Sunday, May 29, 2011

Odds n' Ends

We are going to do a bit of catching up.
We began the month with a 2-day neo-natal resusitation training by a wonderful Doctor named Arthur Ngoy. He has a passion for NRT and volunteers his free time, along with his Doctor wife, to train nurses and doctors from various clinics around this area. We (LDS Humanitarian Services) provide the registration, all the kits, dolls, booklets, snacks, lunches, and pens, clipboards, etc. At the end of each day we print out a special certificate for each participant. Certificates are very important here. In the picture to the right, Dr. Ngoy is the man in the blue shirt in the foreground demonstrating the procedure. I wish I had the figures to share with you of how many newborns who weren't breathing have survived because of this simple procedure, taught to Dr. Ngoy by US doctors at a training several years ago. It is a perfect project because it is self-pertpetuating. The trainers go back to their clinics and train others, who then train even more individuals. We loved the experience!
Far right is just an awesome tree in a botanical garden.
This is going to be an official sewing project for the 6 stakes in Kinshasa. We provide 20 sewing machines and some notions and fabric for each stake. A volunteer teaches the women to sew so they can have a marketable skill. This is for both LDS and non-LDS student.s Note that the machines are hand-crank and tredle. No electricity.
Below is a Christmas Day parade! Some church here observes the holiday on May 25 each year and goes all out with the green dresses and whistles and bells.
Above is a typical Kinshasa river. We have seen people do laundry and collect drinking water from such places. See why our Clean Water Projects are our favorites?
Here are two men carrying a load of foam mattresses on their backs. A common sight. These people work very hard doing what has to be done without a murmur!

When we first passed by this man below, he was sound asleep with his arm out, begging for money. When we came back, he had awakened.
Below is a little bit of the insect life in Kinshasa. Luckily we did not find Mr. Big Beetle in our apartment, but outside one of our Church buildings. Thought the grandsons would enjoy this!
Some of my favorite guys: Elder B, with Brother Bekele (remember his story?), Dede standing behind him interpreting for us, and the engineer for Bro. Bekele's water project, Alain. We were discussing how to implement their project and actually increase it from 6 wells to 9 plus a rainwater catchment system at a local school and 10 new latrines. (toilets). It will be a great project and we are about ready to submit it. Wish us luck! We reward ourselves with chocolate when a project is approved. Sure could use some chocolate soon!
Brother Bekele and his adorable wife. He always brings her with him when we have a meeting. She is the mom of 6 children and looks like she's about 20. We communicate with smiles. Isn't hers a great one?

Here are the existing latrines at a school of 650 students. Only 4, and they are not toilets, they are primitive holes in the ground. And no water at the school. We are proposing to build 8 or 10 more latrines and provide water by adding a gutter along the lower edge of a roof and collect rainwater into tanks, to be used for handwashing. Also included in the project will be some Health and Hygiene training.
One other project we have already had approved is to provide funds to the Operation Smile organization so the patients at the hospital here where they receive their cleft palate or lip surgery can have meals. (The hospitals here do not provide food for their patients). Operation Smile came to us because another organization had been giving them the money for these meals in the past, but cancelled out this year at the last minute. We thought this would never be approved because it is a "give away", which does not fit the criteria for Humanitarian Services. But the Area wanted us to do it, so the criteria gets bybassed and we get to give $5000 for those meals.
Another project we are working madly on right now is the Wheelchair Initiative. We find a partner (in this case the Minister of Health) who agrees to our US people coming in and doing a 4-day training on teaching the selected PTs here on how to assess the needs of a poor person with a spinal cord injury and then write a prescription for the correct wheelchair. There are also US wheelchair technicians who will train the Congolese technicians on how to adjust and fit those chairs to the recipient. Then he/she is given the wheelchair. About 300 special wheelchairs are being shipped in from China or Vietnam. Unfortunately, our little wheelchair business here can't build the type of chairs we need. Elder B and I will be in charge of the logistics for the training, as well as writing up the project.
So you can see we have lots of projects in various stages of completion, and finally feel we almost know what we are doing, thanks to a lot of wonderful people who have trained us and are constantly answering our phone calls and e-mails.
And finally, another look at a major highway in Kinshasa, and the cheap way to get from one place to another. As Elder Richardson, our Area Welfare Specialist, said when he was visiting here with us last week from Johannesburg to train us, "Kinshasa has 14 million people, and at any given time there are 7 million people crossing the street in front of you." True true. Sorry there are no goats on top of this one, but that is not uncommon.
We love it here!!! Have a wonderful week............

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lovely Luputa and the Long Trek Home

Our return to Luputa this week was another wonderful experience -- and this time we were on our own, although we brought our very good interpreter, Dede, with us. We couldn't have done it without him!! The Luputa Water Project is up and running, with just a few glitches, but it is progressing quite well. The construction is completed and now it's time for the water committee to learn how to become a water company. The picture on the right shows Elder B, with Dede interpreting, being recorded for a local radio station while explaining to some villagers at this particular water station how to keep the water coming for years and years to come. Namely, to commit to paying the small water fee (about 5 cents US for 2 large bidons of water each day) in order to maintain and repair any breaks as they happen. He is reminding the villagers how important the health of their children is by having clean uncontaminated water to drink. Dede was right there translating into French or Tschluba (?) or Swahili(?) or Lingala. He is amazing! Later in the week we attended a meeting called by the water committee with the local pastors. The purpose of this meeting was to give correct information and ask the pastors to talk to their congregations about the importance of maintaining the system. Elder B was asked to speak. He did a great job praising the people for all the hard work they had done to dig the 19 miles of trenches and lay the huge pipe -- all by hand -- and he pled with them not to let this "miracle" fail. Once again the radio stations were present to record the event.
Sorry about this unposed picture, but we wanted to show you again how beautiful the surroundings are. And by the way, no one told these people that the Moondelees/Moontokas/Moozooloos were coming. (Whiteys to you). The people, especially the children, just appear. I watched at one water station when we arrived. No one there. Five minutes later there were 65.
Someone told us before coming to the Congo that we would be treated like rock stars. Now we understand. We are truly the big news of the day! Every day!
This picture of our scorpion friend is for our grandsons. We also found one in the bathrub, but since there is no running water and the bathtub is not used, we didn't care that the little guy was living there. We are told that these scorpions are not poisonous. Be sure to double-click on him so you see his lovely tail!
These little piggies are on their way to market. They are very hot and uncomfortable, and they would feel even worse (if possible) if they knew what their future held. I call this picture "The Poor Piggies and the Broken Bike". The man is fixing his flat tire, so he put the green palm branches over the piggies to keep them cooler. I'm afraid the pigs were beyond caring at this point. Bicycles are the main mode of transporting EVERYTHING to and from Luputa. The bikes are pushed much more than ridden. The loads they carry are enormous. And they push them for miles and miles
On our way to Luputa from Mbuji Maya we had the good fortune to be able to cross the bridge with only a small bribe to the engineer who laid down some planks over the gaping hole for us while the huge overloaded trucks had to wait.
We were just a little over-confident about our return to Mbuji Maya/airport/Kinshasa. When we approached the bridge after driving an hour from Luputa, we could see that there was NO way we would be able to cross, unless we were riding bikes. So we had to turn around and drive back one hour to Luputa and take the back road. Total driving time that day -- 10 hours on roads you can't believe. It should have been 5 hours. Dad's back was pretty banged up from the rough riding.
Here are some examples of the surprises we would find around the corner!!
Yes, we got through, but only by taking detours out in the bush. And sometimes we got to take detours of the detours.
We were asked to return in 3 months to access the water project again, and by then another couple may be assigned to the closer mission, so we would just be "training" them. We will miss our lovely Luputa and the friends we have made there.
We will end our blog by sharing some African wisdom. Africa is never in a hurry. One saying is "Going slowly does not prevent arriving." Example from the book Into Africa: A South African relates how he once gave a lift to an old farmer who said he was going to visit his daughter. "How far away does she live?" the driver asked. "Three days' travel," answered the farmer. "When did you leave home?" "When I left," answered the old man. "And when will you get there?" "When I get there." "Does your daughter know you are coming?" "No." "And what will she say when she sees you?" "Oh, you are here."
We experience this every day when traveling to our project sites. Elder B will ask, "How far is it?" "Not far." "How long will it take?" "Not long."
Another favorite saying: Delay does not spoil things. It makes them better.
We love this place!
And we love you!
Happy Mothers' Day!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Wheelchair Factory

This week we returned to the School for the Handicapped (sewing, craft, art, basic ed, book-binding) and found the students actively involved there. This time we took some pictures:
To the left is the sewing school. Notice there is a male student! He is a beginner, and was all smiles.
Below is the outdoor school for the desperately disabled students. (That's what they call it.) The teacher is teaching them how to say short sentences in English. there were more students farther back where you can't see -- about 7 more. The teacher's pronunciation wasn't perfect, and I thought about correcting him, but didn't. I remembered what I must sound like when I try to speak French. A very humbling thought. So, give them some slack!!
To the right is the bookbinding class. There are usually only 3 men in this room since it is so small. They repair broken books and make blank books of varying sizes. If they are fortunate enough to get some orders, they print booklets, too. They have copied our Health and Hygiene Training booklets without copyrights, but hey, this is the Congo, and who cares? It's more important for people to get the health and hygiene training than to get permission.
They print grids on blank paper but have to pay for that printing, so they are asking for an off-set printer. They use old cardboard, etc, and it is amazing how professional their finished product is. Our first visit there, they gave us two of their books as a gift, but we had to return one of them because it was their financial ledger -- they thought it was a blank book!
Now for the wheelchair factory. A little background: the man who is involved with this school also is involved with wheelchairs. He came to us because not only does he want items for the school, he wants us to purchase wheelchairs from his 'factory'. We know the Church wants us to do a wheelchair project, but last year when the previous humanitarian couple tried to get the chairs (only 3-wheelers with hand cranks will work here due to the uneven, broken up ground) they couldn't get them shipped from the closest source, Uganda, without paying an arm and a leg. So they gave up. We have permission to get 100 chairs (a drop in the bucket compared to the need here - so many polio victims), so we were interested to hear what this man had to tell us about his source. We went with him and were very touched by what we saw. In the middle of a very busy, dirty, bustling market place, in a narrow alley, we found 3-4 men sitting in the dirt working on a wheelchair. All these men are handicapped. When we walked up to them, they absolutely beamed! They were almost finished with the chair (it was supposed to be finished when we got there, but due to electrical outages, they hadn't been able to finish all the welding.) But what they had to show us was their pride and joy! They were very excitied, and we were excited to see that these men had learned a marketable skill to support themselves!! We love that concept. That's what this humanitarian aid is all about, to help people become self-reliant and sustainable. And we had no idea that the chairs would be built by diabled people. We were very impressed -- until we looked closely at the work. They have a very old, very basic, dangerous, broken, no cover, unadjustable welder that was hooked up with an extension cord of sorts running down the alley. And their welding job was very poor. If you know about welding, the surface needs to be smooth and not full of holes. Each joint they welded was uneven and full of holes. It was hard not to cry because we had to tell them that we couldn't purchase work like that. They, of course, said they werent' finished and the final product would be perfect. Elder B told them we would return on Monday (tomorrow) and see the results. We are pretty sure they can't do any better, not necessarilybecause of lack of skill, but because of lack of proper tools. Bless their hearts. We honestly don't see how they can fix those joints, but we will go back, and pray that a small miracle has taken place. I told Bob that I wished he could give them welding lessons, but he said he probably couldn't do any better with what they had to work with. So we will let you know what we find. The hardest part about this Humanitarian work is having to say no.
Well, just in case we have already told you all about this school, and I think maybe we did already, at least this time you have pictures to look at. Bob says maybe I should read my own blog once in a while to avoid duplication. Sorry sorry. Je suis desole!!
One final picture: Tuesday we leave again for Luputa! Wha-hoo!!! Here's a little reminder for you of the beautiful Luputa:
We love it!
Until next time, a revoir.
Therefore, let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. 3 Ne 12:16.