, as well as three Norwegian girls who are about to leave after a 6 month stay. We are living in two neighbouring cottages (strictly segregated by gender of course) in the middle of the village. Some of the youngest children live in the cottage underneath ours and early morning renditions of 'Man in the Mirror' are currently acting as a remarkably effective alarm clock. Each cottage has a house mother and 7 - 9 children, ranging in age from 2 to 19. Siblings live together and the cottages are roughly divided by age group.

In the morning I accompanied Hannah to the Don McKenzie TB Centre. This government hospital treats, among others, those with chronic TB complications or who have multi-drug resistant TB and so need injectable antibiotics. The inpatient unit only has three doctors (for years it just had one) and no juniors, putting at least some of the staff shortages in the NHS in to perspective.

That night the TWOWEEKS team had a farewell (to Samina and Karen) and welcome (to me!) dinner in a local restaurant. In an impressive coincidence I bumped in to two girls I did F1 with, Hannah and Caroline who are working in Pietermaritzburg, on my way to the loo.

On Thursday Hannah and I spent the morning at the 1000 Hills clinic, a remarkable endeavour set up in the late 80s by a nurse that provides free medical care, including HIV support, to the local population. They also have a kitchen where they cook lunch for hundreds of locals every day, as well as a crèche so women can go to work. There is a doctor who volunteers her time every Thursday morning and every other Wednesday morning and extra pairs of hands are always welcome. Our visit coincided with a Rotary Club Health day where nurses were doing child malnutrition screening, administering deworming medication, performing cervical screening and all sorts of other things on a seemingly endless supply of people.

I made my first trip to Lily of the Valley on Friday morning. This is where TWOWEEKS first volunteered and as well as the children's village (with 110 children as compared to Makaphutu's 50) has a primary school, medical clinic and various community projects on site.

We were informed that the volunteers would be running the 'Maths Olympics' every other Saturday, in the hope of making numeracy fun whilst surreptitiously improving basic skills. We organised the children in to mixed ability teams and designed games based on the ten times table, culminating in a relay race where the next team member could only start running once they'd completed a sum. Not sure Michael Gove would approve but the children seemed to enjoy it.

It's been school holidays here so any normal schedule has gone out the window. This coming week I'm hoping to meet with some key staff members and develop project ideas. Hannah and I will continue to help out in the TB hospital and local clinic as well as carrying on with basic health checks and reviews for the children. And in my free time I will admire as many views like this one as possible:

Posted by arianemeena 07:44 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Stay well

Heading to SA

After coming back to a grim, rainy British January for my (successful!) paediatrics interview, it was time to plan the next stage of my year out (click here for the blog of my first 5 months and thank you to all those who took the time to read it).

I entered the world of locum doctoring and started meeting with the lovely ladies at TWOWEEKS, a UK based volunteer network who work with charities in South Africa and Peru. The Lily of the Valley and Makaphutu Children's Villages are in KwaZulu Natal province (about 45 minutes from Durban) and provide a home for children abandoned or orphaned due the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They also work closely with the surrounding communities on a variety of projects, including nurse-led clinics and a TB Hospital.

TWOWEEKS was set up to provide short term volunteering opportunities that have a lasting impact and to that end each volunteer develops a personal project based on the orphanages' current needs. The widening availability of effective HIV treatment and improvement in the health of the children means that most are now reaching adulthood and outgrow the villages. Although this is a great 'problem' to have it is throwing up challenges and they are keen to equip the young people with the life skills required to live on the outside world and break the 'orphan cycle'.

I've prepared myself as much as I can for what is to come over the next month but as I have regularly been told, flexibility is key! I have a few project ideas in mind but plans B/C/D/Z are there just in case and it's more than likely I'll end up doing something none of us have even thought of yet.

Internet access may be a little sketchy but I'm hoping to blog about my experiences as often as I can. After my month is up I have a couple of weeks to explore South Africa so any hints/tips/offers of company are encouraged and appreciated!

My Zulu is in its infancy but as I depart I say to you all 'Sala Kahle', or 'stay well'.

Posted by arianemeena 14:49 Comments (0)

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