Walk in Love International presents
MAISHA MATTERS ARUSHA – Newsletter : August 1-11, 2018
Welcome to our first edition of the Maisha Matters-Arusha newsletter. If you are new to the Maisha Matters family please go to http://www.walkinlovetz.org/Maisha-Matters
to learn more about Maisha Matters to catch up because we are jumping right in!
As most of you know Maisha Matter officially launched in Arusha on August 1! It unofficially launched on July 23rd when we were contacted by Maternity Africa in a case where a baby was born to a young, homeless mother. Unfortunately, the procedures were not in place for us to be able to help. The “go-to” procedure has been to send the baby straight to an orphanage for so long that the nurses, doctors and social welfare are on a kind of auto pilot. This will be our toughest challenge to overcome. This brings us to our official first week operating in Maisha Matters in Arusha. The Maisha Matters team hit the ground running!
During the first week we met with Arusha city social welfare, Arusha regional social welfare, social welfare staff at the largest government hospital in Arusha, doctors, nurses, and a number of organizations that are also working within family based care. We have had a wonderful response to the Maisha Matters program! Everyone is very excited we are here to help keep children healthy and in their families. We also rented a Maisha Matters Campus where we will hold our weekly food distribution and educational classes. This is where we will meet new families, where they will find hope for their futures. Thanks to the generous donations from Ted and Jan Packard and Mark and Linda McClelland we were able to pay a full years rent! Not worrying about where the money will come from each month to pay rent is a huge relief. We are so grateful for their generosity and their immediate response, knowing that we couldn’t start helping children until we had a secure location.
Maisha Matters Campus
Our first week was certainly a productive one! At the beginning of our second week, Rhita and I were having our morning meeting when we got a call from a social worker in a district about an hour outside of Arusha. We were expecting her call and we were prepared to help in anyway that we could. What we were not expecting was for her to tell us she had 70 malnourished children that needed our help. I immediately felt a wave of emotions. I felt sad, how could there be so many malnourished children, why hasn’t someone helped them? I felt scared thinking how can we possibly help them all? Then I knew that no matter what, we would not let them suffer any longer. We would help them all. I didn’t know how, but once you have seen a malnourished child, you can no longer go back. You can no longer walk away. I knew it would be a lot of money to raise and a lot of faith to have but we would not leave without helping them all.
Rhita went on with her meetings with more hospitals, more doctors and nurses. She continued to get the word out about Maisha Matters. I went to the shops and bought food for ten children. Ten of seventy but I still did not feel defeated, I knew we could help them all. That’s when I asked for your help, our Walk in Love family, and boy, did you all come through in a huge way! We raised enough money so that the next morning I bought food for all seventy! We loaded the car with formula, peanut butter, bottles, biscuits and a scale and off to the village we went. We were both very anxious to start helping these children. During the car ride I was starting to feel sad and scared again. Not because we couldn’t help but because I don’t believe anyone can be ready to meet seventy malnourished children.
Waiting to be weighed
When we arrived we met even more social workers. With each meeting we became increasingly anxious to get to the kids but we weren’t feeling any kind of urgency with social welfare. They talked to us about all kinds of things they needed; a daycare, an orphanage, business loans, etc. We started to feel uneasy. Were we here under false pretenses? I am not saying there were not a lot of needs, there are, but we were here to help malnourished children. When we finally got to the meeting place I felt a wave of relief. There were well over seventy children, probably closer to one hundred, but they were not all malnourished. I felt relief for this community and was finally able to breathe. No one wants there to be so many malnourished children anywhere but I also felt frustrated. Did they mean to misled us? I didn’t have the answer then and I don’t have it now. I do know that the social welfare officers did help us in every way possible; they wanted us to help everyone and anyone we could. After spending hours with parents who felt their children were malnourished we ended up with nine cases that Maisha Matters could help with. Even though I was exhausted at it all, I understood then. I understood that it didn’t matter if it were seventy kids or only one, we were there because kids still needed our help. I was grateful for the call and I was grateful for your support so that we could help. We spent extra time with social welfare showing them pictures and going over the symptoms of malnourished children so when ever they come across a case they know Maisha Matters is the place to send them. While in the village we were alerted to another case involving twins whose mother had died during childbirth even further from Arusha.
One of the children at the malnutrition clinic
Throughout the week, Rhita had more meetings with malnutrition clinics and in maternity wards throughout Arusha. She hung up fliers with pictures of malnourished children on them to let the public know that we are here to help. She spoke to people about the ways we can keep babies in their families, and how they do not need to end up in the orphanages. So much of Maisha Matters is about getting the word out. It is a big job! Even this week while we were out telling everyone about what Maisha Matters could do, we heard about another baby being placed in an orphanage in spite of family available to help take care of it. It was a hard blow and again I felt sad and frustrated. Why hadn’t someone called us? It will take time but my heart breaks every time I see on Facebook or hear through word of mouth that another baby with a family has gone into an institution.
Only 8lbs and 7 months old. We will transfer her to another hospital to see if anything is medically wrong other then being malnourished.
Friday was another big day, we were following up on a pair of twins whose mother had passed away two hours outside of Arusha. We left early with our car loaded with formula, food, bottles and the scale. You never know what will happen and we wanted to be prepared. We left early in the morning and I’m so thankful we did! We got to the first hospital where we were meeting with the grandfather of the twins. When we got there we were told that because the babies were so under weight and premature they had been transferred to a different hospital, an additional forty-five minutes away. We decided to make the drive but before we could go a nurse had heard about what we were doing and asked if we could meet with a mama whose 7 month old daughter was only 8.8lbs. The baby was not gaining weight but it was clear that something else was wrong with her. Her face was swollen while her body was so thin. The doctors were saying it was not from malnutrition but we left food for the mama (to help her produce more breastmilk) and formula for the baby. The hospital in the village said they can not do anything else for the baby so we will provide money for transport to one of the bigger hospitals in Arusha. We will also deliver food and formula to them while they are in the hospital in Arusha and once the baby is discharged they will attend Maisha Matters every week.
Inside the home. We will weather proof the home and help with other basic needs before the twins come home.
We were back on the road but first we went to the grandparents house to do a quick home visit. One of the things Maisha Matters does is provide crisis support. We were unsure of the conditions of the grandparents house and we wanted to see if we could immediately improve their standard of living before the babies were discharged. I’m glad we did. The condition of the house was not good. Its unfinished and it is winter time here. We want to help finish the house, which includes adding cement to the walls so it is not as drafty and adding windows where aluminum sheets are covering the openings. We also want to help with food (the grandfather seems very thin) and other basic needs before the babies come home. We will eventually help them start a sustainable business so they will no longer need our support. Our first goal is to be able to weather proof the house before the twins are discharged. It is very drafty and not water proofed at the moment. Send us a message if you would like to help with this specific need.
James is 3lbs and Sabina is 4. Almost ready to go home.
After a long and dusty drive we finally arrived at the hospital. During the drive we got to know the grandfather a bit more. He is clearly devastated over the passing of his daughter and he is scared about the prospect of bringing his grandchildren home. He tells us that his daughter bled to death after delivering her children. The babies weighed 2.64 lbs and 3.3 lbs at birth, a boy (James) and a girl (Sabina). He said he was scared to bring the babies home but he was even more scared someone would take them away to an orphanage. By time we got to the hospital his demeanor had changed, he seemed to walk more upright like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. He had hope for the future. We visited with the grandmother and the babies. We left formula and bottles for them until they could gain enough weight to be discharged. We also spoke to the hospital about their bill. The grandfather had told us that the community had come together to raise enough to help pay the initial bill so the twins could be transferred to this hospital (the hospital they were born at did not have an incubator) but he was worried that that money had all been used up and he simply did not have anymore to make sure the twins could stay. We told them not to worry, we would find a way, his grandchildren would not be sent home before they were healthy.
While in the maternity ward we met a young mother who had just given birth to twins. They were also premature and very tiny. The mother also appeared to be undernourished but we were not sure if this young mother was a fit for our program and we started to get up and leave. Then a nurse asked the mother for money for formula. It was then that we realized she was not producing enough milk for her babies and had to supplement with formula. Unfortunately, the hospitals cannot provide the formula needed, it is too expensive. We told her we would send more formula for her (at this time we had run our of formula 1 for newborns) and told her we could help her once she was discharged.
When we visit any hospital, word gets around fast and we are often intercepted as we are preparing to leave. In normal life this kind of thing could get annoying but whenever someone says “I’ve heard what you are doing, can you please visit another patient” we always have time to visit one more. We will forever be grateful to this young social welfare officer who did just that as we were preparing to leave the maternity ward. He introduced us to Lengiyou and his family. When we walked into the room there was only the sound of moaning, the kind of moaning I can only describe as not having the energy to cry. The moaning was coming from a boy bundled up in a blanket, who was being cradled by his father. The father had tears streaming down his cheeks, tears that seemed to be permanent fixture to his face. When the father slowly, gently unwrapped his son I could feel the tears welling up but I knew I had to blink them back. I was here to offer hope, a future for this family. I was not a voyeur, I was not here to gawk at his son. I smiled and I spoke to the Lengiyou. I hated it and will forever hate the moment where I had to take his picture. It felt heartless but it is necessary, a necessary evil.
I wrapped him back up when I was done and Rhita started speaking to the family. There main concern was that they could not afford the formula and food the hospital was providing, we immediately told them we could help pay for that. Children die in malnourishment clinics because families cannot pay the daily bills. I did not know this but now that I do I promise we will reach far and wide to help the children and families that we can.
The social worker who brought us to Lengiyou was from the same village that his family had come from. He told us that there are many malnourished children there. He also told us he was going to visit on Saturday. We told him to please send any malnourished children who need us to Maisha Matters on Tueday. We would send the transportation money. I feel strongly that this is a community that needs us and again, we were given a way to help them. Everything happens for a reason. We would have gone to that first village whether they told us it was seventy children or only one, the difference is that seventy made us go the next day. Had it been one, we may have sent transportation money for that one family. We never would have met the other eight, we never would have been told about the the twins, we wouldn’t have gone to the hospital to meet the grandfather only to be introduced to a sick baby, we wouldn’t have gone to the second hospital if the first had an incubator, we never would’ve met Lengiyou, he never would have moved us to get a contact in his village and on and on. This week started with some frustrations but ended with full hearts and knowing that we met the babies who needed us the most.
**It is with a heavy heart that I let you all know the Lengiyou passed away the day after we met him. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers**
Please consider joining Maisha Matters to bring life giving nutrition to infants and children in Tanzania.