Sunday, November 27, 2011

christmas comes early

On Friday, TTL got a great start to the Christmas season thanks to the generosity of the Lesotho Institute of Accounts (LIA), working in partnership with the Lesotho Revenue Authority and STANLIB. TTL was thrilled to host the event organised by the LIA and share the generous donations from these three institutions with local women's support groups in the region.

Thank you to Lesotho Institute of Accounts, Lesotho Revenue Authority and STANLIB! Their kind gifts of blankets, clothing, and especially food items, will be of great benefit to TTL’s babies and all the families we support.

With the sun shining brightly and lots of singing and ululating it was a great way to the end the week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Full House

The TTL safehome is staying busy and crowded! Two babies leave, four more arrive. We now have 13! Let me introduce you to the new babies in the playroom.

MAMELLO – Mamello has been at the safehome for almost two weeks. Her mother passed away and her grandmother, who is now her primary caregiver, is paralyzed and unable to care for her right now. Mamello is HIV+ and on antiretroviral therapy. She is a happy kid, eating well and walking on her own.

PUSO – Puso was brought to the TTL safehome at the end of last week. He is five months old and small for his age. He tested positive for HIV and will begin antiretroviral therapy this week. He is a curious baby, constantly checking out any action going on around him.

PELAELO - Pelaelo is our newest safehome member, arriving just in time for dinner last night. He was brought to the outreach workers who were picking up Thatohatsi's mother to bring her to the hospital yesterday. Pelaelo lives in a neighboring village to Thatohatsi (a 3 1/2 hour drive from Mokhotlong). 3 years old, Pelaelo is malnourished and has been sick much of his short life. He tested positive for HIV this month and TTL will help him get started on ART as soon as possible.

THATOHATSI – Thatohatsi is the baby girl who Rachel wrote about picking up in her last post. She spent one night in the safehome before she was admitted to the hospital because of her cough, fever, and respiratory problems. She was also vomiting after eating. She is a tiny 3 month-old, weighing only 2.1 kg (about 4.6 lbs.). Sadly, Thatohatsi’s twin was also sick and died last week. Thatohatsi's mother joined her at the hospital last night where she is receiving IV antibiotics and being closely monitored. When she is discharged from the hospital she will return to the safehome.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States! Being at TTL makes me realize just how much I have to be grateful for, and how often I take it all for granted. Thank you for all of your support and have a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

building a legacy

On Monday, the two TTLF fellows – myself and Meghan – and two members of the TTL Outreach Team – Kokonyana and Nthabeleng Lehela – went off to see a set of baby twins that TTL had heard about through our Village Health Worker Network. Both babies were underweight and the mother had been struggling with breastfeeding and so we were off to see how TTL might be able to assist the family. I knew that the twins lived far away but it was Monday and I had been distracted in the morning answering emails so when Kokonyana came to tell me it was time to go at 8:30am, I quickly ran to the kitchen to grab an apple and hopped in the truck. I had no idea that we wouldn’t be returning to TTL until 7pm. Although, I’m not sure anyone in the truck realised it was going to be such a long day.

We left Mokhotlong and drove further and further out into the mountains –and as per usual, the further we went, the worst the road got. About three hours into the drive, we started to periodically stop along the way asking whatever Mosotho we could find if we were still on the right track. Each time there was a quick exchange in Sesotho and a hand that gestured off to the mountains in the distance – we had to just keep going. Across a river and over a few more precarious mountain sides, we arrived in another small village and what looked like the end of the road. The Outreach Staff asked a man sitting outside his rondavel about the family we were searching for and again there was a hand pointing off to the mountains in the distance. We weren’t there just yet but this was as far as the truck would be going – we would be walking the rest of the way. Along with directions, the villager also gave us some bad news: one of the babies had passed away earlier in the week.

So off we went by foot, even more uncertain about what we would find at the end of the road. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at a set of four rondavels on the side of the mountain but after a few calls of ‘Ko Ko’ it didn’t seem like anyone was home. Eventually, we spotted a woman off in the fields and called her over – it turns out she was the sister in-law of the mother of the twins. She confirmed that one of the babies had died and the mother had taken the other baby to the local traditional healer. She suggested that we speak to her mother in-law and brought us over to the fourth rondavel where we found three more family members. The grandmother was thrilled at the sight of Meghan and I, exclaiming that we were the first white people to be in her home. I honestly wasn’t surprised, her home felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. After the Outreach Workers explained to the family about TTL we were off with the sister-in law as our guide to find the mother of the twins.

Down and up another mountainside, we arrived at another cluster of houses and managed to find the father of the twins. We were one step closer to finding the mother and baby. But while the father agreed to find the mother for us, he seemed reluctant to accept TTL’s support. So while he went off to get his wife and baby, we set out to find the chief, hoping that he might persuade the father to accept TTL’s support.

By the time we were meeting with the village chief it was already after 3pm. After a long conversation with him, and another discussion with the father, it was agreed the baby would come with us to the safehome. I think what really helped convince the father was his sister-in law. Before her marriage she had lived in a different village, one where TTL had been, and she explained to him that she knew of babies that we had helped and the difference TTL could make.

As we headed back across the fields and mountainsides towards the TTL truck, this time mother and baby in tow, I was relieved that the baby would be coming back to the safehome with us – particularly because this village seemed so far away from any type of help. Driving the long 4 hour trip back to TTL, I held on tightly to this tiny baby who was supposed to be 3 months old, but looked much much younger, trying to protect her as much as possible from the bumps on the road. As I thought about the day everything was a mix of emotions. I was hungry and tired, happy and hopeful that we would be able to help this little girl, sad and frustrated that TTL hadn’t been able to get there sooner to help her twin, and comforted by the fact that the sister-in law stepped in on TTL’s behalf and knew who we were. It is a sign that TTL is truly building a legacy for itself across the region, and the more people who know of TTL means the more vulnerable babies TTL will be able to help.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

a day on outreach

Yesterday we planned to visit 4 clients in the Mapholeneng area (about 35 km from TTL) to do monthly outreach health assessments and to distribute food and formula. The clients all lived in different villages so we traversed many hills and bumpy roads meet them.

Our first visit was to Boikarabelo, a small baby girl we found bundled in her rondavel with her dad and sister – her mother had gone down to the river to get water. Aside from a little diaper rash, she looked healthy and is growing well. The mother has been unable to breastfeed so TTL has supplied the family with formula to ensure that Boikarabelo does not become malnourished – a big risk to babies in Lesotho whose mothers cannot breastfeed and whose families cannot afford formula. Before we left we weighed and measured Boikarabelo and replenished the family’s formula supply.

The rest of our day did not go as smoothly. We found our next two clients at home, but their caregivers were absent. Their mothers and grandmothers had gone to Malaphaneng town to receive rations from the World Food Program. We weighed and measured the kids – Tsepiso and Moleleki, and then left to try to track their caregivers down. We arrived at the Red Cross in Mapholeneng, where the WFP was distributing food and found hundreds of people and an assembly of donkeys, waiting to receive food support. We asked around but could not find Tsepiso’s mom or Moleleki’s grandmother in the crowd. We will have to return to their households to discuss their children’s health and development – especially Moleleki, whose malnourishment does not appear to be improving even with TTL’s food support.

No one was around at the last home we visited. A lot of driving to accomplish nothing. The outreach staff tells me that this is unusual – families are usually at home when we visit, but the inability to communicate easily with our clients’ families is one of the obstacles TTL has to work around. It is also one of the reasons why TTL’s work is so important in this region of Lesotho because we are supporting families who are isolated and hard to reach, living far away from access to most aid services. Failing to meet with these clients and caregivers was disappointing, but it was good to see first hand some of the challenges the TTL faces in its outreach to rural mountain villages.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

a new arrival of a different kind

TTL is happy to introduce the newest addition to its team in Mokhotlong: Meghan Harrington. 

Over the next four months, Meghan and I will share this blog space and try to keep everyone updated on all the happy and sad, fun and mundane, events that make up life at TTL. And with that, I'll let Meghan continue her introduction herself...

Hello from Touching Tiny Lives!  I’m Meghan Harrington, a new TTLF Fellow, here in Mokhotlong for just four months. My time here is flying by – I arrived about three weeks ago and thanks to the friendly hospitality that everyone at TTL has shown me, I am feeling right at home. Having heard so many wonderful things about TTL from Bridget, Reid, and Kevin’s time here (my sister, brother-in-law, and brother-in-law’s brother respectively), I’m happy to report that my experience thus far has exceeded even the high expectations I had coming over. Lesotho is a beautiful country, full of friendly people, and I am humbled to be working for an organization that is successfully tackling some of the biggest challenges facing this country. 

The impact TTL has on tiny lives in Lesotho is evident the moment you arrive on TTL’s campus. Eleven little ones greeted me, most already on their way to becoming healthy, growing kids thanks to the nutrition and medical support provided in the safe home. One 2 ½ year old little boy, Ralithakang, had arrived at TTL a few days before me, severely malnourished, HIV+, and infected with tuberculosis. While the other children played, he preferred to lie down, too sick to smile or move around. Witnessing Ralithakang’s progress in the last 3 weeks has been the most inspiring part of my time at TTL. He is laughing at everything, trying to talk, and walking with support. Seeing his transformation confirms how important this work is  – TTL is giving these kids the opportunity to survive.

Yesterday Tsepang and Retsepile, two of the kids in the safe home, were picked up by their moms and taken home. I was sad to see their familiar faces leave us, but it was also a reminder of the great function that TTL’s safe home serves when these now healthy, happy babies are reunited with their families.

So grateful for the opportunity to be here, witnessing all of the wonderful things happening at Touching Tiny Lives.