Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Most Unusual Gift

"There's an old man out in the waiting area who is asking for you," my crowd controller told me.  I was in the middle of an exam, so after the patient had left, I asked why he was asking for me to come out.  "He has a gift for you."
Many times our patients will bring us some guinea eggs so that's what I was expecting.

I walked out the front door, and there on a bench sat an old man, rather frail.
"U duan guam te?" I greeted him. ("How was your lying down and sleeping?")
"Laafia" he replied... and we went through the other parts of the greeting... "how is your family?", "how are your children?", and so on...

Then this dear old man held up a black plastic sack to me and opened it.

"A po", "It's for you," he said.
I took the bag and looked inside.

Well, I've never received Gum Arabic before as a gift...and in it's raw form!

I was a bit speechless, but quickly recovered and heartily thanked him.

Since then, I take the bag out every now and then just to look at the beautiful formations of the sap.  When the light hits them, they just shimmer.

Gum Arabic is a binder and thickening agent, used in many of today's products.  The soft drink industry is probably the biggest buyer, but it is found in numerous other products, from printer ink to cosmetics to art supplies.  And it's a big money-maker.  In this country, rural people will collect it and sell it to merchants,who then sell it to big buyers.
But out in the bush, many people will chew on it, just as we enjoy Chewing Gum.  And Gum Arabic is in that too!

So I was given a very expensive gift by a patient who appreciated our work at the clinic.  All things considered, I think that's one of the nicest gifts I've received!

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Little Incentive

Potaaga is grinning and thanking us over and over.  Today she has just finished her 5th prenatal visit and is due any day.  But today is extra special for her.  Now that she has come for 5 check-ups, she receives a GIFT from the Clinic!

And this is her second gift!  At her last visit, she received a new item of clothing for her baby and she was pretty tickled about that.  Now she was getting a special gift - a gift that might help save the life of her soon-to-arrive baby.  A Mosquito Net Baby Bed! 

Potaaga gets her baby bed from Yempaabu, a midwife

Maybe you're wondering why our clinic gives these gifts?  And why these two gifts are so special… After all, in our home countries, we buy (or receive at a baby shower) baby beds, strollers, Bumpo's, baby outfits, linens and all manner of items for our babies…  so why is one baby gown and a baby bed so special here?

In Niger the maternal death rate is the highest in the world, and most of those deaths occur at birth or shortly after the delivery of a baby.  Women are at risk simply because most of them don't have access to prenatal care or don't realize the importance of good care.  Because of their diet, most of them are also anemic.  Our job at the clinic is to try and give the best care possible to these mothers and to try and make sure they come through their birthing experience as healthy as possible.  

Our challenge has been to get the women to come for more than just one or two check-ups.  Their daily lives are full of hard work from dawn to dusk, and to make it even more challenging, they often have to walk long distances to get to our clinic.  After brainstorming, I decided that we could offer three things that would draw our moms to our Prenatal clinics… and all three things would "spoil them" in small ways.  We want them to feel cared for!

The FIRST thing we do is to put them on a Prenatal vitamin.  Those have been graciously provided by caring women from one of our churches back in my home country and by some other generous donors here in Niger.  This vitamin, along with an Iron and Folic Acid tablet, give our women stronger bodies going into their deliveries. 

Counting out the prenatal vitamins for a Fulani mom-to-be

SECONDLY, if the women will come for 4 check-ups, we'll give them a baby outfit for their new little one.  And what new mom doesn't enjoy having a pretty new gown or onesie for their baby?!  Especially when she only has One other piece of baby clothing.  Sometimes instead of a baby outfit, they will choose a baby blanket.  These items have also been sent to us by loving women from some of our home churches.

Newly washed baby clothes drying on the line and soon to go to the clinic.

And THIRDLY, if a mom comes for 5 visits - and that's quite an accomplishment here - then she can receive a Mosquito Net baby bed!  This is a portable bed that the mom can place near her when she's working by the fire or out in a field or beside her at night…and baby is protected from mosquitoes and other critters.  Since malaria is a huge killer of infants and children all across Africa, this is a gift that just keeps on giving…LIFE to a little one!  And these are made possible by the generous folks of MADALA… an organization which Looks for projects and worthy initiatives in West Africa to help in any way they can.  And what a help for these moms!

A shy new Fulani mom receives instructions on how to open and shut the baby bed.

The zipper opening allows a mom to easily pop the baby in or out.

Since beginning this initiative around a year ago, we have seen a significant decrease in difficult deliveries and deaths among our women, simply because more of them are receiving more care and are going through their deliveries in a healthier condition!  
Nothing is quite as rewarding as having our moms come back to our clinic - Healthy - to show us their new babies and to tell us their birth stories.  Just as rewarding is knowing that through the next year their babies will be less likely to be brought to the clinic suffering from malaria!  

This picture says it all!

Thanking the Lord for the generous women (and men) who help make all this possible!