Outreach to Gbongboma
By Graham Horvath
So it is day 7, and today the team went out on an outreach mission with Mercy Hospital’s Outreach team to the village of Gbongboma. Only one of our team members had been on an outreach before so the rest of us had no idea what to expect. Upon getting there, we were immediately faced with a large group of future and current mothers varying in ages ranging from 16-45 years old.
Soon after arriving, we were greeted by Mohammed Khadar, the Mercy Outreach Coordinator and our main point of contact for the mission we were on. After meeting the nurse in charge and getting an in-depth tour of the facility, we quickly ran across the nearby street to go meet with the village chief. We sat down with the very grateful chief to ask him two questions; (1) how had Mercy’s Outreach impacted his village and people, and (2) what his largest ongoing concerns for his village are. Quickly answering that he blesses Mercy because the children and parents in his village are healthier, he then went into talking about his village’s need for decent toilet facilities, and his desire for a covered space where the people can meet to talk.
We then thanked the chief for his time and quickly made our way back to the clinic where we were going to begin the project. After both a Muslim and Christian prayer, the women began singing a song in their native language, which was soon revealed to us as a song of thanksgiving meant for us. We then were quickly thrust into various jobs tasked with assisting the clinic workers with their jobs. I originally was incharge of taking down the information of the babies brought to the clinic, taking down information including weight, height, and arm circumference in order to determine the severity of their malnourishment or how they were progressing through the nutrition program.
Quickly into the project I was relieved in order to get footage of an interview; in which Mohammed was telling me/ the camera about a child that they had an abscess on her leg which they treated at the clinic. She was then followed by a infant boy who had been born with two hernias one of which was the size of his fist. Mohammed continued on to explain that even though Mercy hospital just opened a surgical wing, the mother would be unable to afford the surgery for her suffering child.** It is important to note that these hernias are making him so uncomfortable that at 12 months old he looks like a newborn child due to his lack of eating regularly.
Following those humbling and heartbreaking moments we were joined by the local school children who where out on their lunch break. Quickly sensing their curiosity in the team and in what was going on in the clinic a fellow missioner and I quickly leapt into action, taking on the role of entertaining the children for the next 30 minutes to an hour. We started by teaching them every dance move we could come up with ranging from the classics like the sprinkler to more recent and silly ones like The Dab (ask your kids). After quickly burning through that content, we began scrambling to think of fun things we did as children and began doing everything imaginable going as far as to teach them the baby shark song shortly after pretending we were airplanes and elephants. Pretty soon we were basically like celebrities walking around the clinic, not being able to walk anywhere without being followed by some kind of crowd waiting for the next silly thing we were going to do.
After the kids returned begrudgingly to school, we began to pass out the nutrition packets to the families on the nutrition plan, giving them their rations for the month. Shortly afterwards, we thanked the staff for their hospitality and climbed back into the ambulance that brought us and began our journey back to Mercy Hospital.
**Please know that HCW is actively working with Mercy Hospital to ensure this child will receive the surgery he needs to resolve his hernias. Mercy Hospital continues to provide care to the destitute and all patients regardless of their ability to pay.