Wish you could all be here to witness all this! If anyone ever had a doubt that miracles happen or that God exists, just spend a day here....Puja and I look at each other throughout the day in awe of God's goodness. The picture here is a family where we provide the KAH food. They have a 3 year boy who can't walk or talk or barely hold his head. Yet, his 9 year old sister carries him everywhere with great love. The 2 other children are twins. They are more joyful that most children in our country. They share the true compassion that Christ tells us about - yet they can't read the bible. They're entire lives are about accepting the life they have, loving the ones that God has chosen to put in their paths. We had a brief encounter but I just wanted to "recruit" them for our work there!!
I think of the many days over the years where we worked in clinics and either didn't have "enough" patients or had lousy follow-up or had no understanding of what was really going on and definitely weren't making any difference in the lives of the families or the communities. Now people come in and it is as though they are old friends. Despite our struggling Spanish, we seem to be able to have real relationships. Having real charts with real histories makes everything so much easier and the people seem shocked that we actually have records of their last paps, blood work and ultrasounds!
Yes, we've had to resort to candlelight to be able to see the patients when the sun was setting! But you just can't turn away a patient who either came on a horse or a crowded bus for 2 hours. 23 women came yesterday from the village that Flori is from. Another woman (age 30) from their village died last Sunday from cervical cancer. They are scared to death and could barely get in the exam room quick enough to take off their clothes and ask for a pap! What a change from years gone by when I'd plead for 20 minutes and get a smile and a "Thanks but no thanks!".
This morning we had a presentation to the community in Mango - well over a hundred women came. Flori gave her testimony and it led into so many issues; not just the need for health screening but more importantly the role of women in caring for themselves, their children and especially their daughters. They really were on the edge of their seats listening about the importance of education in preventing their daughters from wanting children at the age of 12 or 13. We talked about STD's, HIV, HPV, etc. They were laughing so hard when I explained to them that I had 2 daughters who have had to listen to my horror stories all their lives! When I told them about how Randy warned the girls that boys will tell them anything to get what they want, they were totally cracking up but definitely agreeing! Ismael and Orphe talked as though they were seasoned world lecturers! They are obviously such a strong couple together who totally admire each other and that really came through when they spoke. It made their message so much more powerful.
Of course, by the end, everyone wanted to know if we would still be at the clinic tomorrow so Puja and I are bracing ourselves! The ultrasound machine has been working non-stop. I smile when I think about how it came all the way from Alaska and how it is still going strong. The women love seeing their babies and getting information that will help them decide if they should go to the hospital to deliver. I keep thinking it's on it's last leg, but it hasn't let us down yet.
After I saw a woman yesterday, she went out and was talking to Orphe about her 18 year old daughter who will be having surgery tomorrow. Apparently, I had done a pap on her last March and it showed a significant abnormality. Her "husband" wouldn't let her return for follow-up and now she's having some other problem. She went to the hospital here and she's having surgery tomorrow - possibly a hysterectomy. We were able to go see her this evening and bring her the written form with the pap results and we hope that will keep the doctors from doing that to her. Please keep her in your prayers.
I'll send you all pictures of the gardens - they're almost like little farms! The people talk about them when they come to the clinic.
But this work is far from over. There was a 12 year old girl from Pueblo Nuevo in the clinic yesterday. She is pregnant and was delighted when she found out. Her "husband" is age 19. How tragic....
As many of you know, we have great plans for the school and Sr. Pam had gotten a $25,000 grant for us which is going a long way. But we feel an urgency to keep these kids in school and away from wanting babies when they are babies themselves. We've come up with a plan to rent a bus to bring the kids from Pueblo Nuevo and Mango to Santa Ana (about an hour drive) where they can attend high school. We've realized that part of the reason that the parents don't care about the kids in primary school is because there's no way they can continue their education past 6th grade right now. This would be an immediate solution to the problem. And actually, almost all the children who finish in high school in Santa Ana go on to university to become teachers, nurses, agricultural experts, etc. The cost would include daily rent for the bus, uniforms and books - about $500 per year per child. We're taking pictures of these children this week and getting their stories if any of you would like to sponsor one of them. The families are extremely excited about the prospect of this. School ends this week and the new year starts in January so we're really excited to not have to wait. Let me know if any of you have ideas of how to get this word out.
As always, thanks to you all for your support and prayers!