Malenga is one of the communities that Nurses for Africa visits. It is the only urban area that is served by the nurses.
I have been the team leader to Malenga for the past two years and would like to tell a little about it. Malenga is along the highway to Kitwe – about 25 minutes from the ” Kachele farm”. (The “farm” is owned by Hands at Work. It is a lovely home that was once owned by a copper mine owner in the heyday of the Copper Belt. The original owner is 95 and lives in South Africa. The farm has several bedrooms and two bathrooms inside the main structure. There are several chateaus that were originally chicken coops! The chateaus have been remodeled and now house visitors to the farm. There are several other buildings, including a round building with a thatched roof for meetings. There is a large soccer field and a lovely path down to the river. When you take the path there are huge bamboo plants, tomato fields and the gigantic Kachele tree for which the farm is named. On the other side of the farm are gardens with tomatoes, avocado trees and Japanese Lantern trees. It is a wonderful, peaceful place for the teams to stay. Liz and Weston are the hosts – Liz is a wonderful cook who prepares meals worthy of a five star restaurant! )
Every morning we loaded the bus with supplies and headed out to Malenga. Malenga is an urban slum of about 30,000 people. 75% of that number is children with none or one parent. HIV/AIDS is rampant there along with prostitution and alcoholism. Despite these problems, the people are kind and friendly.
The road to Malenga is nothing like the bumpy dusty roads to Susu or Malkota. The road is a paved four lane highway with one police stop. About 10 minutes outside of Kitwe, the bus turns off the highway and enters Malenga. It appears that Malenga just sprung up out of the dirt right off the side of the road. The road is now a dirt one with ruts and is full by people walking, waiting for a bus or buying items from the small stores along the road. As we drive further into Malenga, there are wooden huts and buildings holding all number of things. There is a barber shop, a place to charge cell phones, a market crowded with people and taverns. Lots of taverns – with loud music pouring out of them and men looking out the doors. We see women there too, selling all sorts of things – including themselves.
And there are children – EVERYWHERE! They are running, standing in groups, or with older kids. When they see our bus, they begin pointing at us and shouting, “Musungu, Musungu….”. (White people) They begin to follow the bus, shouting and waving!
We cannot take the bus to the church because the street has been washed out too badly during the rainy season. We disembark with all of our suitcases and bags of supplies. The kids help us carry everything to the church. They do not allow us to carry anything except our own personal bags. We walk past houses made of mud bricks and wood. Some have doors, some of have pieces of cloth that serve as the doors. Some of the homes have tomatoes spread out on a piece of cardboard in front of their doors. They are selling the tomatoes. They also sell small piles of burnt wood (charcoal) and beans. Many of the houses have clothing spread out on bushes in the sun, drying them. There are kids standing along the street or in the middle of the road. There are dogs laying in the middle of the street – we almost step on one of them. There is sewage running along the side of the road too. And then there is the trash……everywhere on the street, in the yards and on the pathway to the church. The houses are very close to each other – some do have small gardens. There are chickens, hens with their chicks, running along the street.
As we pass the homes, we greet the people with “Mulishawni” or hello in Bemba. They smile and answer, “Bweeno!”. (Which means good or fine) The kids laugh at us trying to speak their language!
We reach the school/church and we can hear singing! The kids and teachers are in the school waiting for us to enter. Their singing is beautiful and joyous!!! They are so excited that we are in Malenga. Their joy and excitement makes us forget the horrible poverty that we saw on our way to the church. The kids are surrounding us, wanting us to hold them and touch them. They are so thirsty for love and affection – we want to hug everyone.
Our week begins with the kids singing us a song and prayer from one of the care workers. The care workers are volunteers from the community that visit the sick and ailing. They will accompany us on home visits and serve with us as interpreters during the medical clinics.
The first day in Malenga – we do home visits. The team of nurses divides into smaller groups with several care workers in each group and head out into the village. We are amazed how big the village is – it goes on for miles. As we walk through the homes, we see a medicine man’s hut, families sitting outside their homes, one family is butchering a cow in their front yard and kids! The kids are everywhere!! A group of about six little girls is following my group. They call out, “Mulishawni!” and dissolve into giggles when we answer them with, ” Bweeno!”. They run about a block ahead of us, sit down to wait until we catch up and then yell, “Mulishawni!” This game continues the whole time we are doing home visits.
Home visits consist of going to someone’s home to provide support and encouragement. It may include doing dishes, carrying water, doing laundry, listening to their ailments and praying. My team sees a young man of about 25, who is ill with AIDS. He is having difficulty breathing and is in pain. We examine him and find that he also has some pressure areas on his bottom and hips because he cannot get around too well. He is sleeping on a reed mat on the dirt floor. Beatrice is one of the Care Workers that I was with last year on home visits. She is taking us, next, to the home of a man that I saw last year. Last year, he was very sick with AIDS, he had just gone to the clinic for his medication. This year he looks WONDERFUL! He is sitting outside on a bench when we get to his house and says he is feeling much better! What an amazing experience to see how great he looks this year. We pray for him and hand out “sweeties” to the adults and kids. (Sweeties are lollipops!!) Next we visit William, an 84 year old man, who’s wife recently passed away. He is blind, but other wise in good health. He asks us into his home and entertains us with stories of his youth. He is so proud that the American nurses came to his home.
We return to the church to meet the rest of the team. One of the groups has returned early and are playing with the kids. They have taught the kids the Hokey Pokey and London Bridges. The kids love to sing and play!
(More to follow)