Monday, May 23, 2011

When the Ultimate Optimist Loses an Eye and Other Unforgettable Stories!

The sunset from the spot I am building my hut!

“I pushed through, not by myself, but with many people around me! My
friends believed in me and encouraged me through words. I heard the
words long enough to take them in and then I began to believe in myself.
I made it because of the encouraging people around me!”
-Jane (A successful Zambian businesswoman who presented at the girl’s empowerment

Jane has overcome many obstacles, including fighting traditional
marriage at age 13; and persuading her guardian grandmother to believe
that she could go past the 8th grade to achieve a successful business
career. Pure inspiration! I press on!

This is what I do a couple days of the week!

It was 8:00AM and I arrived at the clinic wearing my pressed white dress.
About five minutes later, a 16-year-old girl came rushing in. As she
climbed onto the bed, I realized that she was in labor. She didn’t seem to
be in much pain and said the traditional birthing assistant was on the
way. When she mentioned that she was only 8 months pregnant, I
decided to check to see if labor was progressing. The amniotic fluid sac
hadn’t broken yet, but the baby was at station +2 (which means the head
is close to popping out)! I rushed around to grab a sterile blade, 2 gauze
pads to make cord clamps, and some sterile gloves. Not a second too
late, I donned the gloves and delivered a premature baby. I tied and cut
the cord. Deliveries are different here. The women are strong - never
screaming. You would never know they were in the throes of labor by
looking at their faces. As I handed the mother her baby for skin to skin
warmth, I asked what she planned to name this tiny little girl. She
replied, “Namesake, Katherine.” Sweet! This was the first delivery I
attended by myself and the baby girl carries my name! Awesome!
Photo shoot with some of the girls! 

Several weeks ago, I was the nurse at a Peace Corps girl’s camp called
Camp Glow (Girls Leading Our World). The camp hosted girls ages 9-13,
from all over the Northwestern District of Zambia, to provide education
and encourage peer leadership. It was a big empowerment camp! One of
the sessions was called “Sugar Daddies”. I know, you want to chuckle to
yourself, but it is a serious problem due to the money local copper
mining brings. We asked the girls, “What are the reasons people have
sex?” The girls began to answer: “love,” “food,” and then, one girl looked
at the ground, began fidgeting with her fingers and said, “school fees”.
My heart dropped, I knew it happened, but here in front of me, right in
my face, it was a reality. Every day the girls sang strong and loud, “If you
want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you have to wake up
and pay attention”. Simply inspiring!

Death came at dusk. I was walking to my house, noticing the sky beyond
me beginning to cloud. The darkness came on like a grimace and the
wind was moaning. As I arrived home, a little girl ran up to me to say
that a child had been very sick and might have died. I looked down
toward the clinic and noticed those eerie clouds hovering over it. Just
then, there was a bolt of lightening and the sky let out a scream.
Seconds later a mother followed suit. Rachel (the Zambian nurse) came
to ask if I could listen for a child’s heart beat, and if none, make a
pronouncement of death. I walked into the clinic, to find a mother
looking down in silence at her son. I touched the warm skin of a 2 year
old boy’s angelic, candlelit face. Silence filled the room, and the other
end of my stethoscope, as I listened for … anything. The child’s chest
was as quiet as the room in which we sat. Here in the bush there is no
need for CPR. The reason for the grim reaper’s visit - we had run out of
malaria medications, receiving some just that day, but it was too late. I
told the mother that the child had died. In shock, she nodded and
proceeded, as she always had, to put the limp boy on her back for travel.
His lifeless body wouldn’t latch, so Rachel and I helped to get him onto
his mother’s back for one last journey. I watched as the pouring rain
drenched the mother’s grief as she walked up the hill towards home.
That night I wrote in my journal, “The morning will come and the rain will
end, but for now the earth is crying for it’s innocent child lost”. I
listened, with a heavy heart, to the pounding of rain until day light came.

Getting everyone to make their own rhythm. They love doing
this and dancing!
Easter Sunday was a glorious day! My parents wanted to do something
special for the kids in my village. With the help of my good friend,
Taylor, we had a game day complete with maize sack races, red light
green light, duck duck goose, and other classics. The 100 kids who
attended won prizes and have been talking about the fun they had ever
since! I think it was a celebration that the kids, nor I, will ever forget! I
give special thanks for the sermon given by Pastor Kevin Mangum (my
My friend Taylor and I passing out Peanut Butter Balls.
Very nutritious and a big treat for the kids!
parents’ pastor) - by letter of course! The church people felt so special

and I think it completed the three-day (literally they go to church for
three days straight) Easter Service!

Maize sack races! The kids absolutely loved this!
Finally, I come to the last story. I met Ernst Aebi (you can google him) on
a train in Tanzania. He joined our car just long enough to be added to
In our train car with Ernst coming back from Zanzibar a couple months ago!
my list of role models who are living life to the fullest. Ernst is 72 years
old. He made money renovating Soho lofts in NYC, and then in the early
1990’s, used his money to empower a village in the Sahara desert. I met

him during an interesting time in his life. Ernst was touring through
Africa and had just lost an eye after a bike accident in Zanzibar (an island
that screams pirate). As I helped him change his bandage, he chuckled
about losing his bad eye. Never once did I hear him complain. So what
happens when the ultimate optimist loses an eyeball? In the words of
Ernst, “I think it’s time to buy a parrot.”

Side note: I am dumbfounded by the donations many of you have made
for the hardworking people of Luamala! I will give you an update soon!
Thank you for supporting the work I am dong here! It means a lot to
know I have people all over the world caring about “my” people and
And this is the hard work put into every brick!
supporting the work I am doing! Your donations are making a difference!
Hardworking men making bricks for my house! They made 1000
bricks in 3 days! Pretty impressive!

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