For Clovis…

Clovis was 17 when he died last year from complications of Sickle Cell.  He was a dear, precious boy that we met at the orphanage in 2012.  He captured our hearts with his quiet ways and tenderness. Clovis’ mother passed after the birth of his twin siblings, Stella and Sylvester.  He came to be at St Martin de Porres Mission Hospital Orphanage to help care for them and keep them connected to a family member.  We left an account for Clovis at the internet cafe so he could stay in touch with us throughout the year and he emailed us two days before he died.  We were so heartsick to learn of his passing.  When we returned this year to find his twin siblings gone from the orphanage…we felt compelled to track them down and make sure they were OK.  Clovis would want us to do that.  We discovered that they were in another orphanage, Harvest Children’s Home, a few villages away in Fundong.  The orphanage here at St Martin de Porres is one of the few that takes infants.  It is expensive to feed and care for an infant. And their policy is to send them back to their extended families when they can walk and eat real food.  These twins, Stella and Sylvester had no where to go, both parents gone, their siblings still too young to support them.  Not only did we find them healthy and well, but we discovered a wonderful Baptist Orphanage, Harvest Children’s Home, that took them in with open arms until they can hopefully be rejoined with their siblings.  It filled our cup to see them.

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Clovis in 2014

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Sylvester and Stella, now 4 yrs old at Harvest Children’s Home.

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Sylvester

 

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Stella

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Emmanuel Ful, Director and Chaplain and Emmanuel Ngala, Manager of Harvest Children’s Home.

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Carol with her babies.

Thriving, Hope and Gratitude in the Year of Mercy.

Our first week here has been wonderful, seeing A Call to Mercy’s program with Project Hope thriving and in action.  It is so beneficial for us to be with those who are in the program and to talk to them about their lives and concerns.  We are so proud and grateful to be partnering with Project Hope, whose dedication and concern for their community is only matched by their skill at creating and implementing programs that really work.

THRIVING!  Two years ago, we met 9 yr old Carine and her grandmother at the family compound.  Carine is HIV+, had lost both parents, was not in school and had defaulted on her medicines because her grandmother could not afford her clinic visits or school fees.  She was enrolled in A Call to Mercy’s OVC program and today is thriving.  We met Carine again last week when she came for her clinic visit.  Note that Cameroonians are proud people and wear their Sunday best when coming to the hospital.  Here is Carine, before and after two years in the program.

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At the family compount, 2014.

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At the family compound, 2014

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2016, Healthy, strong, in school and complaint with her meds.

HOPE! This little boy, Achia is from Anjin village. During a field outreach there on Friday, the Anjin support group (more on that later) alerted Project Hope about a sick child.  Achia was diagnosed HIV+ one year ago.  He had recently became very ill and developed fluid in his stomach.  His mother could not afford the transport or hospital fees.  Project Hope provided transport and enrolled this child immediately into the program so he could be treated at the hospital – 100% covered by support from A Call to Mercy.  By Monday, he was feeling much better!

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Friday, admitted to hospital.

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Friday, admitted to hospital.

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Monday, feeling better!

GRATITUDE! On Saturday we were taken to Anjin village to meet with the people there whose children benefit from A Call to Mercy’s program.  Because this village is a few hours walk away on rough, rocky terrain, Project Hope has created an HIV Support Group there.  The group helps to raise awareness, lessen stigma, and teach the community what it has learned from Project Hope, specifically about nutrition, hygiene and the importance of taking their meds. Project Hope will deliver 2 months of HIV meds to the support group to save the people from the long journey every month.  They only come to the clinic when their lab work needs to be done.  The women greeted us at the opening of the compound with traditional song.  Beautiful and sweet.  They had prepared a small program in the meeting house, the home of the groups’ President.  They expressed heartfelt gratitude and sincere appreciation that people a world away would care about their wellbeing.  Some of their words after mentioning the support they received… “from the beginning we never believed that such dreams could ever be true. So we were shocked when everything was a reality. In the past days our lives were hopeless.  Today, thanks to the efforts of A Call to Mercy to make us have hopeful lives.  Your visit here today is remarkable in the history of this village.”  We then were given their sentiments in writing, a meal, and gifts of beans and bananas from their subsistent farm plots.

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Women singing a welcome song.

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Secretary of the group expressing appreciation.

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Oh the children!

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Dressed in their Sunday best for the visitors.

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The customary group shot with the children!

Courage and grace.

Around the 3rd or 4th day here, the visual and emotional stimuli reach a point where one cannot help but let the tears flow. And so you do.  

Today was the second of the three days at the hospital’s HIV clinic, meeting with the children in A Call to Mercy’s program. The ages today were 10-13.  This group is  the age that Project Hope staff begins the process of disclosure about the disease to the children.  There is still an enormous stigma attached to HIV in Africa. Project Hope takes tremendous care and with great sensitivity helps the children come to terms with this disease that has infected their bodies.  Today’s lesson involved discussing a display board of a child surrounded by green creatures which represent policemen or soldiers that were there to fight the yellow “germs” that attack their bodies.  The medicine that they come to get each month and take every day strengthens the green policemen to fight the yellow germs. The goal is to encourage responsibility and an age appropriate understanding of the need to take the medicine everyday, without fail.  After the lesson, the children drew themselves surrounded by strong green creatures, “policemen”, that were strengthened by the medication to fight the yellow germs.  They understood the lesson well. 

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Project Hope nurse processing new child for HIV treatment.

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Mimi learning a card game.

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PH Social Worker, Lillian, conducting health lesson.

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Concentration.

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Girl showing off drawing of the lesson.

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Receiving her child’s medication.

We’ve arrived and it feels like coming home.

We arrived  in Njinikom early Sunday evening after a very long but good journey.  The 8 hour ride from the congested hot city of Douala into the cool mountainous region of the Boyo division is an eye opening drive.  A joyful arrival was complete with waves, warm hugs and a delicious meal.  We are staying in lodging built by docs from Holland, aptly named the Holland house.  The pastural scene is the view we wake up to.  Life is very good and we are excited to get to work.

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Girl walking on road.

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Vendor at market selling deep fried treats.  I’m inspired by their balance and determined to learn how to carry my camera bag on my head!

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Boy at produce stand.

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Sunday walk.  Love the colors.

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Boys selling homemade brooms along the road.

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Good Morning Njinikom.  Farm at St. Martin de Porres Mission Hospital.

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Mountains in the near distance.  It is the end month of the dry season. The fog like atmosphere is caused by the blowing Saharan sands.