Language barriers

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Today three languages were being spoken at the BACE health clinic in Bonsa, as a nurse tried to establish what was wrong with an elderly patient.

The elderly lady spoke Fula, a language used by members of the Fula tribe. However, her Gambian nurse spoke Wolof, English and Mandinka  and so he had to appeal for help from other patients who were in the waiting area. Luckily there was one other patient who was able to translate for him.

It’s a situation you’d be unlikely to find in the UK, but it’s one which will probably happen fairly frequently when the BACE health clinic is fully up and running later this year.

As well as struggling with the language barriers nurses also had to contend with noise, an overflowing waiting room and lack of space as the three nurses carried out consultations in a shared room, as work continued to complete the rest of the new health clinic.

Today benenden hospital nurse Charlotte Barnett, Stoke Mandeville nurse Nicola Norton and Gambian nurse Joe saw 88 patients, over the space of just a few hours. Today’s ailments included more possible cases of malaria, which the BACE clinic will be able to test for and treat when it is fully operational by July. For the moment the nurses just had to give what medication they had to hand, along with advice.

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As the patients were being seen other BACE volunteers continued painting the rest of the clinic, some did craft activities in the school with the young children and another group continued with the garden. The chillis are now ready to be picked and coming along well are aubergines, spring onions, ochre, cabbages, tomatoes, spring onions and lettuce.

Tomorrow BACE volunteers will be handing out second hand shoes, which were donated in the UK, to women and girls whose shoes are worn out or too small and to others who have none at all.

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My Gambia shopping list

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This time next week I’ll be working in The Gambia, painting, plastering, bricklaying, gardening, taking photos and writing – so it’s time to do a shopping list of what I need to buy before I go.

The charity I’ll be working with, BACE, has helpfully sent all volunteers a list of “essential items” which they really should pack. Imodium, toilet roll, bags in which to put used toilet roll and wet wipes are top of the list, which is a bit of a worry!

I guess that is in case the local food doesn’t agree with people or in case they pick up a germ along the way.

I’m hoping the local food will agree with me, as it sounds quite delicious. We’ve been told that breakfast will be bread and fruit and that at lunchtime local people will be cooking for us, with dishes usually being rice in a tasty sauce and sometimes chicken.

In case the local food doesn’t appeal or worries those who have anything less than a cast iron constitution, volunteers have also been advised to take Marmite, vegemite or peanut butter with them, so that at lunchtime they have something to put onto the freshly made bread. Volunteers are also advised to take a few cereal bars and biscuits too.

The shopping list also includes insect repellent, bite cream (as I’m told I will definitely get bitten) gardening gloves, a paint tray and roller, a sun hat (as apparently there is little shade where we will be working) and a travel kettle if I can find one, so that I can have a tea or coffee before what the charity tells me are some very “early starts”.

A good paperback did not make it onto the list of “things to pack” unfortunately, but a beach towel did, which suggests I might be getting some time off to relax and soak up the sun. Fingers crossed!