As this was my first visit to Zambia, I didn’t know what to expect. On the way from the Airport I was immediately surprised by how lush the landscape was, plenty of green fields and forest that I more readily associate with home. But this was soon overtaken by a more typical African city feel, bustling markets and cars jostling for position. Lusaka is growing rapidly, Chinese investment has led to a flurry of malls and infrastructure projects that seemingly cover every inch of this city.
As we got close to the Linda community the investment started to slow. Tarmac gives way to dirt roads and malls turn into wooden shacks. Linda has a very different feel.
One of the projects I was most impressed with was the Mother of Mercy Hospice. Sister Jeremia’s devotion to the cause is clear. She has been working there for 8 years providing medicine and support to some of the most vulnerable people in the area. The Hospice supports almost 2,200 people by giving the drugs and treatment they need for HIV and Tuberculosis and would otherwise not have.
We joined Sister Jeremia on an outreach programme taking supplies into the community to some of their known patients. We first met Bernard Tembo who lived with his family on the outskirts of Linda in a one room house he made from stone and mud. Bernard has HIV and Tuberculosis and has been coming to the hospice to receive the drugs he needs to prolong his life and make it as comfortable as possible. Bernard needs to work to help feed his family, but does not have the money to travel into town where the majority of work is. Without the money from work he cannot get the nutrition he needs, leading to the drugs not working properly. He is now too weak to make the two-hour round-trip walk to the Hospice to collect his medicine.
Click here to see a message from Bernard.
This negative cycle is typical for the patients that Sister Jeremia works with. I am impressed with how she manages to be both stern and warm, simultaneously telling him off for not collecting his medicine whilst handing over enough maize and frozen meat for him and his family to eat for a week. Hospice policy prevents the staff from handing out medicine on these outreach days; this is to ensure the correct procedures are followed and all medicine accounted for correctly.
We went on to see three more patients in Linda that morning, including 9-year-old Angela who has had HIV from birth. There were dozens of people at Angela’s house, gathered for the wake of a relative. Sister Jeremia explained that these wakes often go on for a week and tradition dictates the dozens of guests will be fed by the host during that time, placing a huge strain on the grieving family. Sister Jeremia opts not to give the food she had brought in fear that it would be used to feed the guests. It is plain to see the generosity of the people here even when they are suffering so much themselves. There is hope for this young girl who, with the support of the Hospice, can lead an active life. She is also a high performer in school, something Sister Jeremia takes a great interest in.
VisionZambia is the main source of income for the Hospice, paying the wages of their staff and providing the medicine for the patients. Without our support, the Hospice would simply not be able to continue. Sister Jeremia has dedicated her life to helping those who have been dealt some of the toughest cards possible; offering them dignity and a chance to see what kind of city Lusaka becomes.
To support Linda community and the Mother of Mercy Hospice please donate to VisionZambia.