This is a post I wrote a few months ago, but waited to put it up. Now, a friend has done a beautiful and powerful photography video that gives you a real feel for the hospital and what people there go through every day. Here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb3TMtzZCXU
June 2010: After six months here, I start to think I’ve seen everything. I’ve written again and again about how warm and generous we have found Malawians to be. Despite all of the struggles that many Malawians face, they look at life with joy.
Yesterday was a stronger demonstration of this than I have ever seen before. Ginny and I went to the children’s club where I’ve been volunteering since we moved here. It brings children and adults with disabilities, along with their caregivers, together once a week to do physical therapy, a craft activity, and to share tea. It takes place in one of the poorest townships in Malawi. These are children for whom life is difficult anyway, but then you add in a disability and you wonder how they manage to be so happy and full of hope and life.
Instead of a regular Tuesday, everyone piled into cruisers, minivans, and our car, and drove to Queens Hospital. Queens serves most of southern Malawi. It is considered to be one of the best public hospitals in the country and draws doctors and nurses from around the world who work and teach there.
The nurses welcomed us and led us through various wards. Women from the club had been working all year to knit sweaters for newborns, so we got to walk through the maternity wards while the sweaters were handed out. The women were happy to show off their new babies. We then went into the Kangaroo ward where premature babies are cared for. I’ve never seen such little teeny tiny babies. One was the size of my hand. One’s face was so small she looked like a doll. They were so fragile it almost made your stomach hurt, worrying about them. The incubators are basically wooden boxes with plastic tops or babies wrapped tightly to their mother’s chest.
Once all of the sweaters were handed out, we then went through several children’s wards. The children from the club handed out little bags filled with biscuits. The children in the hospital were excited to have visitors and a small surprise. The children from the club, those for whom life is so difficult, where thrilled to be doing something good for those in need.
Despite the pain and fear that many in the hospital were suffering, when we smiled and offered greetings, they immediately smiled back, shook hands, happy to have visitors.
One of the children in the club seems to have a natural gift for photography. He had my camera during the day and took these pictures. I think he was able to make people more comfortable in front of the lens than I could. In the photos, you can get a feel for the facilities. You can also see the guardians (a family member who stays at the hospital, washing the patients clothes and cooking their food) taking care of their loved ones.
The visit was an emotional and powerful experience and something that Ginny and I will never forget. We were so fortunate to get to experience it and be there together.