Mark and Loes are a dutch couple working at Nkhoma Hospital, here they explain the work they do and why they keep coming back to Malawi.
Our story begins in September 2009. That was the first time that we saw the beauty of Malawi. On this visit we stayed in Nkhoma for 3 months. Mark worked as a physiotherapist and I (Loes) did paintings in the new wards about breastfeeding. Alongside this we funded and built a playground at a local preschool. At the beginning of December our time was up and we had to return to Holland. With tears in our eyes we made promises on the airplane that we would come back! And here we are again! After a year of working in Holland, living in a small room and saving money so we could come back to Nkhoma, Malawi, this time for 9 months.
Mark is working as a physiotherapist in Nkhoma hospital again. For now he is the only physiotherapist, but there is a Malawian who is studying physiotherapy and will start working in October. There are a lot of patients who could benefit from physiotherapy but it is not a common treatment in Malawi. So, Mark is running from ward to ward, looking for suitable patients and making it clear to the nurses that they should call Mark if they see a patient who may benefit from physiotherapy. After a couple of months, you can really see that it is working; Mark has a lot of patients to see! Besides the inpatients, there are also a lot of people who will come to his office for help. Mark found a local carpenter and together they are making crutches and special chairs. Once a week Mark goes to the capital city – Lilongwe to help in the prostheses centre run by another charity – 500 Miles.
At home I am a social worker but while in Malawi I am running an epileptic program in Nkhoma Hospital set up by Africa Burn Relief*. Initially they went to local villages to see if there were any epileptic patients. They found 42 in total and surveyed them to find out more about their social life and how epilepsy affects this. Every Tuesday there is a clinic in the hospital where the patients will be seen by the doctor and myself. Here they get free medications to help control their condition. At present the number of patients visiting the clinic has grown to 190!
Again, alongside our work in the hospital we are doing another education based project. We are building a primary school in Nguluwe together with Positive Steps! After a few false starts the building work is really going well.
We are loving our time here, and sad that at the beginning of November our plane will leave again.
*In rural areas many burn victims are epileptic. Whilst suffering from a seizure they can easily fall into fires (used to cook food and clear land for crop growing) or fall into/spill scalding liquids.