Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Community in Rwanda

Arriving on July 1st, I started with community at the baggage claim as I heard a woman ask another person if she were Carrie.  Jane from St. Andrew’s in Mount Pleasant, SC was coming for her annual summer three month trip to teach pre-school with Peace, a lovely woman originally from Uganda.  Since we came on the same flight, Peace came to pick us up and bring us both to Musanze/Ruhengeri.  I had the pleasure of a lovely 5 day stay with Caleb, Louise, Lydia and Moses King.  Louise and I started my first morning at the local and hospital pharmacies to discern what dermatologic medications were available.  Over the next day and a half, I saw about 100 people with Louise, Joanna (a PA student from Canada), and two local doctors, Anne and Stephane.  Louise had asked me to give some talks on acne, eczema and psoriasis, which was helpful as that was the bulk of the problems, which we saw.

On the afternoon of July 3, the Kings, Joanna, and Otavia, who is a rising Sophomore Morehead-Cain scholar from Italy, and I went to Lake Kivu at Gisenyi and enjoyed an idyllic overnight at a Catholic retreat center.  We had a special birthday celebration for Joanna that day with homemade cupcakes.  The next day, after a walk, we had a fun swim in the lake full of races by Moses and Lydia.  We returned to Musanze to have a dinner and celebration for Louise’s birthday with the same group and additionally, Fiona and Chris, who are missionaries with AIM from Australia, Peace, Jane, and two men who work with Caleb on the hydroelectric project (Roger from England and Jesse from Asheville).  It was a lovely time!

Having heard of Sonrise Orphanage for years, I was thrilled that Louise arranged for Joanna and I to go with her to see about 50 students there with skin issues on Saturday morning.  The head prefects, Grace and Allan, helped us and then gave us a tour and lunch.  It was nice to see where Hillary will be.  Around this time, we learned from Pastor Prosper about the delay, so we went home and played a board game, walked, and had dinner with Pacifique, who is a friend of the Kings and comes monthly to stay with them.

Although I was sad to start the time at Gikomero late, I was thankful to be able to go to the 7:30 am English service at the Anglican Church in Musanze/ Ruhengeri that Bishop John had built.  The best part was to see the final performance of the children’s choir  singing a song Lydia wrote and which I had seen practiced by the kids with much fervor.  I am still singing this song to myself.  After a time of Bible study on Genesis 49, we returned home with about 12 people to whom the Kings gave bread or pancakes as well as tea.  After a time of praise and prayer, some stayed to address some concerns.  The Kings are constantly helping others in a discerning and generous way…I mean constantly.  After Lydia, Louise and I came back from a walk and a trip the Mountain Gorilla Lodge, we heard some bleating in the King’s yard, which confirmed the gift of a goat as thanks by someone.:)  Joanna kindly rode  2 hours with the driver to take me to Kigali and made sure I found Pastor Prosper and Eugenie.  As well, we met up with my friend, Greg Meyer’s sister, Caritas, for whom I had a very full bag to give.   I cannot tell you how special this time  at Musanze was and how welcome I felt by all.  I truly enjoyed everyone I encountered.

Community continued right away with our friends at Shogwye and the team.  I am going to focus on our time at the Health Centers now.  On Monday, the entire team sans Eric had a tour of the health center there as part of our time.  On Tuesday, we also all saw the one at Gikomero.  As Louise told me, the health centers are the backbone of the health system in Rwanda, which is an impressive one with much accomplished with few resources.  It is so exciting to see that since Andy came six years ago and heard of many women walking miles in labor, that all women now give birth in the health center.  The center in Gikomero has existed for a year and seven months and is possible because they have that wonderful water source that we partnered with them on.  It is amazing that now they serve a population of 15-20,000 and deliver about 20 babies a month along with providing a complete immunization plan similar to ours.  One strong focus is family planning, and they were refreshingly open with this and their prevention and treatment of HIV/Aids.  The rate of HIV and maternal transmission is similar to ours due to all of their efforts and foresight.  They use a solar power system for power.  We have heard repeatedly from Bishop Jared and all of the pastors of attending to the people here holistically, and one sees that so clearly at the health center.  It is very inspiring and exciting to see.

Today, Lee and I and Marieke, who is an oncology nurse in Amsterdam and is with another group here, had the pleasure of going to Shogwye Health Center and teaching a mid-wife from Gikomero(Marie Claire) and a nurse from Hanika (Jessica) and one from Shogwye (Providence) as well as the directors from Hanika and Shogwye.   I used some wonderful laminated cards with common dermatologic conditions in English and French from the American Academy of Dermatology with pictures and treatments outlined.  Lee talked about common eye conditions they may see, which engaged them.  After that, the three of us asked a lot of questions, and they asked us many in return.  One thing we wondered was why the incidence of malaria, which had been very low, had suddenly risen to 8%.  We had speculated on various things.  Marie Claire explained that since the incidence decreased, people stopped using their mosquito nets; thus, the rise.  By the end of the day, we all exchanged much and had gotten to be friends with emails traded.  They all requested, and we are excited to see about 50 dermatologic patients together on Friday morning in Shogwye. 

Lastly, one of my favorite things has been morning devotion at 7:45 with the diocesan staff.  We have read through Proverbs 20 over the past two days and have focused our days on specific verses to meditate on after discussion.  I have felt such a sense of community in every arena and give thanks for all of these lovely people who love the Lord so much.

My love to Andy, Cate, Laney and Claire (the 13 year oldJ) along with Cappie and Ellen and all of my family and dear friends, whom I miss so!  Carrie

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