Sunday, February 10, 2013

journey back

Alex and I made the most of our lay over in Amsterdam.  It was a wonderful ease back to winter.  What a glorious city.

my two homes

I am back in Canada but still not in Halifax.  A large winter storm shut down flights to the Maritimes, so I'm staying with Alex in Toronto.  The city is blanketed with fresh white snow, the cafes and shops of Bloor Street are inviting, and the city of 4 million seems so quiet after Nyamirambo.  

I have known for a long time that I have two homes and will therefore always feel a sense of pull.  I love Canada: the snow, space, clean air, crossing the street safely,  new artistic plastic currency, clean lakes, ocean breezes, our values,  decent kind hearted people, our excellent health care system.  But it is in Rwanda that I truly feel open heart.  It is rare in Rwanda not to find people who greet you with warm smiles and always have time to chat.  "You are welcome" is heard many times.  This means "you are welcome in Rwanda".  There is already a strong pull to the many people in Rwanda who I considered good friends (a number of whom call me Mum) but there is also a wish to be there because everyday the work feels so meaningful.  There is such great potential for impact with all the teaching we've been doing in Rwanda. 

So, much as I love Canada, I consider myself Rwandan as well.  I have two identities and two homes.  As long as I am capable, I want to continue to contribute in whatever way possible to health and well being in Rwanda.  

Here are just a few images of the past five weeks.

One of the many shops we pass on the way to the hospital

Ready for the SAFE Course

Highly enjoyable teaching at the SAFE Course

Megan welcoming participants

Using hands on teaching as much as possible

Michelle bringing joy, and a brand new soccer ball, to a team that had been playing with tied up garbage bags

The "before" picture of the team.  100 kms of up and down on mountain tracks to Kibuye

We cycled through the heart of Rwanda

Beautifully dressed women on their way to church in the backcountry

Okay, I really did ask "how much longer".  Tom, wisely, refused to say.

Dean Patrick, truly one of the greatest leaders I've ever met

Skills teaching and practice at the sim centre

Scenario practice at the sim centre

Peter teaching communication skills

Cricothyroidotomy skills teaching at sim centre

Serena Hotel, our oasis

Joshua and Alex.

There are many ways people can help with our work in Rwanda.  All you need is a bit of passion to make a difference.  We need teachers and supplies for the sim centre.  You can sponsor a child, such as Joshua, at the Gisimba Orphanage for $500 per year.  Visit the beautiful Land of a Thousand Hills, if you are able.  But most of all, remember there are hard working people out there in the world who are able to find genuine happiness in the midst of tough situations.  For having made this discovery, I am truly grateful.

with love,

Thursday, February 7, 2013

sponsoring Karim and Brune

Alex and I are going to sponsor two six year-old children at the Gisimba Orphanage.  The sponsorship will cover their school fees and books each year.  The children are a girl named Brune and a boy named Karim.  They are lovely children who are bright and playful.  Both are HIV orphans.

There is so much more to write about but we are down to the last 24 hours in Rwanda and the pace has not let up.  Alex will post to his blog soon about his safari and successful climb of Mount Kilimanjaro.


Karim, Alex and Brune

Brune and me

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TOT at sim centre

Today was the first day of our training of trainers course at the simulation and skills centre.  Peter, Jon, Michelle, Georges and I have been scrambling to arrange the course in the last few days.  It was a big success.  We had heads of department, senior members and residents from surgery, anesthesia, ENT, OB Gyn, and emergency.  The morning was dedicated to teaching a skill at four different stations – knot tying, intubation, cricothyroidotomy, and suturing.  The afternoon was spent on multidisciplinary team scenarios.  Michelle did a great job as a simulated patient.  There was great enthusiasm about the centre for future teaching of skills and team dynamics.  Tomorrow morning 12 medical students will arrive and the course participants from today will teach the same skills they have just learned to the med students.  Sara, the catering was stellar!

Jon teaching suturing

Peter teaching cricothyroidotomy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day one of the sim centre

Yesterday we made phenomenal progress on the simulation centre.  This facility is being established so that a wide range of learners in the health profession can have a place to rehearse technical skills, such as suturing, and complex team dynamic, such as managing maternal hemorrhage, without practicing on patients.  There will be capacity to teach nurses how to set up a table of surgical instruments, medical students how to insert IV lines, and residents how to manage a patient after severe trauma. 

The centre is a free standing building with two bright, well-ventilated rooms.  We had an important meeting yesterday with the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, the new Medical Director of the simulation centre, the Head of Anesthesia, and a staff anesthesiologist.  Peter, Jon, Michelle and I wanted the place to look at good as possible before the meeting.  We got up early and scurried around the centre unpacking the many bags of donated supplies Jon and Michelle had brought from Halifax and all the equipment from the SAFE Course.  Then we ran to Nakumatt (the local Superstore plus) where Michelle bought a refrigerator with money donated by her soccer team for the sim centre.  This will be essential for storing animal parts used in teaching skills.  After a quick coffee at Bourbon CafĂ© we returned for the 10 AM meeting to a centre that looked remarkably transformed already.

We have been waiting a long time for the official appointment of Dr. Georges as the Medical Director of the Centre.  This has delayed spending the money I received from the simulation grant.  Therefore the space has not been painted and the cabinets have not been built.  During our meeting the Dean got on his cell phone and in fifteen minutes we had a couple of workers taking measurements for all the renovations. 

After a fabulously successful first day on the simulation program, Peter and I headed off to the market to load up on mangos, papayas, pineapples, passion fruits and cheese (all the essentials for life).  There was a lively cooking session with four of us packing into our tiny kitchen.  My good friend, Steven, joined us for dinner and shared many of his insights on justice and reconciliation.  He will be taking many of our team to visit the church in Nyamata on Sunday.

Peter writing a welcome poster in Kinyarwanda

Set up for skills and sim

Michelle adjusting a mannequin

Drs. Georges and Patrick after a very successful meeting

Check out this time lapse of sim centre set up:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

in the back of beyond

We've just returned from what is possibly the hardest thing I've ever done physically.  We cycled from Gisenyi to Kibuye over two days.  This was 100 km total but most of it was up and down steep rocky trails.  The second day was nearly 10 hours of cycling.  We saw remote parts of Rwanda with friendly people and spectacular landscape.  These photos cannot possibly do it justice.  We are ever so grateful for Tom at Rwanda Cycle Adventures and his two porters Mansuet and Twisiere.  Tom has been working extensively with the local people along the trail to help with their ability to receive cycle tourists and also to have meal and accommodation options.  Our first night was at the Kinunu coffee washing station.  It is a little bit of paradise with mangos, papaya, pineapples, oranges, and lots of fabulous coffee! Both days we had dramatic thunder and lightening - fortunately the first day it was in the evening when we were cozy but on day two our last ride was in the rain with sunscreen washing into our eyes and one more rocky hill...
We could barely move when we arrived in Kibuye last night but fortunately we were staying at a very comfortable hotel with lovely hot showers.  
Shores of Lake Kivu

Banana plants and Lake Kivu

Fishing boats

We are back in Kigali, safe and sound, and ready to get down to work on the sim centre.  Jon and Peter have joined our group. More to come.

With our fabulous porter

Just outside Gisenyi

Fishing boats

Children enjoying the beach where we stopped for lunch on day one

Beautiful Lake Kivu

Are we there yet?  How many more hills???

I should have used more sunscreen
Our first day was hilly

The second day was more hilly, and much farther!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013