February 18, 2005
Being in Charge
For the last month and a half, Wicka Scaafsma, the missionary who usually runs the handicapped sessions in Ndirande, has been away. She went to Holland to be with her daughter and brand new granddaughter. That left me in charge.
This is not something I wanted, looked forward to, or thought I could handle, however, God provides strength when it is needed.
Fortunately, I did not have to worry about choosing crafts. For her Girl Scout Gold award, Heather has been taking care of that.
What I did was quite a bit different. My job was to make sure that the nutritious snack (usually bread, butter, peanuts and tea with milk and sugar) was provided and to take care of any needs that the people might have. I was amazed to learn how varied those were.
The ladies had been given yarn last year to knit tiny baby sweaters for newborns. I collected these and paid each woman 30 Kwacha for her handiwork (about a quarter.) We will donate the sweaters, which are adorable, to local hospitals.
I also collected old newspapers and magazines each week, and gave them out to the men, who read them with gusto.
Wicka is a nurse, and although I am not, I was asked a variety of medical questions. One mother of an albino child asked me to look at the purple sores on her small son’s head. All I could do was give her sunscreen to prevent more. She was thrilled. Beatrice’s son had a rash all over his tummy, so I put on rubber gloves and applied a thick white medicated cream. Then I gave Beatrice a small supply of the cream in a piece of plastic to take home. We did this for two weeks, and the rash went away. Another woman wanted me to look at her knee. She wears braces and had surgery previously. Now she was experiencing pain. She wanted to see the doctor, but needed transportation money to the hospital. I gave her 60 Kwacha.
Another person wanted transport money to attend the funeral of a relative. I said, “No.” We only fund medical trips. Another woman needed medication for HIV. (The government hospitals usually give this out free to patients who need it, but many people can not get to the hospitals.) I gave her money for a minibus.
Wicka had given me a small notebook with names in it, and after trying to decipher it the first week, I decided to put the list of participants on the computer, and came prepared to take attendance with a printed sheet. It was a good thing that I did this, because when the truck arrived and we began giving out 50 kilo bags of maize to the handicapped, the whole neighborhood showed up wanting corn. We were able to use the lists to call out names and give the sacks to the people that needed them the most and deserved them. They were thrilled.
The list came in handy on subsequent weeks too, as more people showed up. Last week we added 7 new people to the list. One woman who is deaf came for the first time. A mother with an adorable little girl came up to me and took off the child’s shoe. She had 6 toes on her right foot, and one of them was deformed. She also had a finger that was not working properly. A teenaged girl who limps, was practically dragged in by a relative. She was not happy about being there, until she learned that food was provided. She practically inhaled her snack and was given extra bread. I think she will be back this week.
The saddest thing that happened though, was when a woman who comes every week showed up looking very distraught. She always had her baby with her, although he appeared to be weak and chronically ill. She knitted him adorable sweaters and kept him very clean. She told us that her baby had died. I looked at Mrs. Maxwell (the Malawian matron who is in charge) and said, “what should we do?” She replied, “Give her 100 Kwacha.” I handed the money to the bereaved woman, murmuring, “I am so sorry.”
I could not sleep that night. Less than a dollar for a child’s life. How tragic.
I am glad that Wicka will be back this week.