Nkandla Day 10 - Valangay Highschool

Written by Jessica McComas Wednesday, 02 September 2009 00:00

nkandla-valengay-highschoolAll day today (Wednesday) was spent At Velangaye Highschool.  The school was hosting an "Open Day" where they invited families of future hopeful students from all over the region to come and see the school and to interview with teachers and student government etc. The principal also presented awards to some of the high achievers in each department and grade.

I also met with my group of students for the leadership/service workshop. We finally started to formulate our community service projects. We broke the group of 24 students into three groups. Each was assigned to plan a service project that we would all carry out together. My group and have begun to plan a "field day" with the kids at the Sizanani Outreach. I'm so excited because we're putting together activities like three-legged races, face painting, soccer games etc and I know the kids will love it. The students in my group are all so cute and so excited to reach out to the kids at the Center.

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Nkandla Day 9 - Sizanani Outreach

Written by Jessica McComas Tuesday, 01 September 2009 00:00

nkandla-hivisrealI went out with one of the teams on home visits for the first time yesterday (Monday). All the work I've done before for Sizanani Outreach has been strictly for AIDS patients. These home visits are different in that we follow up on people who were either referred by others in the community (usually children whose parents or guardians have died), or on those either too sick or too far away to visit the clinics.

At each of the homes we visited I was shocked to see just how many toddlers there were running around, all with dirty and/or improper clothing, and almost always malnourished. A lady who is HIV positivie with seven children was feeding her 9 month old porridge with a huge spoon. This baby was about the size of a 6 month old. We tried teaching her about the nutrition that the baby needs, but she didn't really listen. I thought that the area of Nkandla that I am in living in was poor...I had no idea how bad it could really get until Monday. Some of the homes we visited were only four wheel drive accessible and took over an hour to get to (by car) from town. Most of these people have hardly any food, no livestock, no gardens, and no water close by. I have no idea how they survive. For homes such as these, the Sizanani Outreach program gives food parcel packages, but of course it's only enough to sustain them for a short time. Like I mentioned before, almost all of these people rely on the government for Disability Grants to pay for food.

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Nkandla Day 7 - Orphanage Visit

Written by Jessica McComas Sunday, 30 August 2009 23:31

iStock_000001821815XSmallI'm at the orphanage right now.  It's the only place with wireless internet (the Sizanani Outreach offices are here too) and I'm literally surrounded by TEN kids haha. They're loving this laptop I am using... kinda making it hard to type. I put on Disney songs so they can enjoy. They are seriously so cute. I love them all and I want to take them allllll home with me.

I'm sitting next to a little 13 year old boy who is reading this email as I type it. haha. He wants me to tell you all that he says hello. All of the other kids say hello as well. Man I cannot describe to you how awesome they are, and so beautiful. One of my favorites is a little six year old who has AIDS and so is the size of a 4 year old. He is extremely smart and always goofing around. To be honest, all the kids are my favorite.

They all have such good little hearts and despite their circumstance, they are all fairly well behaved and happy. It's amazing what people can do with so little. Makes me really realize how incredibly spoiled I am.

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Nkandla Day 5 - Rural Clinics

Written by Jessica McComas Thursday, 27 August 2009 00:00

6290_505309147570_330900025_142048_2899708_nToday (Thursday) I went out to a rural clinic. This was my first time in one of their "taxis," and I would not recommend it to those with a sensitive nose. I feel bad talking about it, because I really just need to get over it, but to get through it, I had to concentrate on taking quick and shallow breaths so as not to fill my nostrils too much. As one could imagine, people who live in tiny mud huts don't typically have showers or access to running water of any kind. If they do get a chance to bathe, it is often without soap. Then, they cram 15 people into a tiny van and OH MY GOSH!  (Am I sounding like a spoiled American here? Probably, but part of the reason I am writing this is to document a growing experience, and getting over or dealing with my sensitivity to smells is a big hurdle for me).

At the rural clinic, I visited a support group, another crowded room, over 20 people in a 10' x 10' room (another growing experience?). They were all speaking Zulu, so I obviously couldnt understand a word, but one of the counselors was nice enough to translate every now and then. They were all AIDS patients of the clinic and were meeting to discuss the death of two other patients in the last week. They discussed gathering money for the surviving families and other ways they could help. Every few minutes they would all break out into song.  I am told that the Zulu people pray through song -- it's really beautiful, actually.


Nkandla Day 4 - First Visits to Clinics

Written by Jessica McComas Wednesday, 26 August 2009 23:26

nkandla-sisterellenThe last couple of days have been really cool! Yesterday I was able to go to one of the clinics with Sister Ellen and one of her assistants who is a health care worker. The clinic was packed with people seeking medical aid. The purpose for our visit was to meet with clients that are currently on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Our job was to check their adherence to the regimen and to follow up on their blood work and modify anything if needed. In South Africa, the CD4 count must be below 200/mm3 in order for the clients to qualify for ART. In other words, these people have to be VERY sick before they can get the medication they need.

While a third of the people here test positive for HIV, the number one killer is Tuberculosis. Luckily the Sizanani Outreach (who I'm working for) also does TB testing. The types of patients we saw yesterday ranged from a lady with AIDS that came in to apply for a Disability Grant (because over 90% of the people here are unemployed, the government has to subsidize most of their living), to a 13 year old boy with AIDS needing a refill on medication (he came alone to the clinic).

Sister Ellen is an incredibly hard worker. She was a doctor in Germany and has been living here for almost 30 years. I can't imagine the things she has seen and has had to do.

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Nkandla Day 1 - First Impressions

Written by Jessica McComas Sunday, 23 August 2009 00:00

6290_505309267330_330900025_142053_2683150_nWe got into Nkandla on Saturday evening.  The drive from Jo'burg was about 7 hours. uuuugh. But is was really pretty, kept wanting to see lions running along side the car... Ya.. Didn't happen. Just cows and goats EVERYWHERE!!!

I love it! The town I am in is really rural and quite poor. Im staying at a catholic convent with 8 or so sister nuns that are all soooooo cute. Most of the food we eat is from their own gardens (mom you would love it). The days have been relatively warm but then nights are always freeezing. Luckily we have little space heaters and tons of blankets :) So far we've visited the Velangaye Highschool and met the students, principal etc. and gone to "the center" which is the orphanage. The natives are soooo friendly here.

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