Reviewing Our Mission – Health Care

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by Paul Young

This is the third of four posts reviewing our efforts to help the children of Fond Blanc over the last year. In keeping with the core themes expressed in our mission statement, we want to assess the progress we have made this year toward better health, hygiene and diet at Fond Blanc.

The year started with some disturbing discoveries about the daily hygiene and living conditions of the children at the orphanage. Up to that point, we came and went from the orphanage just like all the short  term mission teams, with no authority and little say in how things were run. Once we were given a partner’s role in operating the orphanage in January, we learned – to our shame and disappointment – that there were some serious health and hygiene issues requiring immediate attention.

The good news is that we were aided in the initial response by the very spirited assistance of some returning volunteers from a very committed church community. Actually, I am understating the situation: they were really quite upset, both with the circumstances we discovered and also with us. But their understandable frustration was far outpaced by their passion and contributions and to everyone’s credit, we all moved to tackle the problems aggressively.

But from that unpleasantness came the following good: a brand new kitchen for more hygienic food preparation, new matresses and wet-proof matress covers all around, new showers for the kids, a large supply of new toothbrushes and personal cups for the kids, our first ever electric clothes washing machine, and more medicinal supplies than some clinics would have in stock.

We also have the blessing of a very involved Medical Advisory Board who helped us find remedies for some communicable skin diseases among the children. Think of it: the children of Fond Blanc are among the early beneficiaries of tele-medicine. If the staff saw evidence of a skin rash, they could just email pictures taken with their phones and get prompt diagnostic help from our medical professionals back home. I know I don’t have that benefit in my health plan!

There has also been a year-long push for a better diet. Your response to our campaign for Christmas dinners for the orphans was so successful we were able to convert that effort into an ongoing plan to serve chicken dinners twice a week. Although there have been times when that plan has not worked out, the focus on a better dietary balance is an effort that has been fully adpoted. When we can boost our child sponsorship donations a bit further, we will be able to plan better for a dependable supply of healthy food throughout the entire year.

Personal hygiene has been another area of success this year.  After the first mass distribution of new toothbrushes, it took the kids a while to own the idea, and we walked around the compound picking up toothbrushes every day. But pretty soon the kids learned not to eat the toothpaste, and they all got a lot better at saving – and using – their toothbrushes. The new showers have made it much easier for the older kids to bathe with privacy, and it is not uncommon for some of the children to shower twice – or even three times – in a day.

For the time being we’ll still need to rely on the health clinic down in Cazale for more serious illnesses, but the overall condition of the children now is generally quite clean and healthy.

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