A week on, and we have both had some interesting experiences. The names one comes across are often very appropriate to the parents aspirations or feelings. Like ‘Hope’, ‘Precious’, ‘Peace’, ‘Fortune’, ‘Charity’, ‘Smart’. Children are referred to as their’ first born’, ‘second born’ or ‘last born’. Martin has already diagnosed his first case of AIDS and had numerous cases of malaria. Some of the smaller children find seeing a white doctor quite frightening.
One day after lunch when I was being collected by the driver from the Vocational Centre, we also picked up George. He must have been around 16 and suffered quite severely with cerebral palsy. Still he was encouraged to be independent and was making the 1.5 km journey to the football match on his walking frame. So we stopped and the driver slung his collapsible frame in the back of the pick-up, and lifted George in too. On the way he told me that George is one of the SOS orphans. Homeward we see George again this time he is full of it and keen to tell his mates about the match.
A busy medical centre
Martin, who is a specialist paediatrician, explains his time spent in the SOS Medical Centre.
“It is the two year-olds that are so wonderful. They come into the consultation with their carers and their enormous eyes open wide in a look of complete horror. Then they bawl! They have never seen a white man before and are pretty sure they want nothing to do with him. Lots of patients come to the clinic, often from a distance and it is busy. The children have malaria, there is bilharzia, TB and about 15-20% of the population are HIV diagnosed so there is an epidemic threatening.
Money for treatment is often an issue. However the lab technician will do most blood tests, microbiology and work the X-ray machine. From an office, a dedicated nurse councils tests for HIV, manages anti-retrovirus drug therapy and follows the illness. This is an incredible valuable asset, so sensible and great to have easy access to for the doctors and patients to use. For the general clinic, 200 patients is the limit for a morning.
My elder brother has just emailed me from England that flatulence has been made illegal in Malawi according to the Guardian. I just hope it is a fine and not a custodial sentence. It has not been in the news here, but then neither was the fuel crisis until it had had ended.”
I have been tempted now to hand in Martin several times with regard to this new law, but am now disappointed to discover that while the whole outside world has heard of no breaking wind in public places in Malawi, it turns out to be a misunderstanding and that the Chichewa word ‘FART” means ‘rubbish burning’ …!
Find out more about SOS Children's work in Malawi
Although SOS Children doesn't take overseas volunteers, it is sometimes possible to visit the Children's Village where your sponsored child lives.