Hello friends and family,
We have one more post coming soon, describing our last day at Fatima School, and our time on safari at Kafue National Park. That will be posted soon after everyone is home with more reliable internet access. I will also try to add some pictures to our posts. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, I imagine the girls are enjoying all the best things about returning from a long trip; that first sleep in your own bed, first shower, eating food from home, unpacking, and sharing gifts, explaining pictures, and starting to share stories and memories. I want to close out with some words of gratitude. I had such a wonderful experience in Zambia with our group, and with the many people we met and spent time with there. My role as chaperone felt minimal because others did so much to ensure that everything went smoothly. I am grateful to everyone back at Vis and to my co-chaperones who managed the details and logistics of moving a group of our size around and doing it so seamlessly. Personal thanks are on their way to each of you! The Dominican Sisters who hosted us took such good care of us while we were with them. We ate and slept well, and more importantly, we laughed a lot, shared a lot of stories, and witnessed the life-affirming work they do in their community every day. I must also thank the professionals with whom we were so privileged to travel. It was inspiring and educational for all of us to work alongside a doctor, an electrician, a pharmacist, three nurses and two dentists. We witnessed them freely giving of their time and talents to the community, and of course the few times the girls did not feel well, they were in good hands! As a teacher, I was so grateful that our girls got to spend time with these accomplished and kind professionals. Ron, Rob, Eric, Margaret, Julie, Janelle, Greg, and Barb, thank you so very much for being models of generosity, kindness, knowledge and skill. It was a joy to travel with you, and I am so grateful that our girls got to spend time with you.
I must mostly thank all of our girls' parents. It is a privilege to be entrusted with your children on a journey like this. Thank you so much for your support in sending your girls with us. You have much to be proud of. They were so responsible and adept at all the ins and outs of travel that my role was really quite effortless. I simply got to sit back and watch as they worked and embraced each moment of this trip. They were kind and supportive of each other, strengthening their own friendships. They adapted to the culture of the convent, with very early mornings, cleaning up after themselves, and living with comfortable but modest accommodations. They stepped in and engaged with every group of people we encountered, whether it was the girls of Fatima school, children waiting in line to be seen for medical and dental appointments, children of the Barefoot school or preschoolers who laughed and played every day just outside the Formation House where the girls stayed. They also jumped right in as assistants in the medical and dental work that was done while we were there. They took advantage of every experience and opportunity, and I couldn't be more pleased or proud of what I witnessed. I would take these girls anywhere.
The best stories from our trip are the ones that will unfold over the coming days and months, as life at home triggers memories of funny moments, memorable sights, people, and events, profound observations, and connections to faith and values. Wishing you blessings as you experience this through your daughters. With deepest gratitude for you all, - Erin Miller
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Julia Goldman's Blog Reflection
Friday June 16th:
Today was a busy day! After breakfast, everyone walked down to Saint Dominic's, the newly named hospital--with the thanks from years of Team Mutomo's donations and effort--that is down the street. We began our day like the doctors, nurses, and workers do every morning: with prayer. The first 20 minutes were filled with the most beautiful music. Everyone joined in with their loving and hopeful voice as they rejoiced and praised God. After the singing, a woman read John I in Bemba. Although we couldn't understand it, I felt as though I could make out some words.
After a great start to the morning, we walked back to Fatima. We boarded the bus and drove into the market in N'dola. There, we went to a Chitenge store. Chitenges are large fabrics that many women in Zambia use to carry their children. They wrap the children up, and the children sit on the women's backs. For souvenirs, the girls can use them as tapestries, tablecloths, hand towels, etc. There were many colors and designs. The market always keeps me on my toes. There are lots of people and things going on. We stay together as a group and don't mess around. Whenever I feel uncomfortable, I stand next to a Sister. Sisters in Zambia are looked at very highly in society. People part the seas for them.
When we returned to Fatima, we had lunch and practiced for our dance. The girls perform a dance during Ms. Africa Night: a fun mixer-like event held on Saturday night. I helped choreograph:) In the afternoon, we split up with a few girls, leaving them at the dental clinic with Dr. Benlich and Dr. Grutzner, while we went to the school Boyuintanshi to screen some kids' teeth. We had a great system going with girls measuring and weighing, girls doing fluoride application, girls at registration, and the hardest job, singular girl giving out stickers (yours truly) :) Because of how organized our system went, we finished in only an hour, finishing screening more than 80 kids.
We were on our way back to Fatima, when Dr. Sicoli said there was a surgery going on at Saint Dominic's. He wondered if any girls wanted to scrub in. As you can imagine, every hand shot up. A very Salesian thing to do, many of the girls said I should do it because it was my last year and I have never done it before. Gladly and thankfully taking the offer, I was a tad nervous. When I reached the theater, I was met by Mrs. Feltz, and she helped me get suited up in my scrubs, mask, and hair net. I looked pretty legit. I walked in and was immediately caught off guard with how casual the room was. People were on their phones, one nurse didn't even have gloves on.
After the surgery, we walked back to Fatima. Dinner was very good, and then we went to hymn practice with the girls. Every year, I am utterly amazed at the girls' voices. After 45 minutes of music, the vis girls were introduced to their shadows attending Fatima school. I reconnected with my past shadows, and we all had a fun night.
Being a part of Team Mutomo has changed my life. I am incredibly passionate about social justice and outreach to others, whether it be across the globe or in our neighborhood. I have found my faith through the Dominican Sisters as they commit their lives to the service of others. I have learned to fully appreciate the small things in life because many people lack the necessities to even finish their lives. I am beyond blessed to have gotten the opportunity to partake in these amazing service trips. I know I will return to Fatima and Zambia one day. These connections will last a life time.
This is Josie Flanagan and Sadie Grunau
On Saturday morning, we went to Barefoot School to shuck corn that would be made into inshima, a traditional Zambian dish. First, we filled our bags with dried corn that was held in a large, square bin made of logs. We hit the bags with bamboo sticks to make the kernels fall of the cob. Then, we gathered all of the kernels together so they could be made into inshima.
Throughout the day, Josie, Bella, Grace and I had the opportunity to go to St. Dominic's Hospital and observe and assist the dentists. We got to use the suction tool, and apply fluoride treatments to the patients. This was a really cool experience, and everyone that went really enjoyed it. On Saturday night, we went to a drama show called Miss Africa, which was put on by the Fatima students. There was modeling, and dancing and four winners who were crowned at the end of the show. We performed a dance for the students to the song "Wanna Be" by the Spice Girls, following the tradition set by past Team Mutomo members. Saturday was a really fun day with a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences!
This morning we went to Ndola for a traditional Catholic Zambian mass. The service was about two hours and was in the native language of Bimba. At mass, a loud, energetic choir sat in the front pews, and it was very exciting to witness such a lively community. The parish members sang and danced, and we all danced along!
After mass, we went to a market in Ndola to get gifts for our friends and family. Not to spoil what you may soon receive, but the items that we purchased were all handmade wooden trinkets, jewelry, paintings, and other objects. After the market, we went back to Fatima and had lunch and down time to journal, nap, and make friendship bracelets. Tomorrow we are going to shadow high schoolers at the Fatima School, so after dinner tonight we will meet with our shadows and try on the uniforms we will wear. Today has been an exciting day, and we have learned a lot about the Zambian culture from going to mass and the market.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Today's entry is being written by Zuva Zimbwa and Bella Kozlak:
Today we split up into two different groups to go out into smaller communities and help out with their pop-up clinics. Bella and I split into different groups. I went in the first pop-up clinic and helped out with dental screenings. When we performed the screenings, we would check the teeth of children and women for cavities, excess plaque, and infections. If Dr. Grutzner thought that they were in need of serious dental attention he asked them to see the dental offices of St. Dominic's Hospital. I stayed with Dr. Grutzner for the dental screenings the whole time we were there until we saw every child and mother who asked us to check their teeth. After everyone was done assisting and screening, we were given a tour of the surrounding area and got to see more of how people here live. We spoke to one man and his family in particular who talked to us about how unsanitary and unsafe the water near them was to drink because they didn't have a good indoor plumbing system.
When we arrived at the second outreach location, we set up inside of a stone hut to assist in dental and medical checks. There was no lighting or air conditioning inside, so the doctors worked with headlamps. I, Bella, worked with Dr. Sicoli and Stella on doing medical screenings of many children and a few adults. A common test we ran was the malaria test, which only takes three minutes to give results. I also helped outside to measure the weight of babies. After the medical screenings, we went outside to play with the kids and blow bubbles. They loved popping the bubbles and giving high fives afterwards.
Quick teacher entry (by Erin Miller):
At the second outreach site, all of the babies were weighed using a spring scale, similar to how we weigh produce at the grocery store. There was a scale suspended from a hook, and a seat below that, and we placed the babies in the seat, took their weight in kg, and recorded it in a trifold book that all mothers keep. Dr. Sicoli estimated that he saw about 20 cases of malaria today. We ran out of medicine, so many cases had to be referred to return to the clinic tomorrow to be treated.
Dr. Beinlich also saw dental patients and referred many for fillings or extractions. In a separate room of the hut, another nurse administered vaccinations to babies. This evening Dr. Sicoli is going to talk with the girls to explain more about what they saw today. He'll explain what malaria does to the body and will answer any other questions the girls have about what they saw.
I must also add that the girls are really stepping in and taking full advantage of this experience. They have cut and distributed pills, helped to weigh babies, and have spent a lot of time just engaging children who have to wait to be seen by blowing bubbles, jumping rope, or doing whatever else they think of. As I write this, two boarding school girls came by and invited Bella and Zuva to join them in the dining room to see what they were doing. As we walked across campus to come to the computer room to write this blog, several students greeted them by name or wanted to stop and talk. Our girls are also taking turns washing the dishes for our group of 21 after meals, and are responsible for their own laundry. I am really proud of each of them.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Today is day 3 of working, and our group split in half -- with one half working in the hospital and one half finishing up painting the classrooms at the Barefoot School.
Today Caroline Hansen, Grace, Sadie, Julia, Kate, Caroline Bowen, Josie, and Megan got the chance to work at the Barefoot School and helped paint classrooms. It was fun getting the chance to be messy and have a more physical day compared to our emotional day yesterday at the orphanage. Even though the day at the orphanage was truly eye-opening, it was exciting to experience something new and getting to use our creative skills to further help the community.
After we completed painting the classroom our half of the group headed back and started working on our skit for the Ms. Africa night on Saturday (video of our skit will be shared soon!) Overall, today was a lighter day, but still very fun and enjoyable.
Today I, Stella, got the chance to go to the medical clinic. To start the day off, I went on rounds with the doctors and nurses of the clinic. One of the patients was a woman who delivered her ninth baby that night and bled out a half a liter. After I went on rounds, I witnessed Dr. Sicoli screen the children. The children would come in and describe their symptoms to the translator, who would communicate to Dr. Sicoli. From the symptoms described by the patients and a light physical checkup, Dr. Sicoli would diagnose and prescribe the patients' medication. Something I found interesting was when a 10-year-old girl brought in her two little siblings for a screening.
After I went screening, I visited the dental department. At the dental department, I got to view Dr. Beinlich fill a huge cavity a girl had on her front tooth. The happiness the girl got from seeing the result of her new white tooth was priceless. Overall, it was a very interesting and informational day. I learned an abundance of medical information and gained a new perspective of how hospitals are run in other countries.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
ENTRY NUMBER 1 from Erin Miller and students Kate Pakiz and Megan Rivera
After three days of traveling, we finally made it to Zambia! When our bus arrived we received a big and warm welcome from many of the girls here at the Fatima School. The girls were all cheering with excitement for us and gave us many hugs.
Monday was our first full day in Zambia. Early in the morning, we attended their version of Monday morning assembly. The girls gave announcements about their school life, including their sports life and family day, and social and political international news. As a whole school they sang their beautiful national anthem about their love for Zambia. The girls also performed many funny skits that all ended with a message of finding the positive light in life.
After breakfast, we spent a lot of time running around with the cute little preschoolers. They enjoyed bubbles, taking pictures, being picked up, and playing with tires. In the afternoon, we took a walk around the compound to see the school as well as the clinic. We also got a tour of a nearby primary school, and the children loved to follow us around and hold our hands.
On Tuesday morning, we woke to the sound of the girls singing songs in preparation for mass. Today was the first day we attended a mass; the priest gave an enlightening homily, the girls sang beautifully, and we were able to participate as the prayers were the same as the prayers we recite at mass at home, which was surprising. Overall, the experience was enjoyable and a great way to start our day.
Next, we unpacked the medical supplies and organized it all from surgical, dental, and lab supplies. We also had a pile dedicated to fun things for the children. After this, we went to the Barefoot School, which is a school that has been developed by the Sisters for children who cannot afford to attend the government schools. We repainted a classroom and will continue projects around the school throughout the week.
When we came back to the Fatima grounds, we played with the children in preschool again. It's so amazing to the girls and me how these children have so much love for us, even though they don't know us. Their hearts are so big, and I see God within them. Our last activity of the day involved going to St. Anthony's orphanage. We played with the children and spent our time giving them attention and care. Some of these children were disabled,which was was extremely hard to see, but it's also reassuring to know that there are caregivers who spend their time providing for these kids as best as they can. It was very hard to say goodbye to the kids at the end of the day; the children became attached to us girls quickly and loved the attention from us that they so rarely get on a constant basis. Finally, today was a touching and eye-opening day for all of us.