Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Outreach Lunch Program

Today (March 31st) we returned to Doctor Abdulai's clinic. For the first half of the day Nicole assisted in the dispensary and Kyla and I assisted in the out patient department (OPD) where we took vital signs. Kyla and I really enjoyed interacting with all the people and practicing our Dagbani , the local language.  We also had some fun with the children that arrived for treatment and handed out Canadian stickers; they loved it!

We were again struck by the sheer volume of patients (especially kids) sick with malaria or enteric fever (tyhpoid).   It is so interesting that we (the western world) have ideas around how to solve the "malaria problem".  We've asked about mosquito nets, as they are provided free at many clinics and outreach centres, but are not being used.  The answer didn't surprise us.  The temperature here is close to 40 degrees Celsius through the day, and "cools" off to 35 at night.  With the mosquito nets up, there is absolutely no air flowing and it becomes stifling.  Not practical.  We have the best intentions, yet we often provide solutions that just don't meet the needs of the population. 

After we finished up with the patients in OPD we joined the volunteers in the outreach lunch program. Dr. Abdulai's clinic provides lunch in the community to people who are homeless and/or suffer with mental health issues.  One of the mandates of the clinic is to reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health issues.  We were all struck with the quiet, non judgmental way they go about this work.  This was an amazing experience to be a part of, which we enjoyed while riding in the bed of a truck. The truck drives along it's route and the volunteers leave packages of food and water for the people.  The food is all donated, and is prepared by volunteers. 

We were all touched deeply when we stopped to deliver a meal to a man who was naked and confused, sitting by the side of a building.   The volunteers found a shirt and without making a scene carefully dressed the man and left him with food and water for the day. One volunteer mentioned to us the importance of maintaining the dignity of these people, caring for them, and keeping them safe and we witnessed this in action. 

We continued on with the deliveries, and made a stop at the Tamale General Prison to leave food for the prisoners who do not have family bringing them in food.  The volunteers at this clinic ensure that no one goes without and the work is beautiful!

We were so privileged to see a living example of de-stigmatizing mental health issues.  Our healthcare system at home could learn so much from this simple practice of loving compassion and service.  James, one of the volunteers who supported us these past 2 days shared that everyone can heal when they are treated with care, dignity and LOVE.

We certainly witnessed this today.

Christina & Jeanette


1 comment:

  1. Dear Christina & Jeanette,

    The research on stigma in nursing and other disciplines is fascinating - whether the topic is stigma and HIV/AIDS, stigma and mental illness, stigma and sexuality, ..... we are a stigmatizing world.

    Your stories recall for me the fantastic work that UBCO nursing students and other have been doing over the past few years to bust the myths in mental illness and dissolve the stigma which so many people and families feel when trying to deal with mental health issues. Or the work that many students and faculty are currently doing to ensure a safe place for every person regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

    Judy Mill and other colleagues who have nursed and conducted research in Africa are a good place to start reading about stigma and health, particularly in relation to preventing and encouraging treatment for HIV/AIDS. As nurses we can counter and dissolve stigma every day by how we treat each other and everyone in our care. Your exemplars remind us of that vital fact,

    Tricia Marck