Friday, 10 February, 2017 | Jason Mackenzie
Made it to Tanzania around midnight today. Was picked up at the airport by Walter and Janet the two coordinators of the various children’s hospital projects.
Zurich was beautiful and expensive and perfect! Even the red light district was trash free. I’m happy to be back in a country where thigs are less perfect; electricity is temperamental, water comes from a well, a mosquito net is essential for sleeping if one wants to stay without malaria.
It looks like there is going to be a very busy schedule while I’m here. These 3 weeks won’t be spent just on building playgrounds! Apparently there is a national children’s cancer awareness day coming up and there will be some big events going on around this hospital to promote awareness. Also, there is going to be a 1-day blitz of curing kids with hydrocephalus (excess fluid in the brain).
Normally, when they are treating kids with that disease, they can only do surgery now and again, but occasionally there is a blitz in which a few doctors are brought in, beds are set up in a large meeting space and 20 kids can get surgery in 1 day. I can hardly imagine what that will be like but I feel pretty fortunate to be here during that time.
In chatting with Walter on the ride over here, he says that kids come from all over the country to their hospitals. They come in, receive chemotherapy treatment, then go home for a week before their next treatment but the problem is, they don’t get adequate nutrition at home so their bodies aren’t ready for the subsequent chemotherapy treatment when they come back. He often has to send them away, hoping they will get better nutrition before they return.
Everyone here is really excited about the playground builds. We will build one at this hospital and train the staff from other hospitals during the process so they can build some at their sites. We will also leave them with some tools because an item as simple as an electric drill is impossible to find here in Tanzania.
We will also be designing and building pieces for children with disabilities. Janet found a swing design for children who are unable to sit up. Many of the children with hydro encephalitis can’t sit up apparently.
And yes, it’s hot in Tanzania! Right now it feels like an Indiana summer evening….or more so, a Mississippi summer evening.
It is really exciting to work with people like Janet and Walter. They are so passionate about the work they do for these children. There is another volunteer here from Finland working as a nurse. She just started her 1-year commitment to working with them. In my first 15 minutes I realized that I would like to come back and do more work with these guys; once again I’m surrounded by people who are doing great work and its certainly not for money or prestige….it just feels good.
Tomorrow I will check out the small village where the hospital is located. Tomorrow night we are to attend a regional basketball game and supposedly we are going with signs promoting children’s cancer awareness.
Walter agreed to connect me to someone in Zanzibar who can show me a playground we did that he says failed because the locals didn’t appreciate it enough. It is always helpful to see those sites and try to better understand why they didn’t work, and ask ourselves the questions of: What does it mean for a project to work/not work?, Do these playgrounds need to last forever or should we look at re-evaluating them now and again?
Wow. There are a lot of mosquitos here!