As many of you may know, I recently traveled with the One5 Foundation team to Malawi and honestly, the trip was so overwhelming, I am just now being able to put it into words. I hope you’ll take a moment to follow the link above to read about the Nutritional Clinic and the Meals of Hope program as portrayed by Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo. She has beautifully shared the story on her blog and having read her explanation of the program, I will continue by adding a narrative of my experience here.
First, and foremost, I’d like to thank Mercy and her team for taking such excellent care to teach me as a volunteer, but also to call my attention to unusual cases so I could learn and share the story. And, thank you to Mike for taking so many excellent pictures! You are an artist, my friend.
And so we begin. . .
We arrived at the compound of the MUMC in Nancholi, early in the morning. I was told this would be a very busy day for the nutritional clinic, as we were expecting to see 40+ clients in just 4 hours. I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect or how I would be able to help. Mercy escorted me to the clinic, past the trailer currently holding many clinic supplies, down the dusty road – now muddy from the previous night’s rainfall, past a pile of bricks with a detour to spot a millipede and into a small white building with a sunken porch where many clients were already waiting to be seen.
I was given a brief introduction to the people who would be teaching me to serve here and we were off and running.
New clients are given a nutrition lesson during their first visit. They are taught to use locally available, nutrient-dense foods to supplement their diet. Maize is a staple food of Malawi. It is eaten as a porridge and as a side dish with vegetables and, if available, meat. Many of the items on this table can be added to this staple meal to boost the healthfulness of the meal.
Pictured here: raw soya beans, processed soya, soya flour, groundnuts and groundnut flour, casava flour, fermented millet and its ground version, dried pumpkin leaves, moringa leaves and ground powder and ground, peanut butter like product which is intended for small children.
Once the nutrition lesson was complete, we started evaluating clients. Some were young children who had been referred to the clinic due to malnutrition. Other clients were adults who may be suffering from a chronic, debilitating diseases such as HIV/AIDs or TB. I was also introduced to some women, who had walked for several days, to collect the nutritional supplement packets for their dying family members.
They walked for several days. . . yeah, I did say that.
For the clients being evaluated, we measured their middle-upper-arm circumference, height and weight; determined their BMI and height/weight to age; examined them for anemia and edema. All of these statistics are recorded and followed to determine whether their health is improving on the program. As improvement is seen, they continue on the program and eventually, are released. Otherwise, after several visits showing no improvement, they are referred to the hospital for further testing.
Here are some of the precious children, with whom I was so honored to work.
So, this little one on the baby scale. . .
SO adorable, but would NOT sit still for a moment. This precious sweetie kept bouncing on the scale and we ended up having to weigh Momma with and without the baby to determine the baby’s weight.
It was a very busy 4 hours and time seemed to fly by. We saw some very sick children and a few adults who have been so ill. . .it just takes your breath away. But, we also saw children who at one time were unresponsive, underweight, wasting. And now, they are laughing, playing, hugging, smiling and thriving. We saw 52 clients that day, in just 4 hours. I am so thrilled to report we were able to release 17 from the program, because they had met their nutritional and growth goals!
One5 Foundation supports this nutritional clinic, along with Church of the Resurrection (COR) in Leawood KS. It is so exciting to be part of the solution here in Malawi. It has been so exciting to learn how COR has been involved here and to see the results of their gifts and their work over these past years. I know several people who attend COR and am so happy for their continued support here in Malawi.
It’s an act of faith to write a check or drop a $20 bill in the offering plate at church, never really seeing it be spent. . .and still, quite another to hold these children in your arms and see the results of those gifts. Thank you. Every day. . I thank you.
While I was working in the clinic, Jon, Glenn and Mercy were interviewing construction and engineering firms. One5 Foundation will be building a hospital next to this nutritional clinic and they are forming their team to accomplish this. They also were able to finalize the plans and make arrangements to submit the final plans to the city for approval.
But, then. . .that’s quite another story. . . .stay tuned.