→The members of the SHAHICA 2011 team from the US were Raphiatou Noumbissi, a case manager from Action AIDS, Patty Hewson, a pediatric nurse practitioner, Karen Walker, an adult nurse practitioner, Jessica Sussman, a case manager from Action AIDS, Kris Kershner, financial analyst at Action AIDS, and Isabella Tembe, R.N. We arrived in Douala on Cameroon Independence Day and proceeded to collect supplies and other team members for the 5 hour trip to Foumban, Cameroon.
→When we arrived in Foumban we were greeted by a large number of our sponsored orphans and their caregivers who had prepared food and created a party-like atmosphere! They were anxious to get down to business so we pulled together an impromptu meeting and they began to share with us some of their ideas of how they would like to organize themselves as a support group! It was very exciting to see how they have taken ownership and their plans of how they can continue to support each other in their care of orphaned and vulnerable children. Later that afternoon we met with the leaders, pastors, physicians, and the director of the prison to discuss and coordinate the plans for the week.
→We spent the following day going to one of the churches and then preparing the medications donated by Americares into small plastic bags for the medical outreach to begin at the Protestant Hospital of Foumban the next day.
→The medical outreach, which occurred at the Protestant Hospital over the following 2 days, resulted in the provision of medical care to 346 patients and 137 people being seen by the ophthalmology nurse. Many older people received free eyeglasses enabling them to be able to read! 40 people were tested for HIV with 1 new positive. 80 people were screened for diabetes. Many of our patients from other years returned to receive care which we take as a very positive sign! Children were provided with a topical fluoride treatment by Miriam, Raphia’s sister, who has been trained to provide such services. Medical and nursing students from the hospital worked alongside of us, sharing ideas and treatment plans.
→While the medical outreach was happening, the team from Action AIDS presented HIV seminars at the Njisse High School which is very near the Protestant Hospital. They were warmly welcomed by the 1000 students of whom 100 came for HIV tests with 1 positive.
→On Wednesday we worked at the prison in Foumban which now houses 245 inmates. HIV seminars were held for all of the inmates and HIV testing was offered to 100 people over the course of the day. Carol Loescher M.D. and Ellen Doyle R.N., who routinely provide medical care at the prison one day per week, organized and lead our medical consultations there. In addition Dr. Emmanuel Deffo from the Protestant Hospital joined us in treating patients at the prison for the afternoon, a new experience for him! One of the young inmates designed and produced bracelets with the name of SHAHICA and sold them to us at the end of the day!
→On Thursday and Friday we conducted a similar outreach at the King’s Hospital organized and lead by Dr. Njoya Inoussa. A total of 4 providers saw a total of 322 patients. 40 people were screened for HIV with 5 positives (1 known and 4 new). In addition we supplied the funding for 32 patients to receive care from the dentist who normally works at the King’s Hospital.
→We were invited during the weekend for an audience with the King of the Bamoun tribe where we were able to tell him about SHAHICA and what we were doing for the community. We were then invited to have lunch at the palace which was quite an honor as well as delicious!
→An official meeting of the Orphan Support Group was held on Sunday afternoon. At that meeting three caregivers volunteered to serve as Education Coordinator, Health Coordinator and SHAHICA Liason. They decided to meet once a month. Every 3rd month the children will be invited so that other members of the group can see that they are gaining weight and looking healthy. They will hold each other accountable and assist each other if there is a need. Their vision is to open a center where orphans can receive medication, nutritious meals, and get help with homework etc. before and after school. Monfon Mayap, Raphia’s Dad, has agreed to donate land for it. We are now developing plans to raise funds for the construction of such a facility.
→We also attended services at the Full Gospel Church of Foumban where we reconnected with many who have benefited from our services in the past. It was especially encouraging to see one of the infants that we had supported with formula due to her mother’s HIV positive status. She is very healthy and HIV negative at age 5! Her mother continues to take her own HIV medications and also appears healthy and happy.
→The following Monday we left at 6AM for a trip to Mbouda where we provided medical consultations at the Protestant Hospital of Mbouda under the direction of Dr. Serge Tima. Three providers saw 165 patients. 50 women had breast exams conducted. 20 HIV tests were done with 1 known and 2 new diagnoses. Fluoride was applied to the teeth of many children.
→Saturday morning, by invitation of the new pastor of the Full Gospel Church, the team provided blood pressure screenings, glucose checks and HIV tests. The church was holding a 50th anniversary convention and was excited to be able to provide these free screenings to the members of the church and the attendees of the convention. Raphia, Fatima, Sodetou (the nurse), and Jessica screened about 75 people and recommended doctor visits for follow-ups and tips to help control diabetes and blood pressure. Afterwards, we were invited to lunch in the pastor’s home. Similar to their American counterparts, all the men had their eyes glued on the television while Cameroon played “football” against a rival team.
→Monday morning was the start of our Orphan Outreach. All of the orphans met at Ismael’s home (Raphia’s childhood home). All of the children were sitting anxiously awaiting our arrival. We started off the morning with name tags – the older children helping the younger ones with writing their names. The kids introduced themselves and slowly began to warm up to each other. Every morning the children stood tall and sang the Cameroon National Anthem. We had art projects and activities along with outdoor activities prepared for the week. The children were excited to color and draw, paint and create beaded jewelry. Raphia had each child tell her what they drew when asked to draw “what was important to them.” Just like children everywhere else in the world, our youth aspired to own cars, be a part of their community and of course, to play “football”.
→The art projects that were completed over the 4 days included making beaded necklaces and bracelets, designing squares to become a part of a quilt, making handprints on pieces of felt to bring home to the sponsors, decorating the bags that were gifts for each child, filled with pens, pencils, & markers, and of course we colored, made paper chains and used yarn to create designs. The sports activities were exciting and fun, and all the neighborhood youth took part. The older boys grabbed the soccer ball while the remainder of the group played Frisbee, jump-roped, played soccer, and had fun with the parachute. All of the children loved running under the parachute and shaking it like crazy. We also can’t forget about the laughter during charades and the fun dance parties with Raphia, Fatima and Sodetou dancing the afternoon away. On Thursday we invited all of the caretakers to lunch. The group got to take pictures together, receive gifts from the sponsors and give everyone hugs.
→On Friday Raphia, Sodetou, Mohamed and Jessica were invited to go on a Surgical Outreach into the bush by Dr. Bwelle. Dr. Bwelle works at the government hospital in Yaounde and performs surgery privately in order to be able to provide health care free of charge to villages on weekends that may never have the opportunity to see a doctor. We traveled in the middle of the night with Dr. Bwelle and his team of 20, including 3 additional surgeons, electricians, a primary school teacher and first-year medical students from Drexel University, to the village, Menkang Two, in the South province of Cameroon. Early in the morning, clinic preparation began and buildings/rooms became the pharmacy, the injection room, consultation stations, an operating room and a lab. The SHAHICA team set up glucometer and an HIV testing table in the lab. We checked about 50 glucose levels and completed 20 HIV tests. Dr. Bwelle’s medical outreach provided over 200 consultations including dental and opthamology, as well as completed 30 surgical procedures such as hernia repairs, circumcisions, and the removal of benign tumors. What little rest we had was in tents the team brought with them.
→In summary, while we didn’t get much rest, we are very grateful to God for the opportunities to touch the lives of so many and to form new relationships along the way. We are all the more excited regarding the new opportunities ahead that continue to unfold before us, especially the possibility of a SHAHICA Community Day Center. We are now working hard to raise the funds needed to make such a reality as well as to underwrite another outreach next year. Thank you for your ongoing support!