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Pedal&Pray: Meeting the Mother Buddies

Published 18 Jul 2017

Visiting Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences & meeting some inspirational Mother Buddies

After enjoying a leisurely start to the day, we all met with the Nurse Manager at 9am for our tour of the CCAP Ekwendeni Mission campus.  The College runs 4 training programmes: medical science, nursing, midwifery and fistula care.  Over 500 students attend with most receiving scholarships or other grants. Given the rural location the majority live on campus in male and female hostels.

The Library was well stocked with current textbooks and had an impressive ITC suite with internet access.  Photos were taken outside the male hostel which was built by funds raised by the EMMS bike ride in 2005, and is currently being refurbished.

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Outside the male hostel at Ekwendeni College of Health Sciences. 

The plaque commemorates funds raised by the 2005 bike riders

We visited the Mission hospital, which has under 100 beds. Although the hospital appeared well organized and clean, the facilities were very basic.  The children’s ward was quiet as it is not the malaria season, as most admissions are for malaria, pneumonia and TB. The children all require a guardian to stay with them to provide their basic daily care as well as meals. A kitchen is available for the adults’ use but there are no sleeping quarters and most will sleep on the ground outside the ward. In the post natal ward several mothers were nursing new borns, and each seemed happy to show off their new bundles with pride and joy. The hospital is fortunate to have a trained obstetrician, unlike most District Hospitals, and mothers who have undergone caesarean sections remain in hospital for 5 days after their surgery as they would at home.

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The hospital charges a small fee for all inpatient treatment and provides a better resourced service than that provided in the free district hospital. The staff are also better paid. It was impressive to see a fleet of half dozen new 4x4 emergency ambulances on the campus ready to transport urgent patients into the hospital from the villages. Those who had visited the Mission campus some years ago were impressed to see the development and improvement in the site and it seemed to me to have an air of purposefulness and industry which was encouraging too.

There was some time to spare before lunch and most of the menfolk used this to climb the church belltower, despite the very unsafe looking ladder! I found myself attracted to a local craftsman selling his wares and bought a beautiful hand carved wooden nativity set.

Lastly, but of most interest to all, we heard about the work of the Mother Buddy project which this year’s EMMS cycle fundraising is supporting. Two Mother Buddies spoke with confidence and pride, in their own dialect, about their work and the positive impact it is having in the community.  Over the past 4 years the transmission rate of HIV from mother to baby has reduced from 17 per annum to 1 per annum, a very impressive result.

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The group with the Mother Buddies

I found the whole visit to the Mission inspiring, witnessing the hard work and commitment of the leaders and staff, underpinned by their strong faith and belief. They work hard with the limited resources they have and it is clear that EMMS funds are well spent and very much valued and appreciated at Ekwendeni.

After farewells all round we boarded our bus for the homeward journey. The Campbell clan departed the group at Mzuzu and the rest of us enjoyed the beautiful journey south through the forest, heathland and impressive mountains.  Our last night was spent at the Luwawa Forrest Lodge where we enjoyed the warmth of a log fire as it was surprisingly chillly.

Arriving in Africa at the beginning of the week, I was very apprehensive about stepping into the unknown. But I had nothing to fear, the organization and leadership of the whole trip by EMMS staff and Classic Tours has been superb. 

The cycle itself and learning about the projects has been one of the most challenging and thought provoking of my life, one which I could not have completed without the support, friendship and fellowship of the group.  I have learnt so much and will need some time to reflect on how to use this when I get home.

All my prayers have been answered, God’s presence has been with us and blessed us on our journey.  Thanks to all who have travelled with me.

Rosemary King

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Ekwendeni Mission Church