Mwaya Mondays – Vol. 61

This week’s Mwaya Mondays is written by volunteer Emily Goddard, a physiotherapist from Australia.

It is hard to believe but I have been at Mwaya for one month now. Since arriving here, I have been focusing my time on the healthcare side of the charity. This has meant spending most of my time going around with Collins (RIPPLE Africa’s healthcare manager) on the back of his motorcycle to treat his 47 young patients in their homes.

I can say that working as a Physiotherapist in rural Malawi is extremely different to working back home in Australia. The major challenge here is overcoming the obvious lack of resources. Collins is amazingly resourceful and does a fantastic job making use of the little he has, whether it is building parallel bars out of sticks to teach children to walk or using cardboard boxes for sitting frames so that a child with no sitting balance can sit unaided; nothing is too difficult.

I have been spending a great deal of time treating a 10-month-old baby with multiple disabilities. Initially this was believed to be due to a seizure she had when she was younger, however now after asessment by Jenna, a medical volunteer, we suspect that she may have Spina Bifida. This is a condition that would have been picked up before birth in Australia. Due to a lack of early treatment, many of her problems are now much more severe than they would have been if this had been picked up at an earlier stage. For example, all of her joints are stiff and difficult to move. Currently this is the major focus of our treatment and we have been using a variety of techniques, including putting her legs into various positions in plaster casts to help stretch out her joints. It is a slow process but we are definitely starting to see some progress. Once we can get a bit more movement in her legs the goal will be to get her strong enough to hopefully be able to roll around on her own.

I have also been working with a sister and brother who both have paraplegia. These two children use wheelchairs to get to school, however to save the chairs around their home they are able to move around using a combination of walking with two sticks and crawling. We have been doing a great deal of work to try to strengthen the pairs’ muscles in their legs so that they can maintain the current level of mobility they have. To do this we have been using a variety of equipment found around the home to set up a mini gym.

The final patient that I have had the pleasure of treating is one who has previously been mentioned in this blog, Isaac. Isaac’s walking is improving each time we go to visit him and he is now able to get around, unsteadily, without using anything to hold onto. Through a variety of strengthening and balance exercises his walking is continuing to improve. He loves to play clapping games as he holds onto his balance stick or even without it now.

Another area where I have been spending a great deal of time is preparing an event for World AIDS day 2013 on the 1st December. Jenna and I have been working with the Health Campaign Team as well as the local schools to come up with an exciting educational community day. There is a great deal to do before the day including organising speakers from the local community as well as choirs to attract a crowd. We have been spending any time off cutting and gluing hundreds of red ribbons to give out as well as collating all of the information. Our next challenge is to present the information in a fun and interactive way that will appeal to the community.

One more project that all of the volunteers have embarked on together is creating puppets for the Pre-schools. Phoebe, a volunteer who has just left, brought over numerous sewing kits and put all of the volunteers to work creating puppets out of chitenge material (patterned fabric traditionally worn wrapped around the body by the Malawian women). Surprisingly the puppets turned out quite well and will hopefully be enjoyed by RIPPLE Africa’s 8 pre-schools.

This week we were sad to say goodbye to two more volunteers, Mike and Kendall, who have both been at Mwaya for several months. They have both worked extremely hard in their time here and will be missed greatly by everyone.

I have been enjoying my time at Mwaya beach and can’t believe how fast it is going by. I have already had some amazing experiences and look forward to many more.

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