Up nice and early for the last day of this years Challenge For Change. Yet again another cold morning for this bunch of warm blooded Queenslanders.
It would be remise not to pay tribute to our support crew. Graham, or Hedgy to his friends, leads the team and is the perfect man for the job. No task is to hard or to small. No request from either rider or cook is insignificant. If something needs to be done, he will find a way to do it. The support crew is divided into two teams. The road crew who drive with the cyclists and the ground crew who look after washing and cooking. Wesley travels with either of the teams, helping and also getting to know the riders, as does Rihanna, our videographer. There are eight road crew, two per vehicle and two vehicles per team. The road crew keep our cyclists safe on the road. They manage the flow of traffic as it passes the cyclists and at each rest stop they are there helping the cyclists with heir gear, keeping them fed and topping up their water bottles. The ground crew are amazing. the prepare all the food, supplying food for the riders to take on the road, a snack when they arrive in the afternoon, breakfast and dinner. The conditions that they sometimes have to cook under can be challenging. However, every meal is nutritious and full of flavour. You hear no complaints, just people asking for seconds. In addition, they wash all the clothes over night, ready for the riders to wear the next day.
Back on the road and back into the countryside. We leave the city of Wodonga behind and are heading to Bright. Once again rolling green hills and pastoral vistas. The wattles are in full bloom and in every creek bed there is a weeping willow. The sky is clear, the sun is shining and days are warmer. We have left the cold weather behind, well almost. The mornings are still very cool and by the end of the day we will be heading into the Victorian snow fields. We are in Victoria which is the land of coffee drinkers. For every coffee drinker there is a good barista. And what do all good cyclists like to do, drink good coffee. There are two coffee stops planned today. The first in the small country town of Yackandandah and twenty-five kilometres later, a roadhouse in Dederang. These two towns have been reconnoitred to ensure the quality of the coffee is good. In both towns, not only good coffee but good service. Yakandandah also provided giant cakes. Both teams are traveling well today. As usual Team Twenty-seven left first soon followed by Team Twenty. You may be wondering how the teams got their names. Team Twenty-seven are more experienced riders. They are disciplined in their riding and average twenty-seven kph. Team Twenty, while also strong riders, average twenty kph. Team Twenty-seven arrived into Yackandandah, ordered their coffee and enjoyed a short break. Just as they finished and were climbing onto their bikes, Team Twenty rolled in. The happy barista had just finished making the first teams order and had to start again. The same happened in Dederang. As Team Twenty-seven were leaving, Team Twenty rolled in. It shows the strength of Team Twenty to match the pace of the Twenty-sevens. It was also a good time for some brief but positive interaction between the two teams.
Today we leave the country town of Colac Colac and head for the regional city of Wodonga. 157kms across country to Lake Hume and then following the shore line into Wodonga. There were a couple of big hills, however, for every hill that went up, there was a hill that went down. After the first big hill climb for the day, Jonathan, one of the Team Twenty riders said “I enjoyed that”. The riders are getting stronger. The temperature was warmer, the sky was clear, the sun was shining. Team Captain Paul mentioned that the whole team enjoyed todays ride. Our riders were provided spectacular scenery when they reached Lake Hume. An old disused railway has been converted into a bikeway. The riders were dropped on the opposite side of Lake Hume to ride the bikeway. This included crossing the lake via a long bridge, giving them a 360-degree vista of the lake. What a great way to finish a day’s riding. The riders met up with their road crew for the final ride into town and their accommodation.
Our ride continues in earnest today as we leave the alpine region. It was a day of contrasts and a day off firsts. The contrast of leaving overcast snowy conditions into clear sunny weather. It was the first day we crossed into Victoria and the first time a bunch of Queenslanders tried to attach snow chains to the wheels of their cars.
We woke this morning, looked out our windows and saw the surrounding paddocks covered with a white blanket of snow, kangaroos hopping through the snow, grazing on the grass beneath. A postcard winter wonderland. However, this is spring and we have a job to do. A mini snowman was built on one of the picnic tables, all before breakfast. As the sun rose higher our snowman watched the rest of the snow dissipate clearing the way for todays ride. Our goal today is to ride up Kosciuszko as far as Perisher Valley and while the day started in snow we had relatively clear skies. The good news is no one got wet. It was definitely chilly and as predicted colder than yesterday. a thirty-five kilometre climb and then a thirty-five kilometres down hill rush. Our riders were able to ride up at their own speed. No bunch riding up the mountain. Each one was able to ride within their own ability. While it was a hard ride, reaching the end was a great sense of achievement. The team dynamics are also starting to develop which is preparing the way for the longer rides over the next few days.
The second last day for the clinic. Actually it is the last proper day for the clinic as tomorrow we will see returning patients and then at lunch time we will close the doors so that we can pack up the clinic. The word of us leaving must have been passed around as today was crazy busy. We took our last bus full of patients to the two hospitals and picked up our last order from the pharmacy. We had one lady that was so sick, Darryl had to accompany her to the hospital. We did remember to pick Darryl up on our way home. A few days ago a man was in the clinic unwell. We referred him to the hospital and today he returned to say he was feeling so much better and to say thank you. We are starting to plan for the pack up. I was going to say wind down, however that is not true as we have been going flat out. We know tomorrow there will be a lot of people waiting for us. We know it is going to be hard to turn people away.
The day has arrived. The day that Barbara has been planning for. The day of the community health presentation. Barbara has been working with the school Drama Club on a play about good nutrition and Darryl has been working with some older students, who have had first aid training, on a first aid demonstration. At two o’clock, (14hours as the Zambians say) we close the clinic and head out to the lawn outside the primary school. The students have set out chairs and there are over a hundred people from the community already seated.
The play showed a family at home preparing the evening meal. They said that if you eat nshima (maize meal), vegetables and chicken you will be healthy and strong and can go to work and earn money. Even though chicken is expensive, it is good for you. Junky food is cheap and tastes good, however it will make you sick and you will miss days from work and not earn any money. The students dressed up as the three different foods, others dressed up as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and one as aches and pains. After the play the students sang a song that they wrote themselves.
Another bus run to the hospitals with patients that have been referred there. This time we also had to refer a patient to an ophthalmologist. We had to look up the address on Google Maps to find it. Mean while there was a police checkpoint, checking drivers licences. Ivan from MMM was driving the bus. The policeman had never seen an Australian / Tasmanian drivers licence before. Once Ivan explained what it was he said “OK”. However, the police checkpoint was positioned such that it was blocking our turn so we had to drive around the block. Pot hole management is not a high priority in Zambia but we made it in the end.
Power shedding continues in Ndola. We woke without power and it stayed off until just before lunch. The clinic continues to be busy ranging from minor scrapes and ailments through to some very sick people. At the close of day on Friday we had seen over 1000 patients. Health education is a very important aspect of this years clinic. Barbara has been preparing for this all week and has been busy every day. We have a big presentation tomorrow afternoon and we have involved some of the school children. We will close the clinic for this time as we want as many people as possible to come and participate. The presentation regarding nutrition involves the school drama group and a rubber chicken. There will also be a first aid demonstration. I’ll let you know all about this tomorrow.
It is Monday morning and all of a sudden we realise we have only one week to go. Plans for this week include a community health seminar on Wednesday, plus we have to pack up the clinic on Friday afternoon. We want to see as many patients in need as we can in the time that is left. Today we continued to see many sick people. With Chipo gone Alex is doubling both on the door and helping on the triage desk. Darryl is seeing quite few patients returning for a review. He is praising God to see so many wounds that are healing.
Friday has come and our first week of the community clinic is over. Today is just as busy as ever. We have arranged another bus to take patients to the hospital, however, before the day starts we are arranging a lift for one lady who has an early appointment at the hospital. Later, after lunch we call a taxi for a very sick baby who urgently needs to go to the children’s hospital. A highlight today for Rachel is two sets of twin babies. At the triage desk Rachel gets to hold all the babies as she weighs them before they see a doctor or nurse. Today we say goodbye to Chipo as he has to return to work in Lusaka. Chipo enjoyed his week and a half with us. He said it was good stress relief from his job and a blessing to be able to serve the community.
Steve has spent the whole day working in the toilets. Ben and Corey have abandoned him. He has cleaned and repaired every toilet in the school. We see him marching in with a toolkit in one hand and spray bottle of disinfectant in the other. Talking of marching, it is interesting to look out the window and see Steve marching across the paddock with half a dozen children following him.
We woke up today with no power and no water. What, no tea/coffee with our breakfast? Darryl saved the day by re-igniting the coals in the brazier and boiled a pot of water (bottled water).
Steve left early today to hook up with the boys. We arrive to see Steve bent over the bonnet of the dying Eagles Wings vehicle. He starts tweaking and the next moment we see the biggest black cloud coming out of the exhaust. Today is also Steve’s happy day. We see the new tank being filled with water from the new pump and Steve chasing some of the children with the hose. Well done Steve, Ben and Corey.
Wednesday, somebody said hump day but how can you have a hump day when you are serving the community around Eagles Wings school. Hump day is looking forward to the weekend. We are only here for two weeks, so little time to serve this community.
Our friend Alex is looking after the door to the clinic, guiding the people who are waiting into the clinic to be seen by the medical team. Alex is an elder in his church and cares for his community. He wants to make sure nobody is missed. Chipo sits on the triage desk with Rachel, recording patient details. We also have several Zambian nurses helping look after the patients; Vwtiwe, Dorothy, Rita and Joanna. James’s wife Gift is also helping as a translator.
Another busy day for the medical team. Today two of our workers are in bed unwell. Dr Narelle says “do not wash your toothbrush under the tap, use bottled water.” Even with two staff down we still saw another 180 patients. Another busy and fulfilling day. The ailments range form aches and pains that can be treated with analgesics up to some seriously ill people. Darryl conducted about eight malaria test and fortunately all were negative.
Steve, Maureen and Kathy joined the team on Sunday. We collected them from the airport after church. Unfortunately Steve and Maureen's bags were not on the aeroplane. Today we ventured out to the airport and after filling in forms and checking the baggage on the latest flight, all four bags were found. Steve was very happy and called Maureen who was busy working in the clinic to give her the good news. Ben, who came with us, was also very happy. In Steve’s suitcase was a bunch of tools for Ben, including a brand new circular saw.
Our first day of the clinic for the community. We woke this morning full of expectation and the day did not disappoint. Over 180 patients were seen and a lot of contact with the community. One of our success stories is that Barbara had the vision of extending the health education by way of a mini expo. She recruited the local ladies that she was teaching on the last visit. At first they were hesitant not knowing what was involved. Barbara has set up a series of static displays along the veranda where people queue. The ladies grasped the concept with enthusiasm, showing the community people the steps they can take to maintain good health. The community people were able to take home pamphlets to remind them of the things they have learned.
A couple of builders from Australia are visiting Eagles Wings for a few months to help with building and maintenance. Ben from Brisbane and Corey from Sydney. Steve has joined their team. Today they spent some time in town looking for a new pump. The money was kindly donated to buy the pump. They hope to have it installed and up and running in the next couple of days.
Friday, the last day of the week and the last day for us to see the children and staff at Eagles Wings school. We open the clinic to the community on Monday. Today was busier - almost 200 patients - yet it ran smoothly. We were able to establish a routine after our first day. Improving on the things we did right and changing the things that went wrong. There were a lot more children to see, however, triaging them more efficiently removed any chaos. Monday we will triage differently again as instead of seeing whole classrooms of children in one go, we will be seeing adults one at a time. Once the word gets out there will be a lot of people to see.
A busy day of routine left little time for adventure to report. On our walk this morning we again crossed the creek by the old railway bridge. Less adventure and a less stressful way to start the day. The last day of the week so the last blog until Monday. The weekend to ourselves, however, still time for running errands. Saturday will be shopping, lunch out and a restful afternoon. Personal shopping, souvenir shopping at market stalls, plus a trip to the pharmacy to top up our supplies. Sunday is church and then off to the airport to pick up the rest of our team. I will report back on any weekend adventures in Monday’s blog.
Today is our first clinic. These first few days we will see all of the school children as well as the staff and there families. Helping us are Chipo who has travelled al the way form Lusaka for a week, just to help in the clinic, Joanna, a local nurse and Rose, a year 12 student. Rose’s ambition is to be a doctor. She is helping with translating and other small jobs. Children were steaming through the door all morning, a lot more to come tomorrow. School children throughout the world must be the same. As they congregate together, queueing in there class groups, you hear laughter, see kids jostling for space, and generally mucking around as any good school child will do. Every child is checked. There are a couple of sick children who needed extra care, most were given a clean bill of health. One staff member had a check up and was concerned about his vision. We have had over 300 pairs of second hand glasses donated to us. We had not yet unpacked the donated glasses, however we found the perfect pair for him and he walked away a very happy man with a big smile on his face.
We were privileged to be onsite during school assembly. lIstening to the children singing was a joy. This included them singing the Zambian national anthem. After which, Daniel called the team up in front of the assembly to sing Advance Australia Fair. Geena and Julie finished with Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. The kids thought this was hilarious.
Before any big venture can begin, there is a lot of work to be done. The day begins with shopping. So far the team has been together every day (the big exception is that three of our valued members, Steve, Maurine and Kathy, have not yet arrived. We pick them up from the airport on Sunday morning, just in time before the start of the clinic proper , more about that later). We eat together and then we go shopping, together. First stop the pharmacy to pick up all the medicines that were ordered while we were still in Australia. Half the team go in and start checking off boxes and boxes of the drugs and supplies that we will need for the term of the clinic. While the other half head out, change some money to the local currency and then off to the supermarket. When we are picked up we have to fight our way onto the bus to find our seats, climbing over boxes and boxes of pharmaceuticals. we spend the rest of the afternoon fitting out the classroom, turning it in to a community clinic. What a long day we think as we wearily walk home. The reality, however, it is not what we did today to get ready, but the long months planning for this trip, from as early as last year.
We have arrived. After our long flights (and longer waits in transit lounges) we have arrived in Ndola. Waiting to greet us at the airport was Ba Lackson. At last a friendly face and warm welcome. Welcome to Zambia say Ba Lackson. A drive through town and onto Monkey Fountain and the MMM guest house. Only a short drive. We pass down the Main Street of the city. Busy. Lots of people. Dry and dusty. Geena is snapping photos out of every window of the bus.
After settling in we are off the Eagles Wings school to see the lay of the land. Daniel, the school principal, along with Lackson show a couple of different rooms we can use. Mean while we meet up with some old friends and for some of us some new friends. We find Ben and Chris working hard finishing off the new science labs, Nicki is with a bunch of local kids and James, who was in Australia last year, meets with us after school finishes. Our team members who have been to Zambia before, greet old friends. New friends for us newbies. Tomorrow is shopping and setting up. Wednesday the fun begins. Who will be patient number one?
Today is the day the medical team sets off for Eagles Wings in Zambia. We leave Brisbane Airport this afternoon for the long haul flight to Ndola (Brisbane - Perth - Johannesburg - Ndola). There are eleven of us in the team ranging from doctors down to handy helpers. I'm not a medical person, so I am a helper. We will be in Ndola for three weeks looking after the Eagles Wings children and staff as well as the local community. We will spend more time with the local community. We will also be setting up a mini medical expo to help educate with hygiene, nutrition, back care and this year we have a mid-wife to help with child birth education. Over the next couple off weeks I hope to bring you the stories of the people who make up this team as well as some stories what happens in the clinic each day (minus the gory bits).
This is my first time to Zambia. I have been involved with Eagles Wings for several years, blogging for Challenge For Change. The computer gremlins have merged all my previous blogs with all the other bloggers as SuperUser. What grand name. So to start afresh, a new adventure, new beginnings and new stories to tell.