I cannot believe how quickly my ten weeks in Africa has been, in less than one week I will get on a plane headed towards home. I know I will miss this gorgeous country and the culture I have been immersed in. However, the only thing the settles me is knowing that my time in Africa is not over, I will come back to this wild and free place again. In fact I plan to in the next five years as part of my Peace Corps requirement, if everything goes as planned.
In the last few weeks I have experienced more than I thought I ever would. I have traveled up to the Eastern Cape to swim with whales, dolphins and sharks. I have eaten traditional Xhosa meals and seen traditional African dance. I have explored the rural and very poor communities of Port St. Johns and Coffee Bay. I have fallen even more in love with this culture and the land.
At work, I have had the opportunity to visit SACLA (South African Christian Leadership Assembly), which is a home based healthcare organization. Working with these Carers has been an incredible experience and I have learned a great deal in only the week and a half that I have been there. Everyone is so friendly and willing to teach me about their work and the clients they see. This organization runs alongside the hospitals and treats clients who are class three, meaning that they are either bed ridden or cannot get to the hospital for some reason. The Carers at SACLA visit these clients and deliver their medication, administer check ups, and facilitate support groups for ARV treatment. Their success is due to the networks they have within their own communities on a personal and professional level. It is so empowering to see how well received this organization is in the community and the connections they make.
In my days working with these Carers I went on home visits around Site B, Khayelitsha to meet with five different clients and give them health checkups while delivering their medication. I also visited a sort of Wellness center in which elders from the community gather at during the day for social reasons as well as healthcare reasons and the security of having someone else take care of them rather than being alone. SACLA comes once or twice a week and gives them exercises to do, however this is hard in the winter due to the weather and its complications with arthritis. However, simply having the resource of health professionals who visit is a great opportunity to these elders to ask questions about their health and how to be healthier.
I have seen that through these informal educational sessions, the most that Carers focus on relates to debunking myths around diseases and other health problems. I have learned that someone has been telling people in the community wrongs about diabetes, ulcers, and other diseases. They had thought that if you have diabetes you can never eat sugar again, or that if you have relations with someone who is diabetic you can get diabetes, or that if you pee in a pineapple the woods you will be cured. I also had questions asked about ulcers such to the point that they had been told that if you decrease fiber intake you will decrease chance of ulcers, which is actually not true about ulcers either.
I have gained so much insight into the healthcare problems in South Africa from these past ten weeks that I wish I could stay longer. But I know that I will be back in Africa again and experiencing more of this amazing land and intriguing culture.