A day in Outreach in Malawi

Holds our Monthly Feature and Monthly Feature data

We visit our patients twice every week. It is always an exciting moment for the home-based care team to go and deliver their services to those in most need who are unable to reach the health centre. In every visit we often plan to visit five or six clients in a day. Below is a glimpse of what a day is like for us.

We start off our journey following bad roads, full of potholes, to one of the villages. We started by visiting our client who is suffering from cancer of the esophagus. She was lying on her bed, helplessly waiting for her granddaughter, Sarah, who is 12 years old and in primary school, close to our clinic.

Mrs. Chimwemwe totally depends on the help of her little grandchild, Sarah. Sarah is young, but intelligent and hardworking. She wakes up daily at 4:30 am to clean and arrange their house, prepare some food for her grandmother and then her day depends on the school timetable. Sometimes, if she is going for morning classes, she leaves for school very early for an 8am start, then when she returns home, she prepares lunch for her grandmother. After seeing her grandmother has eaten, she moves around selling groundnut powder to get some money to buy food for herself and her grandmother. On this day we met Sarah running back home from doing ” Ganyu”, short time paid labour and then leaving home again in time for her classes which were starting 15 minutes later. Sarah walks from house to house, asking people if there is anything she can do so that they pay her some money to care for her grandmother. This is her routine. She is always paid 800 Malawi kwacha after the heavy work she does, with the current economic situation, this money (about €0.50), cannot even afford one good meal for them.

It is always so much joy for Mrs. Chimwemwe to see us enter her room. Slowly as we are seated and chatting, her sad face starts relaxing and smiling by the time we depart. Whenever we are taking our leave, she says, “bye but we meet next week”. She keeps longing for the time we return to her house and the week we don’t go she feels so disappointed, and she sends her granddaughter to the clinic to send us her greetings. These greetings act as a bell to remind us to visit her! Occasionally, her health condition is so bad, and she is unable to share food with her little granddaughter. In the beginning Sarah’s grandmother’s health really affected Sarah’s academic journey. Sarah often slipped out of the classroom whenever she thought of her grandmother but now, she is picking up. She only returns home when her classes have ended.

Secondly, we visited “agogo” which is ‘grandmother’. But, you know, I think I will leave this story for another day. There is so much to tell about a day of outreach. We will continue this story next time….

By MMM Sisters, Fuka, Nigeria

Being Missionaries allows us to be channels of light in the path of others that they might discover their God-giving self and gain the freedom they long for.

Sheko, 9 and Jami, 6 (not their real names), are both girls and siblings. They are among our little friends here in Fuka, Niger State, Nigeria and they have sickle cell anemia.  They come to our clinic for their monthly follow-up care. They live in one of the neigbouring communities with their parents who are both farmers.

In most families here, some children are kept at home to do farm work while others are sent to school. The choice and decision of who among the children goes to school, often rests solely on the head of the family, the father. Mothers practically have little or no say in such decisions and often, children have no option than to go along with the decision of their father.

For Sheko and Jami, they both desire to live and lead a normal life like many other children, have access to basic needs as children and go to school.

However, their father Mr. Tanko, believes that girls are not meant for school and sending them to school is only a waste of resources. Moreover, he claims that girls will misbehave when they go to school and besides, he is already spending a lot on their medical bills.  On the other hand, their mother is a submissive wife and although she wanted her two girls to go to school, she would not want to upset her husband but accepted his decision about their children.  Consequently, Sheko and Jami seemingly resented their father’s decision and felt probably that he didn’t love them as his children. Both became unhappy, unwell and visited the facility more often in pain crisis.  The mother too became burdened with the care of the two and worried a lot about them.

   

When we noted the two girls reporting to the clinic often in pain crisis and their mother looking stressed out, we became interested in the girls and gave them more attention.  Eventually, the girls opened up to us and their mother equally shared her frustration caring for them.  She expressed her desire to see her children going to school like many other children but was worried about how to convince her husband.

The sisters and one of the staff held several one -on- one sessions with the girls and their mother and then involved them in group sessions with other parents.  Eventually, the sisters and two other staff members visited the family. We had a fruitful session.  At the end of our time with the family, the father was convinced of the importance of sending the girls to school and was grateful for our visit.  He thanked us for helping him to realize the importance of sending his female children to school.  He gave us his word that the girls will go to school and henceforth, he will give equal opportunity to his children and no longer choose among them.

Currently, Sheko amd Jami have both started schooling at St. John’s Nursery and Primary school. Since then, there is a drastic change in their attitude towards their father, they are both happy, healthy and excited about their new life in school.  Their mother looks happier and more confident about her two girls.  She shares how they are doing well in school and even teaches the other little children in the family when they return from school.  When we asked Sheko and Jami what they would like to be when they grow up, Sheko said she will be a medical doctor so that she could care for other sick children.  Jami on the other hand said she would like to be a health worker in the hospital too.

Today, both no longer report to the clinic in pain crisis, they are both healthy and their mother no longer had to carry either of them on her back to the clinic looking sad and stressed. They are able to communicate a little now in English. We are privileged to witness this transformation and pray that they will continue to grow to become who they want to be in life.

Do you know the Sisters? Would you like to know more? We are starting a new way for you to get to know more about MMM and the Sisters.

Soon, MMM will be launching a new initiative through the miracle of technology, a series of podcasts that will allow you to hear the Sisters as if you were sitting down for a chat, featuring interviews with MMM Sisters. Our founder Mother Mary Martin was a true innovator in technology during her lifetime and found as many ways possible to share the MMM healing charism, so we believe if she was alive today she would have loved an MMM Podcast series.

Some of these stories were recorded many years ago, and the Sisters have since gone to their eternal reward, but most are new interviews, with MMM Sisters telling about why they decided to become a missionary, and why this kind of life was attractive to them and what they pray for in our world today. Each interview is as unique as the MMM Sister herself.

They describe their journeys to far off places and all the wonderful people they have met and who are now part of their life’s journey. So, watch out for the new podcast series coming soon. It will be available on the MMM website – mmmworldwide.org – as “MMM Sisters’ Stories Podcast – Caring Hands and Healing Hearts.”

It will also be posted on our social media channels so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for links. Also, it will be hosted where major Podcasts are found. We will keep you posted on when it starts!

We are grateful to the Sisters for sharing their stories and to the people who have helped us record their stories over the years.

MMM  will be part of a global initiative to celebrate the UN International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on 23rd May.  Tragically, child birth in Sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for 70% of maternal deaths in the world. While some mothers may not die, many are wounded or injured in a horrific way that could be avoided.  Fistula has not been a major issue in the Western world for the past 100 years so we know it can be overcome for all women.

Obstetric Fistula refers to a rupture or hole in the birth canal created by prolonged labour without prompt medical intervention, such as a Caesarean Section. An estimated 2 to 3 million women and girls in developing countries suffer physically, mentally and emotionally because of this as they have urine and or faeces leaking uncontrollably from their bodies.

This can be avoided by antenatal care and our goal is to educate communities about this.  MMM are also active in repairing and preventing Obstetric Fistulas in Itam, Nigeria and were, in the recent past, in Kitovu Hospital, Uganda for many years!  Sr. Anne Ward MMM and Sr. Maura Lynch MMM were pioneers in this area as surgeons for many years.

We will be hosting and participating in online and in-person events in May to raise awareness and funds for this important cause. We are also involved in humanitarian efforts to see Safe Childbirth acknowledged as a human right globally as it currently is not. MMM are partnering with other Religious Congregations and also with Fr Edward Flynn, Spiritan, to create a collaborative effort on this important initiative.

MMM hosted the AMRI Daring to Hope exhibition on Saturday 27th January. There was a full house at The MMM Auditorium in Drogheda, Ireland. Sr Brigid Corrigan gave a talk on memories of Mother Mary and other pioneering Sisters. The event also honoured the anniversary of Founder Mother Mary’s death.

     

   

 

 

By Srs. Margaret Nakafu, MMM and Maria José da Silva, MMM

Sowing seeds of hope and joy, and the fruits of being empowered with practical skills for the journey…

It is with a great sense of joy and hope that the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Salvador rejoices with more than 100 women who were empowered with skills in the courses of cut and sewing, catering, hairdressing, manicure and pedicure, art craft and baking. These courses were offered during 2023 in collaboration with the Parish Pastoral Center (Casa da Juventude Anna Sironi).
MMM Salvador is working in collaboration with three women volunteers who are entrusted and committed to the daily management of Casa da Juventude Anna Sironi. In a society that tends to find more reasons to exclude those who are poor, vulnerable and different, Casa da Juventude Anna Sironi offers a space where each woman feels accepted and loved as she is. It is a place where each woman rediscovers her inner wisdom and freedom to share her life experiences, to be creative, learn new skills, make supportive friendships, grow in self-confidence and know that she is respected.
Sr. Maria Jose da Silva MMM facilitated group therapy sessions. These sessions have created sacred grounds where the women have an experience of mutual trust and support. Appreciating this environment of mutual trust and unconditional love, the women shared their fears, aspirations, their pain and search for healing. They shared their experiences of God’s healing love. Group therapy sessions were indeed circles of healing where the women felt empowered and helped increase their self-esteem. During the initial sessions, some women shared that they were suffering from depression, and they were on medication. In the group therapy sessions, these women experienced themselves as supported, listened to and respected. These positive and affirming experiences encouraged the women to become committed to their healing processes. Towards the end of the courses, most women expressed deep gratitude for having discovered their potential and having developed their sense of purpose and self-worth.

Several women who benefited from the catering course are already earning an income from the acquired skills. They prepare and sell snacks. From the cut and sewing group, many women are making dresses for themselves and family members. All these achievements bring joy and encouragement to us and to the collaborators.

In addition to offering our skills and creating circles of healing with the women, MMM Salvador also contributes with financial support to the activities of the Casa da Juventude Anna Sironi. The funds are used to buy materials for the courses and to pay course instructors. We are grateful to our donors and the prayers from our MMM family. Let us continue sharing with joy and hope what our healing charism has as one of the most creative values is the way to empower many women throughout our ministries.

The Christmas Craft Fair proceeds are going towards this project.

 

In Tanzania, MMM run the Faraja Centre in Singida. It deals with many aspects of health care but among its many programmes is one for counter human trafficking.

They have been innovative in how they deal with individual cases, and most importantly, how they prevent children and young people from being exploited by outreach to the schools and by radio programmes.

While they work, they learn, and they shared some of their key learnings with Healing Touch.

The first learning is: “We often think we are acting as individuals. The Team has learned, through our experiences with patients, caregivers and with each other in the Team, that what we think is a small contribution can have much greater implications than we expected.”

A second learning was that going to the root of the problem is often a sure and easier way to get rid of the problem. They do not wait for the trafficking cases to be reported but have learned to eliminate risk factors that lead up to it. This involves providing economic means to the at-risk groups so that they may engage in income-generating activities rather than be susceptible to human trafficking. Raising awareness of and solving violence against children-related cases is also another way to reduce trafficking activities in the area

The third learning was that although human trafficking does not discriminate against individuals, they have learned that children and youth are the most at-risk group for human trafficking activities. They have resolved to improve and increase children and youth-related activities in the future to create more awareness as needed. The teachers are trained in awareness of the problem and the students who are involved in school clubs, are encouraged to share if they have any clues about it going on in their village. Students often teach their parents and the elderly people in the community and are a great support to one another.

We in Healing Touch are proud of our MMM Sisters and staff who work so courageously and still have time to reflect and learn from their experiences.

In Uganda, MMM have a base in Kansiira, a remote rural area, 180 kms from the capital city, Kampala.

It is an area that includes ten villages, with mud houses and thatched roofs. The people are poor, with subsistence farming, cattle rearing and fishing in nearby Lake Kyoga as the main sources of income. Most people have one or two meals a day, but the main problem is the lack of clean, safe, drinking water and electricity.

There is no piped water; sources are primarily Lake Kyoga & hand dug holes (dams) serving people & animals. Neither are safe for drinking. Previously small boats allowed people to go 1km inside the lake to fetch cleaner water, but in 2019, these boats were destroyed by the military. People were provided with big boats which are too heavy for women and children. There are only five functional hand pumps in the area. Women and children suffer as fetching water is their responsibility and involves long journeys.

MMM has always had the care of mothers and children as one of their principal concerns. In Kansiira, the maternal mortality rate is 368 per 100,00 live births (in UK & Ireland it is about 5 or 6 per 100,00). The infant mortality is 43 per 1000 live births ( in UK, under 4 per 1000). The need is great! The nearest government facility is 11 kms away, with no maternity or inpatient services and limited/no drug supply. There is also a very high rate of malaria among the population. After listening to the local people MMM has decided to work on two main fronts, clean water and maternal health.

They are working to provide for a bore hole to provide clean, safe water. This can also be used in activities of the health centre, with patients, caregivers and staff, promoting better hygiene and guarding against cross infection and disease.

The facility will provide preventive/curative health care services, community development programmes (IGA’s and women/youth empowerment), currently ongoing in temporary settings. Including out/inpatient (19 bed) services, Maternity & child welfare, diagnostic services (lab, HIV etc). Solar will be the main energy source, a renewable choice. This will enable access during emergencies, childbirth, and safe drug storage.

For the last few years, the MMM community in Brazil has been researching a new place of Mission. In February, 2023, like the disciples ‘we were sent’ – missioned to Alto Boa Vista, Mato Grosso! Full of excitement and enthusiasm, after a two-day journey, we arrived…the ‘seed’ was planted!

The next step was the nurturing of the ‘seed’ so as to give this new mission the best possible chance of flourishing. We began by committing ourselves to building our small international community. This is an ongoing process…coming from three different nationalities with different languages, cultures and ages. We are committed to keeping our hearts and minds open as we listen to the Spirit. We believe in the importance of letting events and experiences, encounters and people influence our way of being, our relationships and our faith. As our Constitutions rightly say, “Listen to the Spirit in the quietness of your heart, in scripture, the liturgy, persons and events”.

The gestation period continued with “Hearts on fire, feet on the move” (we have no car) as we mingled with the people – doing home visits, alternative therapies, youth ministry, catechesis, etc and began considering our ministry focus which is being refined and maturing.

Like every gestation, we have had moments of great joy and a belief that this is where God wants MMM to be at this time. We also have had the ‘morning sickness’, the unwelcome ‘cramps’, the unexpected ‘contraction’ and then the consolation that the ‘infant in utero’ is still ‘kicking’… there is movement. Where there is movement there is life and life is God’s Spirit. We are confident that God’s Spirit is with us guiding us to bring this mission to birth.

 MMM Community Alto Boa Vista

 

By Sr. Otibhor Uwagbale, MMM

The MMM Mukuru Health Program is situated in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, a slum in Nairobi. We offer a wide range of services and almost all our clients/patients are residents from the slum where there is abject poverty and deplorable living conditions. Irrespective of our location, we have committed ourselves to guaranteeing the best quality service we can afford at our level. This means ensuring that our services are efficient, effective and up to date with government regulations. To this end, over the years, we have worked hard to ensure that the different recommended policies were put in place and regularly updated. We installed an Electronic Patient Management System to ensure that we have efficiency in the delivery of our services and safety of clients’ data. This also means that the waiting time of clients was cut by half. Of course, despite all these, we couldn’t have achieved this feat, without the dedication of our highly qualified and passionate staff who continuously challenge themselves to live daily the MMM core values in their relationships with each other and the clients.

In recognition of our efforts, the Kenyan Ministry of Health in 2017, selected MMM-Mukuru Health Program, as one of the facilities for training on the Kenyan Quality Model for Health (KQMH) in Nairobi County. This model is a conceptual framework for an Integrated Approach to improved quality of health care. It holistically and systematically addresses a range of organisational quality issues with the main aim of delivering positive health impacts.

After this training, we identified a Quality Improvement (QI) focal person and QI coach to lead. We formed departmental Work Improvement Teams (WIT) depending on service areas and Quality Improvement Team (QIT) to spearhead. We use the 6S model of Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise, Sustain, and Safety, during our WIT meetings to identify gaps and find ways to improve. The WIT and QIT meetings are held monthly.

 

MMM Mukuru’s journey into Quality Improvement Awards

After the training in 2017, MMM- Mukuru was selected to participate in the Health Service Delivery Award in the whole of Nairobi County in 2018. Some of the parameters for this competition includes: Leadership, Human Resources, Policies and Guidelines, Facility Infrastructure, Supplies management, Equipment management, Transport management, Referral System, Records & HMIS, Financial Management, Outpatient services, IPC (infection prevention and control), Laboratory, Pharmacy.

We competed with other facilities of Level 2 Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) in Nairobi County. We won 3rd position.

In 2019, we were also selected to participate in the same competition and we won 2nd position. Due to COVID19, the competition was not held in 2020 and 2021.

In 2022, our facility did not participate because we were still recovering from the effects of the demolitions that had happened to us.

This year, 2023, despite our challenges, we chose to participate in this year’s award and by the grace of God we emerged the WINNER – level 2 Faith Based Organization in Nairobi (1st position). We were awarded a Trophy and certificates.

We feel very fulfilled that our efforts to continue to provide quality healthcare to the people of Mukuru, through the provision of quality Health services guided by our MMM core values have been recognised by not just the people we serve, but also by the government of Nairobi County, Kenya.

We are forever grateful to God for bringing us this far. The journey was not easy but with determination and focus, we made it and we believe that this will only inspire us to do more.

USA