By Sharon Handongwe
Working to change the lives of poor communities can really be rewarding with feelings of joy and fulfillment! However, this comes with a lot of endurance and hard work as well.
For Dr. Bernie, a visiting consultant psychiatrist, this is certainly true in every aspect of it. Bernie is currently working in remote areas of Monze district in southern Zambia. She carries with her a sense of joy and fulfilment on the face as she walks through the woods and swamps in company of a missionary team as they traverse these poor communities to render the much-needed services to vulnerable children with disabilities.
“The Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) team here at the Holy Family are simply medical missionaries in the 21st century,” she observed.
Every Tuesday and Thursday the CBR team goes out to a pre-determined place to offer therapeutic and educational services to persons with disabilities. In February 2015, the team visited Ntaamba, in Bweengwa, in Monza district. Dr. Bernie, together with her husband Leo, joined the team. The couple had visited the country to understand challenges CBR practitioners encounter while striving to improve the lives of Persons with disabilities, especially clients who presented with psychiatric conditions.
The trip did not only provide a lifetime experience for the couple, but also orientated them to the realities that CBR workers face. One interesting experience was when the team had to abandon their vehicle for close to half a mile away in order to cross a stream in a swampy area on foot; because the car could simply not go there. Whereas it was such a difficult moment for the visiting couple, it was just an everyday life for the local team.
On the other side of the swamp, a school administration had been waiting to welcome the team warmly and allocate them a class to conduct a screening exercise. At least 13 new cases were identified during the outreach. The major cases presented with issues ranging from Neurological conditions, physical conditions, deaf-blindness and intellectual disability.
The couple also gave a talk on disability to the school. Social welfare issues that came up were also addressed. For example ……… Officials from the orthopedic department also gave the necessary advice and worked on some assistive devices that needed minor repairs.
While Bernie had a great time supporting the Holy Family physiotherapist to handle some of the cases, Leo was greatly engaged with the school children and kept most of the pupils entertained with his picture taking spree. Overall, the goal of CBR was achieved, which is to take services as close to the people as possible.