Nine year old Fatou walks for 40 minutes to get to school. For the last three years she’s been doing the walk, twice a day, with a swollen and infected foot.
Today benenden hospital nurse Charlotte Barnett helped ease some of the little girl’s pain. Charlotte and a paediatric nurse from Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Nicola Norton, washed Fatou’s foot with salt water, put dressings onto her wounds and then wrapped her foot in bandages to try to keep it clean and to prevent further infection.
Volunteers from BACE then gave her a pair of shoes, which were donated back in the UK, as the flip flops she was wearing not only offered her wound no protection, but they were also at least two sizes too small.
During the morning Charlotte treated one of BACE’s Gambian workers too. John also has an infected foot. He’s had the problem for some time, but has not had it treated. Charlotte used salt water for the infection and honey soaked dressings, which had been donated by a medical company in the UK called Advances. While she is here she will clean and dress his wound daily. Fatou will also return for further treatment.
Today was the first day of work for the 22 UK volunteers who are working with BACE in the village of Bonsa. It was a 40 minute jeep ride for us to get there during which we only broke down once (!) just as a village tanja, or witch doctor, was marching by, brandishing a pair of machetes, smashing them together above his head as he walked. He was on his way to perform a ceremony to chase away evil spirits.
On arrival at BACE’s Favour Preparatory School and the site of the charity’s new health clinic we were welcomed by local women and children who performed dances and songs.
Then it was time to do some work. Groups headed off in different directions to paint BACE’s new clinic, to sort out medical supplies and to work in the garden, planting seeds, digging beds and cropping beetroot, which local women were cooking by the afternoon.
Tomorrow the health clinic will be open for the first time, for just a few hours, as it is not yet complete. No-one knows how many people will arrive or what ailments they will present.
The main thing that volunteers can do to prepare is to make sure we are at the clinic bright and early, so it’s an even earlier alarm for tomorrow. Then on arrival we’ll be setting up tables and chairs and putting donated toys in the waiting room. We’ve also sorted donated shoes into different sizes ready to give those who desperately need them.