Posted: 17 August 2011
I do apologise that my blog update is a bit later than usual this month; I’ve been on leave and have had a lot to catch up with since I returned to work so I hope you’ll forgive me.
Since I last wrote to you we have had 2 wonderful teams working in Mansa. The first team set up the new Vision Centre at the hospital and trained 3 people in dispensing and glazing: Marie-Claire, Chiluba and Josephine. They also starting the training in refraction for 13 people from around the country including 4 for Mansa Vision Centre; Florence, Betty, Elizabeth and Amiable. I was part of the team and not only did we work hard but we had lots of fun too. I’m taking the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all that team right now; Noel Meehan, Jack Baum, Neil Cox, Yasmin Hirani and Sinead Cosgrave. They are all fantastic people with lots of energy, patience and huge hearts. The students seemed to do very well in their initial introduction to refraction and they are already writing prescriptions for patients. 5 of them came all the way from the Southern province as there is such a need for refractive services nationwide. Kenny one of the ophthalmic clinical officers we’ve been training is based in Livingstone and travelled over a thousand kilometres to attend!
On Satruday I said farewell to the second Mansa team who continued training the students in refraction. They also did a fantastic job ironing out some teething difficulties at the new Vision Centre which was an added bonus and of course were able to take the students to the next stage of their refraction training. The second week of the project was spent on outreach in Samfya district which is south of Mansa. Some of the Mansa eye care staff accompanied the team so they had the opportunity to refract on outreach under supervision. The refractionists at the hospital not only have lots of new skills to learn but then must learn how to adapt them to an outreach setting so all our outreach projects aim to support them to learn about refracting away from the cosy environment of the Vision Centre. The lovely Caroline Clarke lead the team and again I’d like to say a massive thank you to her and her lovely colleagues: Mark Esbester, Shivani Tandon, Shathi Haque, Kevin Batt and Fiona McKenna. They are such a friendly lot of people even though I spent such a short time with them they made me feel one of the team.
Caroline's team (minus Shathi the photographer)
Luapula province is not on the tourist trail but in my opinion it should be. It’s famous for its waterfalls and both teams managed to visit the beautiful Mumbuluma falls and as an added bonus spent time at Samfya on the beach at Lake Bangwaulu. I was told by our driver that Mumbuluma falls are not the best in the area by far so I look forward to exploring Luapula province more.
Sinead and Neil at the falls
There was a seventh member of Caroline’s team during the first week in Mansa who has done a fantastic job at all three Vision Centres over the last 2 weeks, and that’s Paula Titheradge who is the book-keeper for Vision Aid Overseas. Paula conducted business training at all our Vision Centres and managed to make what could have been quite a dull subject entertaining and interesting for all concerned. I was with her at UTH and Kabwe so I know from personal experience that the Vision Centres teams really benefitted from this training. They now have a much better understanding of all the administrative issues like ordering and stock control than they ever did before. Michelle Derbyshire devised the course and deserves lots of recognition for making it so helpful and interesting.
Paula with a friend
Paula stayed with me whilst she was doing the training and I have to say caused a certain amount of interest with the local children. Why? She has tattoos and the kids were knocking on my door asking her to show them her tattoos. Paula; they’re missing you already and are waiting with bated breath to see what my next visitor is going to be like!
This month has also seen the biggest event of the year in Lusaka; the annual Agricultural show. There’s all sorts of things to see and do there from awarding prizes for the best goat to new agricultural machinery. However one of the most interesting things I saw was the display form each of the provinces showing the type of fruit vegetables and seeds that are grown there. I had a long chat with the person representing Luapula province who gave me an insight into crop rotation and what can be grown to nourish the soil for future crops. I think the display is rather beautiful, don’t you?
Display at the agricultural show
Well that’s all for just now. Bye for now,