Well what an emotional week! And for someone who’s way too emotional to begin with it’s been a definite rollercoaster!
Malawi is awesome! They call it the warm heart of Africa and I can see why! Everyone is ridiculously friendly and on my walk to work there are no end to the smiles and ‘hellos’ and of course children asking ‘how are you?’ Which is the one thing that they all know how to say in English! I’ve also been spending time with some of the kids from the local primary who have all come to join me when I’ve gone to sit outside on my lunch breaks! They can’t speak much English but they’re all intrigued by this stranger in their village and all want to come and say hello! They’re full of smiles and I’ve almost had more high fives than an average NP workout! Yesterday I went to visit the school and children were actually fighting to hold my hand! It was so lovely and my heart was bursting with instant love for them all! Especially when they begged to me to come back today! I mean who doesn’t love a fan club!
But amongst this my heart has also broken a little bit. I was in a meeting with the MD of the project I’m working for on my first day and he told me some truly heartbreaking things about this beautiful Country!
First of all he told me not to get sick! And the reason for this is that healthcare in Malawi is truly lacking! But not because they can’t train up intelligent people to be doctors and nurses: but because those people are then recruited by the UK for larger salaries and better lives. This has resulted in there being fewer doctors and nurses in this entire country than there are in Manchester and Liverpool!
Now whilst I agree with people being given this opportunity; it certainly leaves the country in a significant dilemma! So much so that the government here asked the UK government to stop recruiting from Malawi! The UK government refused and suggested more money for those workers over here. But the knock on effect of that would have resulted in too much disparity between other professions.
The Malawian government felt their only choice was to restrict the training given to doctors and nurses in this country resulting in a workforce that wasn’t skilled enough to meet uk requirements for recruitment. Now those workers can’t emigrate and health care standards are lower! In a country where infant mortality is so high that a staff member here had lost a child within two days of me arriving I couldn’t help but well up at this information! Truly heartbreaking! And despite this the doctor to public ratio is approximately 1 to 65,000… I don’t think I’ll worry so much about a 3 week wait on the NHS (although goodness knows that’s wrong in itself)
What’s worse is that the UK recruits from over seas in reaction to the emigration of their own doctors and nurses who leave due to poor pay and increased workload! I can’t help but feel that it doesn’t take a genius to see where that problem lies!
Being here has definitely been a wake up call from the outset!
There have been other sources of heart break too as I read up about the numbers of children lacking food, access to education and potential for a better future! Many children don’t go past primary education (where classes exceed 100 children and most classrooms are bare rooms with no space for even chairs of desks) and there is severe lack of work! I began to wonder what was the point in educating children in their early years if their chances are still so limited! It starts to feel like the work we do is just a drop in the Ocean!
But I was also told that a drop in an ocean still makes it a different ocean!
On top of all this I’ve still been trying to settle into life and trying not to let feelings of homesickness engulf me! I almost failed today when a message from a friend I miss dearly left me in floods of tears! Being away is hard! But then on a nursery school visit I got to see awesome children singing their hearts out and my spirits were lifted again!
So I guess the only thing to do is to ride the rollercoaster! Oh and do so many PT sessions a week that I’m too exhausted to feel any emotions at all! And at £5 a session I think that’s the plan I’ll be sticking with for now!