Monday, 25 May 2009


I have not been motivated to write my blog these last weeks. I’m not sure why that is. My days are full to the brim there are never enough hours in the day. There’s so much to do I sometimes find the task overwhelming. After a second visit by the director of The Rose Project and afterwards the Norwegian person responsible for procurement of equipment and furniture for the new unit I was left with the task of finalizing these orders assuring that what is needed is actually the correct specification and readily available. Some will be imported from Norway, others from South Africa or Kenya and the rest made locally. The buildings are now almost completed except for some last minute changes that have still to be finished.
Apart from these practicalities I am also working on the identifying and training of the members of the new health team. Due to the huge shortage of nurses/midwives in Malawi, staff will be brought in from many different areas. Some from the health centres, others from administrative positions and others will be nurses that have left the profession and are now being encouraged to return. In practise this means that the new unit will be staffed by a whole new team who have never worked together. This is a daunting task. The nurses and midwives, the colleagues I have been working with for the past 18 months will not form part of this group but will be taken to the other new maternity wing at the Central Hospital. I somehow feel I will be starting all over again . Starting once again to build up the relationships, the trust and the confidence which is vital for my continued work. This overwhelms me at times but I believe I am strong enough to do this.
Daily I am faced with conflicts and confusions within myself. I continue to find that life in Africa and here at Bwaila takes me to my limits and beyond. Not only practically, where my increasing experience in the area of obstetric complications allows me to respond to emergency and often life saving situations, but also emotionally as I try to empower my colleagues in their work and develop their own skills, often in the light of an almost generalized apathy, lack of urgency, responsibility or accountability. I remind myself frequently of Tarek’s words: “ Rachel, we are not looking for ‘Super Midwives’, just normal midwives who do their job.” So I endeavour to live with less, rather than more. I don’t accept it as right but I do have to learn to live with it. Less care, less caring, less vigilance, less ability, less accountability, less possibilities, less opportunities......... How difficult it is to stand back and let things be, let things take their course, allow change to happen slowly, give time. If we always do it, if we always point out that it’s not quite right, if we always make the decisions, if we can always do it better, little by little we are reducing confidence, we are undermining ability we are disempowering. I am here to empower the women of Malawi, to empower their health workers, to teach them skills, to give example but also to love and respect their differences. Not to want to make them like us but to accompany them in their journey towards a better and fairer future.
May has been a Spanish month with the arrival of Teresa a midwife from Valencia and Carmen and Carlos from Zaragoza. Teresa has been staying with us speaking only Spanish to Lucas. This has been wonderful for him as he prepares for a months’ holiday with his Dad in July. Bravely adapting to life at Bwaila with the usual conflicts and traumas that accompany the first few weeks of work here, she has been able to give some very special care to the mothers and babies she has attended. Those women and babies she has touched will know of something better because of her and she will grow and learn and love because of them. The Zaragoza team arrived full of expectations for their proposal to aid our work here at Bwaila/KCH. We soon encountered the recurring challenge of time commitment. Although understanding the huge potential out there of professionals wishing to give of their skills and knowledge to our work we find it extremely difficult to get them to commit to anything but short stays. We truly believe that a six month period is the minimum needed to be able to really contribute successfully. Adaptation takes time, understanding of the bigger picture in that whatever we do must lead to maximum sustainability, empowerment and confidence building cannot be achieved in a few weeks. It was therefore difficult to find a way to fit their plan to our needs. It will be good to find a way forward for these type of offers.
Lucas keeps well and keeps me on my toes. He ‘Ran for his Life’ ( sponsored run for wildlife!) last weekend. I was so proud of him as he completed 12 laps (12kms.) Running non stop for an hour. Needless to say , for those that know me, I encouraged him loudly from the side line without joining in! This morning I watched him run the 1,500m ‘open.’ Racing against boys of up to 12 years old he came in 10th of 12 runners. He was the only boy in his year that gave it a try which says something for his determination. Tomorrow is Sports Day, then only 3 more weeks until end of term. My niece arrives next week which we are looking forward to. Friends continue to love and support us and life in Malawi is good. My wonderful children keep us up to date with their busy lives and although we miss them so much it’s good to know they are happy and healthy. I will be back in Europe for a short stay at the end of July before returning for the opening of the new unit to face the difficult but exciting times ahead.