The Series – Part 1/3

Remember when I said that I was partnering with Humans of Ottawa to share some stories that I’ve collected?  Well, the series is officially complete, and if you’ve been following their social media, you’ll see that it was an exciting success!

For the purposes of longevity and for those who haven’t yet seen, below is Part One of the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Malawi (Humans of Ottawa) series.


Partima
Meet Partima, 21 years old

“I went to the doctor who confirmed that I was two months pregnant. It was so difficult to eat food, I felt sick the entire time. When the labour started, I spent all day and night in pain before they transferred me to the hospital. They had to cut me to make more room for the baby to come. I was there for a very long time afterwards. My wish for her is to weigh more. I want her to keep growing.”


MAc
Meet Mac, Senior Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA)

“It is a good feeling when you help someone. My job is to rotate through the 62 villages here, making sure that everything is working like it should. I make sure that the care groups are providing proper training and that the families are receiving the right amount of medications. Transportation is an issue though. It would be very helpful if they gave us a motorcycle to help us get to each village, but I don’t know if they have made that a priority.”


Maria
Meet Maria, whose child died at 10 months old.

“We think it might have been malaria because she only had a fever. It was a Sunday, and the hospital only takes emergencies on Sundays. I didn’t know this was an emergency, so I was waiting to take her in the next day if the fever was still there. I never expected my child to die. But the fever started at 5am, and she was gone by 2pm. After that experience, I never wait to take my kids to the hospital.”


Bachali
Meet Bachali, Mother of three

“My first child only weighed 12 kilograms when he was 5 years old. He was a very ill child, even after they treated him for malnutrition. He would be losing weight instead of gaining it. My second child was the same way. But I know so much more about nutrition now. I learned to frequently breastfeed and to only breastfeed until they reach a certain age. And I have learned about the food groups. Peanuts are a substitute for protein. My third child is much healthier than the first two were. You can tell because of his appearance.”


Let me tell you something.

These stories are genuine. The full stories are both heartbreaking and full of hope. For all the hardships that they go through as a consequence of poor maternal health, each and every one of the people listed above, are part of a journey that is carrying them to a healthier life and a happier joy.

I love going through these posts, looking at the faces of the people I spoke to and re-reading their stories.  I can’t wait to share their full stories with you.

I promise, there’s so much more where these came from.

As always, 

Caitlin Arlene

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Through Hope and Grace

The following story is one that I wrote nearly four years ago.  It paints a picture of the life of Malawian orphan – highlighting their struggle and emphasizing their hope. It’s stories like this, among so many others, that are the inspiration for Mama. It’s stories like this that are the fire behind my passion.

I imagine that the people I spoke to and interacted with have long since graduated from the center described below, but the story itself remains the same.

 

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

You wake up to an unfamiliar humidity in the air surrounding you. Rolling over, you are greeted by a blinding ray of sunlight, and as you hastily rub the pain from your eyes, you are able to take in your surroundings. Directly above you is a dried-grass roof, supported by several twisted branches. The bright morning sunlight casts shadows on the mud-brick walls that crudely form the room in which you woke up just moments ago. The aching in your back is explained by the worn, dirt floor you had been sleeping on, cushioned only by a futile pleated mat. Thoroughly confused, and relatively nervous, you make your way to the window, hoping a view of the world outside will clarify your whereabouts. But what greets you is the dazed face of a Malawian orphan, perhaps 17 years of age. You shake your head, had they been looking in the window the whole time? But as you turn, you realize that it is not a window you have been looking into: it’s a mirror. The reflection is you. You are the orphan.

Shocked, you look down at your worn hands, and back into the mirror; as if to confirm what you are seeing is true. The face in the mirror nods, straightens their shirt and proceeds to exit the room, carrying you along with them.  Throughout the day, you find yourself participating in the unfamiliar life of the Malawian youth. You experience going to school hungry, and struggle to understand the difficult concepts being taught to you. When school ends, you walk barefoot in the heat of the African sun, wondering how much nsima, a simple dish made from corn-flour, you will be able to have that night. In addition to the uncertainty you have pertaining to your next meal, you feel the heavy weight of the future resting on you. Even though you have received your acceptance to the college you wanted, you know that there is no way you are going to be able to afford it; it’s a miracle you received the funds to go to secondary school in the first place, to dream of anything more remains as it is –a dream. Instead of your weary body guiding you down the footpath that leads to home, you turn down a different road. The road that leads you to Grace.

Grace. From a common name to a key doctrine in the Christian faith, the word itself has many meanings to people all over the world. But to you, to the orphaned children of Zomba, Malawi, Grace is a centre of hope. It’s a place to go, to receive support, guidance, and encouragement. In this case, Grace is an orphan care centre. Providing after-school tutoring and assistance to the children throughout the city, Grace works to instill Christian morals and teachings, ultimately offering a place of security and understanding; giving hope to the hopeless.

 

Of course, Grace Orphan Care hadn’t always been around for you. It began one sunny afternoon in the house of a gentle, caring soul. You were seven or eight years old when you first met the team at Grace, and over the next 10 years, they were a heavy influence in your growth –your success.  Grace and their supporters were able to raise the funds to build the beautiful building and facility that Grace now was; they had provided the centre with chickens, and other small livestock too. If it hadn’t been for these donors, and ultimately God’s faithfulness, you would not have been joined by another 200 orphans, and you most certainly would not have been able to fund your secondary education.

And God has an incredible way of providing in the most unlikely circumstances. When the news came that this very care center had found the funds to send you to University, there are no more words to be said.

There were 13 of you who would be recipients of the gift, meaning that the money that had come would be spread very thinly. But there was enough to get you through your first year – maybe two – and that was more than you could ask for. The centre was confident that more money would come as the years progressed, and you had faith in this conviction.

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Suddenly, you pop awake. The air around you is dry and grey. There is no blinding sun this time, as the blinds covering the window act as a blockade, restricting the golden rays from prematurely waking you. Rolling over, you realize that you are back in your own room, your own house, your own body.

Had that life simply been a dream? To you, maybe. But it is as much of a dream as it is a reality. The hardships you experienced, the uncertainty you felt, the hunger you saw; it all is more than truth to these children. As is the hope. The hope that God provides is realized by these children through Grace Orphan Care’s work.

Surging with thankfulness, the Malawian orphan stepped from the office into the orange glow of the setting African sun. Just this morning, the sun had been shining, but their future had been covered with shadows. Now, as they emerge from the doors of Grace, the centre that had cared for them for so many years, there was a sense of freedom that the orphan felt.

This gift had opened so many doors that had been considered permanently sealed shut, and while there is always a sense of anxiety about the future, a golden band of light was rising on the horizon for the Malawian orphan.

As always, 

Caitlin Arlene

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