This week we (Marlee and Jenni) stayed at Mukambi Safari Lodge, working daily with the surrounding communities of Mukambi Compound and Chunga Village. Throughout the five days, we were faced with many barriers, mostly being outsiders in a small community. It has been a week of smiles, laughs, frustration and realization. We would like to share some of these memories of Mukambi and Chunga you all!
Our week consisted of traveling to Chunga village to work at the Out Patient Department (emergency in Western terms), participating in the “Under 5” clinic, teaching grade 1, 8, and 9s at the Chunga boarding school, providing an information session at the Mukambi School for parents, and spending a day HIV testing. Each of these experiences showed us how different but more importantly how similar Canada and Africa truly are.
Teaching the grade 8 and 9 students at Chunga is definitely one of our most memorable moments. For those of you who know us, neither one of us are overly outspoken and are not ones to speak up in a group, so this was a challenge! As our discussions around hygiene and sexual health progressed the students became more involved… asking fairly complex questions. These questions ranged from “what is masturbation?” to “is a sexual relationship between a 15 and 16 year old advisable?” Masturbation in Zambia, especially in the smaller communities is frowned upon, and is not something that people here engage in. In addition, sex in general is not common topic around the Zambian dinner table. As we stood in front of 120 students and 4 teachers, we were at a loss for words and wanted to find the nearest exit. After a few seconds, which felt like an eternity we realized the purpose of our visit. The purpose being to spread valuable information about health, but more importantly, to have a clean slate, where they can ask any question they may not have been able to ask their parents, loved ones or teachers.
Our next adventure was teaching the parents of the Mukambi compound. We covered similar topics with the addition of Malaria, HIV, and basic first aid with the help of a translator because many people in the community only spoke Chitonga, the local language. Impromptu teaching about safe sex and specifically how to put on a condom was a popular topic (a bottle of water was the only demo prop we had – limited resources at its finest!). Even though we were able to pass on information about health, we ended this day feeling slightly disappointed as the response from the group was hard to read and we were unsure of their acceptance of us. But throughout the rest of the week, we began to gain trust with the community by simply putting up health posters or playing a game of net ball with the school children, we realized that if we were able to reach one person throughout the health teachings, good things will come of it.
With the stigma regarding HIV being highly prevalent in this community we were uncertain of the turnout we would have with the HIV clinic. After the days end, we tested 28 people and felt like it was a very successful day. This resulted in 28 people knowing their status, receiving information about preventing or living with HIV that we hope will be passed on to their families and loved ones.
Overall it was a great week at Mukambi. Through our background and environment, we have learned to be “doers” and want to see results of our actions or a change for the better, immediately. Whether it is with our looks, our careers, our education, we like to see the “fruits of our labour,” in a very timely fashion. This week has allowed us to realize that even though we may not have seen a direct result of our teachings, it does not mean that change did not happen or will not come. A simple demonstration of correct condom use, has the potential to protect one person from contracting an STI, having an unplanned pregnancy or receiving or passing on HIV. We may never know the direct results of our time at Mukambi, but we have come to see that education is truly the best medicine.