Happy New Year! We’ve been meaning to post something for a while now but for some reason the internet has not been cooperating. Anyway, here are some photos and descriptions of what we’ve been up to lately. Below is a recent newsletter Monica wrote.
Below is a (low quality) picture of Monica and I with Livia on the day of her baptism. She almost died of malnutrition in 2010 but is doing well now and just started 1st grade.
After Christmas we took a vacation to Atauru Island off Timor’s coast. There we enjoyed activities such as this:
Simon started 3rd grade in late January. He’s pictured here with best friend Alfon.
Liddle Newsletter spring 2019
The Value of an Egg
On Wednesday, our Clinic Immanuel staff team visited 32 families in Nacroman, a neighborhood in Lospalos where we have chosen to focus our community outreach work. In November, we visited 169 homes to survey the community’s health status. 26 need toilets, and as many homes have dirt floors with walls of rusted corrugated sheet metal. While the government has piped water to part of the community, this only reaches some of population, and even then, water runs only an hour a day—most days. Most people really rely on wells for their water, and many families rely on the kindness of neighbors to share access to theirwell water. If you can afford a pump and electricity, people pump the well water to the surface and hose it to the kitchen or bathroom. Otherwise, it’s a rope, plastic jugs and manual labor to get your daily water.
This Wednesday, as we shared some public health messages with our Nacroman community, we had another question for them: “Do you have chickens?”
Virtually everyfamily has chickens in Nacroman. Everyone! The follow-up question was then, “How often do you eat eggs?” The most common response: “Maybe once a week,” with a bashful laugh.
I referred three children to the local hospital this past week for severe malnutrition. All were 1 ½ to 2 years old, two had diarrhea with dehydration and needed inpatient care, and one needed the referral to receive the nutritional food, Plumpynut, which is kind of like a very robust peanut butter with complete nutrition for severely underweight kids. In Nacroman this week, I visited two families with babies severely underweight; it turns out, the babies’ mothers are sisters, 19 and 21 years old. One baby had been hospitalized in December for a week. In the hospital, the baby received medicine for intestinal parasites. The next day, more than a dozen worms were expelled….the details would disturb many of you, so I will leave it at that.
Olinda, my clinic colleague and a resident of Nacroman who knows essentially everyone there, was my partner and translator as we visited families. Not only does Oli know everyone, she seems to have the respect of everyone we met during the home visits. She has worked at the clinic for 10 years, and continues in her official duties as “cleaner” during all this time; but Oli does much more. She frequently helps me translate into the multiple other local languages (people often prefer Makasae or Fataluku to Tetum), she takes vitals, informs me when someone needs to be seen urgently (she does patient registration, too), is learning prenatal care skills, and organizes the Sunday School breakfast each week. She didn’t have a chance to attend high school, due to the political and social chaos at the time, but she continues to impress me as one of the most insightful and capable women here at clinic.
So, back to the egg. On Wednesday, Oli and I sat with a woman in her small home with corrugated iron walls and dirt floor, 4 small children climbing around her. I asked the chicken question. She averted her eyes, appearing embarrassed to reply, “We eat eggs almost every day, we often don’t have other vegetables to eat, so I go get the eggs…we have so many chickens.” It struck me, her embarrassed reply; I asked Oli why she felt this way. Oli interpreted for me that eggs are really considered second-class food. “Ema seidauk comprende,” “people don’t yet understand,” the value of an egg, Oli informed me. So I affirmed this mother for feeding her family eggs. I informed her that eggs are a perfect food, complete in protein, with many vitamins; indeed, a food that makes her and her family healthier. Oli translated my Tetum into Makasae, to make sure the woman got the message, and to encourage her to keep feeding her family eggs from their own chickens.
In Nacroman, virtually everyone has chickens. But they are seen as products to raise to sell. Not often are they eaten for meat, and the value of the egg is completely unrecognized. The chickens wander around freely each day, often sleeping in trees at night. Chickens easily get lost, and chicks are easy prey for cats and other animals.
So this morning, Tom and I talked to Oli and her family at their home in Nacroman. We are going to help them design and build a model chicken coop. We talked about how this could increase their family’s nutrition, and generate income, too. We hope to create a model that we could easily reproduce at low cost, using many local materials, to assist other families in Nacroman and Lospalos. And as we go, we will surely teach everyone we can about the perfection of the egg.