Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, our Executive Director, is in Africa visiting hospitals in Tanzania and Uganda to learn about the health care systems in these countries. You can read her first dispatch here. Below is her latest update:
It is after 9pm and we are about to collapse at the Rwenzori Garden Hotel in Kasese, Uganda. It has been a long and incredibly educational day – also a tad overwhelming. We learned about the children’s program at Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation which sponsors 450 children, mostly girls who have been orphaned to HIV/AIDS, violence, or armed conflict or disease. It is an eye opening experience to hear from some of the graduates of this program whose school fees were sponsored by the foundation. It is also hard to get our heads around schools requiring fees, and kicking kids out when they can’t pay. Equally challenging, from what we understood today, are the students whose fees may be paid for, but who can’t afford the books, or other school supplies.
I hope to write more about this program in the future, but will spend some time trying to understand family structures that include children as young as 10 years old being the heads of household. It was quite a day. If you want many more photos, and more detailed information, I recommend Sara Irwin’s blog. We have been together this whole trip, and she was greeted as an oddity in Tanzania – where they are surprised to see a woman clergy member, and she is greeted as a rock star in Uganda because she is a priest whose parish includes a Ugandan congregation in Medford. It is a treat to get to know her better.
Bishop Shaw with Dr. Daniel, the only physician at a health clinic that serves 22,000 patients a year.
We have been told that this is the best doctor in all of Africa, and we watched him with patients today. He has a marvelous bedside manner. He is also leaving in August 2013 after more than 6 years to take up a residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery. He wants to return to his native country Congo to repair wounds and amputations from the armed conflict currently under way. We were walking the property of the new hospital to be.
This is Ann who runs the Children’s Project for Bishop Masereka’s Christian Foundation. She does more with limited funds than anyone else we have run into thus far. She also has a giant heart, and an aura about her that seems saintly. She told us remarkable stories about tracking down girls who had left school and keeping in touch with them until they returned to their classes. More remarkably, we heard from some of her success stories, who talked about what a hard time they had given Ann and how they know owe her their lives…..when asked whether she has children of her own, Ann said, “yes, the program children are mine.” and then Bishop Masereka piped up to tell us that Ann actually has 7 children…all orphans who she met through the program. The most recent child is a baby girl Ann found in a ditch right outside the health clinic when the child was about a day old. She is now a healthy one year old…We are pretty sure Ann has wings.
With Awe and Wonder – and about to step out under the gorgeous stars – with NO light pollution (which we were surrounded by in Korogwe, Tanzania)