Visiting St Mary’s Health Centre in Tanzania
THE MEANING OF HOPE AND PRIDE.
Mid morning at Kilimanjaro Airport, we’ve been on the move for 24 hours, now surrounded in the heat by an army of camouflaged drivers collecting their safari guests; when through this throng of green uniforms comes a beaming vision in white.
This is Dr Veronica, greeting everyone with smiling enthusiasm, she has her own army of smiling drivers who are soon heaving our baggage onto the roof of the minibus and we are on our way.
We are no sooner on the road when we turn off down a dusty dirt road heading for a derelict, half built building, but tucked away behind it is St Mary’s Health Centre.
You would have thought that we were visiting Royalty, as the staff are lined up to greet us. Led by Dr Veronica and her resident midwife, Sister Florence, their warmth and enthusiasm is infectious. We soon split into small groups as they are all eager to show us their Centre.
From Reception to Dispensary to the Wards, the walls are adorned with Health posters, some in rather graphic details of the consequences; aide-memories are prominent listing numerous checks required for each patient.
These Sisters in their whiter than white attire are so proud of these facilities and what they can do. They never use the words “we want…”, only “we would like…” or “we wish we had…”.
What they do have is a Centre full of happy faces, grateful patients on clean bedding, yet behind the facade is old equipment, stone wash sinks, a rusty old hot water boiler high up on a wall and empty shelves in the Dispensary. To maintain any standard of hygiene and treatment must be a daily struggle, yet these Sisters in dazzling white show a complete dedication to their vocation and calling.
Attracted by the sound of singing, I find the source to be several happy ladies singing their hearts away while doing the laundry by hand in numerous washtubs and filling yards of line with an assortment of sheets and clothes. Sadly I have to refuse their offer to come and help with the wringing out of the clothes.
To end the visit we are taken to see the Sisters pride and joy; which turned out to be the derelict, half finished building that we had passed on the way in. This will eventually be their new Health Centre with larger wards, treatment rooms, x-ray equipment, ante and post natal facilities and a large Dispensary. The floors are beautifully finished in polished marble, unfortunately with no doors or windows, unfinished walls, plumbing and electrics non existent, there is major financing to find; never mind equipment and fittings or the extra trained staff to support the finished project.
Let us hope that they can find the resources to complete their dream, sooner rather than later.
Although these Sisters have so little, I am left with the impression of how proud and full of hope that they all are. Proud of the Centre and facilities that they do have, and proud of what they are achieving with so little.
For my part, I am proud to help Inter Care in their mission to support these Health Centres and hope that our contributions continue to give the Sisters hope for their future.
-Peter Hill – warehouse volunteer at Inter Care