Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Abu's Story...

Written by Abu Bangura...

Once upon a time, I met with an international physiotherapist from England. We did not know each other, but our priority to visit the communities in Sierra Leone was to see disabled children for their treatment.

For the first time in my entire life so far, I never knew what it meant to be a physiotherapist. During the first 2 weeks visits I thought that Vez was a children's doctor. I was so admired by her getting down on dirty floors for a session with the children, I wanted to learn. I wouldn't have known about stretches or strengthening or development otherwise.

A few months later, I took interest in the job and started going down on the floor too, while assisting to motivate and facilitate positions of the children. Most of the children and families I interacted with where very pleased for our help and service.

One day Vez noticed that I had patience, encouragement and was committed to the job. She decided to train me as a Rehabilitation Assistant. I agreed to her dream as God have chosen me and called me to learn this job and work with these children.

I have now received a lot of training, about 2 and a half years, while taking internal exams. I normally (though not always! – Vez) score high marks both in the theory and practical.

However, I also had computer email training and diary planning so I can manage and plan more independently. I am now able to assess and treat children with disabilities, I try to explain the problem to the family and often talk and encourage them. I explain how to care for their child and have Jesus' love for their children. I can also design special chairs for those that need them, and I talk to our carpenter to make them. I am also responsible to make phone calls to our families to inform them of our visit or follow up if the child has been sick. This helps the families feel encouraged that we care.

We thank you for supporting this work which enables us to enable them.

October 09 Newsletter

Dear Supporting Friends,

I'm Shocked! That's what a friend of mine continually says sarcastically when he hears of another typical Sierra Leonean happening.

A vehicle rolls along the road and the door falls off, they stop, collect it and carry on. I'm shocked!
Baby strollers are often seen, but never with babies in them, instead, cool boxes full of drinks and snacks. Shocked!
First quote for a car part that I desperately needed (steering box) to allow my car to turn right as well as left, was 800Leones, they were joking, it was actually 800,000Leones. Shockingly, I was not laughing.
Few nights ago we had a storm so bad and rains so hard that I got out of bed to have a look. Standing at the closed window I was shocked to be feeling the rain on my legs, only to discover I was also standing in a puddle of rain! How can rain get through a closed window you might ask? Put it down to the wonderful workmanship when building the house that does not allow for proper sealing of the frames. Shocking! Though I was very thankful to be sleeping in a solid building rather than the corrugated shacks that most of our families live in.
The same storm also knocked out our internet, as well as messed up the power supply in part of the site I live on. Shocked! Literally!
A lorry carrying goods (in this case bags of coal) from the villages to the city can be so overloaded (see picture above), carry boys on the top of the cabin as well as on top of the goods and hanging off the back, and still not get pulled in by the Police. Notice the logo on the front of the lorry – God is Great! I'm shocked!
I met a man who called himself a 'physiotherapist' this week, when I asked where he did his training, it turns out he had shadowed a Rehabilitation Therapist in Freetown for 2 weeks and that qualified him to be working as a physiotherapist. Shockingly worrying.
A cook book I recently flicked through looking for flapjacks, instead presented me with snake stir fry, rat soup, squirrel stew and roast monkey! I'm shocked!

These have happened in the last week and gives you a taster of 'normal' life here! They are all fairly funny stories, where no real harm is done (though potentially some could be lethal).

However, other situations we find ourselves in are both shocking and saddening. I'm reminded this past month how important the role of advocacy is for our disabled children. For some we are fighting against the systems and environments, for others we're trying to give them a voice among their own families.
Khallon, who you might remember was having casting done (by another organisation) for his club feet, sadly where he lives is just too wet with mud and waste water of every description (washing up, bathing, toileting, spitting - a common habit here). His cast soon looked like this and did nothing to hold the correct postion....

So not surprisingly it did not work as well as hoped. However this new brace will hopefully enable us to help him weight bear some more, maybe allowing walking eventually.

A 12 year old boy is beaten so badly over a year ago, rumour has it by his father, that he is recently admitted to hospital for 2 months, the father is arrested, momentarily, but let out on bail to supposedly provide for the boy. The child had been put in a safe place with another NGO, but the father took him back. The boy is now living again with the father, yet still cannot walk independently. It took us over an hour walking in the hot sun to find this boy again having been moved from the safe house he was in. Now we are trying to focus on the boys rehab while involving another NGO to get involved in his social situation.

Some of our other children in the communities were given the opportunity to apply for admission to the SOS Home for the Physically Challenged, where they would be housed and attend the SOS school. However they do not want to accept the children with Cerebral Palsy as they often also have learning difficulties and therefore would bring the exam results of the school down. There are no schools in Sierra Leone which have special units / facilities for any child with any kind of learning difficulty. Recently, Enable the Children were able to direct much funding to the SOS system, however when it has come to wanting to use some of that money for part sponsorship of our disabled children who have been accepted, we have not (??yet??) been given access to the funds.
Amara's family are given the opportunity for surgery to release the contractures in his knees (which we have been searching for for the past 6 months) to be paid (by us 300,000 Le plus transport) and we offered to drive him the 3 hours to Makeni as it is hard for a person with a spinal cord injury to travel by public transport. Amara has gained so much active movement back in his legs since completing the treatment for TB spine, that this operation would give him the chance to walk again instead of being wheelchair bound, the state he has been in for over 2 years now. But we had such a battle with his family who could not be bothered to find a relative who could be admitted with Amara to care and cook for him. And they could not even find the money for them to buy food while he was admitted, even though if he were at home they would have to feed him. I'm shocked that it was such a stress and the family did not jump at this once in a lifetime opportunity. We did however win in the end when a kind 'uncle' agreed to take responsibility for Amara. Sadly for the uncle it does probably mean that he may loose his job on return to Freetown, but thank God he was willing to make this sacrifice. You can see on Amara's face on the way to Makeni how much it means to him. They are still in the hospital in Makeni and Amara would have had his surgery today if all went as planned.

There are many many other stories like this that can be told. In fact each child we treat has their own history. So as shocking as it can be to live in this country, still we press on being whatever help we can be in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Psalm 10:12
Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.

For those of you who pray, please consider:
  • STOP PRESS – we are having interviews tomorrow (Wednesday 7th) for the new post of Rehabilitation Assistant. This is a huge next step for our work as much training and supervision will be needed of the new person. We have been so blessed with Abu, but finding another person so committed, reliable, trustworthy and willing to break cultural boundaries to work on the floor with disabled children, will not be an easy task.
  • Amara - post operatively for good recovery, the rehab process of walking again, and that his family will take good care of him.
  • Khallon – that he too would be able to walk on his feet. There is not much else we can do for him now.
  • For the boy who had been badly beaten, for the healing of his wounds physically and emotionally. For his safety and for justice to come about.
  • Thank God for Sarah's (new British OT) safe arrival and swift settling in. She is enjoying the home visits, working hard with learning Krio, becoming a local at getting public transport and generally doing very well surviving here! Still needs some cockroach and spider killing practice mind!
  • For Abu who is also doing well with work. He has been instrumental with many of these difficult patient situations as well as helping Sarah into the work here.
  • For the on-going process of Registration of Enable the Children with the SL government. I have been hard at work on Constitutions, Job Descriptions, Policy making etc etc. But things move slowly in Africa, and I don't have much time left!
  • And do keep praying for our safety and sanity. Only by God's grace can we continue with these draining situations, but we believe he has directed us to where we are, and we trust he will continue to show us the way.

Thank you once again, without you this team would be a lot smaller.

African Proverb

"The river swells with the contribution of small streams"

With love from Vez