Sunday, May 25, 2014

Out in the Bush

On the "path" to Gongoli Village
For the past 9 months, I've considered myself to be living in "the bush" of Africa--middle of nowhere, a good 45 minute walk from the nearest "town" aka bigger village, rural Africa.  But on Saturday, I was introduced to the real bush.  Sister Meriline and I went for mobile clinic in a place called Gongoli village.  It was a full, busy, exhausting nine hours, but one of the most rewarding days I've had since I've been in South Sudan. 

Washing and fetching water at the multipurpose water hole
The day started by walking just under 2 hours through the bush.  I spent the whole time trekking on a narrow path, pushing grass that is taller than me out of my face.  We had to carry the medicines and all our supplies because there was no way of taking a vehicle or motorbike on the path.  It was so beautiful though, peaceful and serene.  We finally reached the thatched roof church where we set up our clinic.  Before we began I walked to the water hole where the people get their water just to check it out.  And it was just that--a hole that collected rainwater.  The water was extremely dirty and kids were bathing right where the other people were collecting water for drinking.  No wonder so many people there are suffering from water-borne diseases!  I made my way back to the church area, and some kids started kicking around the football.  So naturally I had to jump in and play for a few minutes before we started the clinic.  It caused quite the scene.  A white girl who actually knows how to play football--unheard of!  

Some patients waiting in line
Then we started the clinic.  I played doctor for the day and recorded the patient's symptoms, assessed, diagnosed, and prescribed medications.  The supplies we had were very limited because we had to carry everything, but we made due.  We had just over 90 patients come, a pretty good turnout for 4 hours of seeing patients.  The most common illnesses that I saw were intestinal worms (no surprise there), malaria, fungal infections, anemia, and musculoskeletal pain from working in the fields all day.  Sister and I took a break about half way through and gave a health awareness talk about the water they are using (after I saw the hole where they were fetching from and the quality of water) and how to properly filter or boil it to prevent sicknesses.  Then we started to ask about the demographics of the area and what access they have to resources.  There are over 200 families in the village--making well over 1,000 people, the  majority of whom are children.  These people have no access to healthcare, no schools in the area, and no support from the county.  If the kids want to go to school, they have to walk 2 hours each way to our school which is the closest to their village.  So the vast majority of kids there were just running around all day not attending school.  It was interesting to see because most of the places I go here, usually a few people speak English, but here nobody spoke a word of English., obviously from a lack of exposure and formal education.  The same issue occurs for healthcare.  They would have to walk to our health center to get any medical attention at all.  And when you are sick, a walk 2 hours each way just isn't feasible.  I was speaking to the chief, through a local translator who came with us, and he was telling me that they are petitioning the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health to get these services in Gongoli village; however, the county has yet to respond or provide any kind of support.  It was interesting to hear about their problems and struggles, but then to see how they are coming together as a community to try to fix them and improve their quality of living.  

Many people we saw were small kiddos
The clinic ran smoothly, but it wouldn't be an African day without heavy afternoon rains.  We had to take cover under the leaky, thatched roof Church.  We finished the last few patients and waited for the rain to stop.  This made for an interesting walk back to "civilization."  We moved back through the bush in the mud and with wet grass hitting us the whole time.  I was so dirty, but it was a fun adventure.  That is the mobile clinic that I want to do…those are the type of people I want to work with--those with absolutely no access to healthcare.  Although I was only with these villagers for a short day, I learned so much from them about living a simple and happy life.  They make due with what they have, and they have next to nothing.  Sister and I are already talking about making this a more regular mobile clinic site, maybe once a month or every other month.  Hopefully we can build a relationship with these people and at least make a small impact on their health.  It was a long, but incredibly fulfilling day.  The whole day I just felt in my element and so happy, and it is then that I knew this is what I am truly called to do.  One successful day in the bush complete and hopefully many more to come!
Getting lost in the bush!


  1. A great post about your adventure in the bush, the people of Gongoli village, and the mobile clinic! Thank you for sharing your mission with us, Theresa!

  2. So proud of what you and Sister did for the people of Gongoli village. Our prayers are that they will be able to obtain healthcare and education services in the near future.

  3. Brava! They've been acclaiming Suor Cristina (who? you say) that way as she sings her way to stardom in Italy. But you're the one who's performing wondrously and deserve the acclamation. Keep up the generous and happy work. God bless you!

  4. Keep up the good work.... God bless you!

  5. Hi Theresa, what a great adventure you had into the Bush. I agree, it is truly rewarding to serve those who had nothing. They are such an inspiration to us who have so much. God bless you in your work. Jean Fields