Thursday, February 9, 2012

After Four Months

My four months at TTL came and now they’re gone. One more day at this wonderful place before I head to Maseru, and from there, back to a snowy Colorado winter. My time in Lesotho has been great – I have learned and seen so much and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. TTL will be in my heart as I go forward and I’m sure I will think often of the babies in the safe-home, coming and going as they reach new health and developmental goals and of the amazing staff at TTL who are doing whatever it takes to make sure these kids are on track to live full, healthy lives.

In my first blog post I mentioned Ralithakong, a little boy who arrived at about the same time as I did. As one of only two children in the safe-home who has been here throughout the duration of my stay, as I say goodbye it seems appropriate to reflect on not only what I have gained from TTL in the last four months, but what Ralithakong has as well. Stunted and very sick when he arrived, four months later he is doing awesome! He has become Mr. Independent – recently walking, feeding himself and talking up a storm. Ranking high on his list of favorite things to say are “hello ntate” and “hello m’e” (greetings to males/females) but during lunch it’s all “papa” “nama” and “dijo!” (boiled maize meal, meat, and FOOD!) It has been incredible to see the capacity of TTL’s safe-home through the progress Ralithakong has made, and great to know that after I leave he will continue to make strides in his health.

I leave hoping that I’ll make it back to Lesotho, and more specifically TTL, in the future and be able to witness all of the growth and development made by this evolving organization and the country as a whole.

I hope all of the long car rides on outreach and to Maseru will have engrained the stunning mountain landscapes into my eternal memory. I will truly miss being surrounded by so much beauty. It is sad to leave and say goodbye to the wonderful people here who made my experience, but thank you for everything.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

comings and goings

More and more of the babies in the safe-home are getting close to their time of departure and this week we saw two children get re-united with their families.

Letlotlo arrived at the safe-home in mid-September aged 4 months. Before coming to the safe-home, Letlotlo was being cared for by his 15 year old sister because his mother was critically ill with HIV-related TB. Because of his mother’s illness, Letlotlo had been mainly living off of sugar water and arrived at the safe-home weighing only 3.1kg. He is now a healthy 7kg and has finally begun to hit some of his critical development milestones like sitting on his own and standing with support. Today, Outreach reunited him with his father as a healthier and stronger 9 month old.

Another departure this week was sweet, smiley Lineo. Lineo arrived at the safe-home shortly after her mother passed away from HIV-related causes. Fortunately, Lineo’s first DNA PCR test has come back negative for HIV and she has been growing and developing well during her 4 months in the safe-home. Lineo has gone home to live with a female relative from her extended family. This M’e’ also just happens to be one of TTL’s safe-home caregivers leaving us all confident that Lineo will continue to thrive in her new home.

With two babies leaving there has also been two new arrivals direct from the Mokhotlong hospital. Both little girls were picked up by the Outreach team late last week thanks to Village Health Workers who identified these babies as being critical cases. The similarities between the two girls are striking – both are 11 months, exposed to HIV, critically malnourished, and come from the same region of Mokhotlong. In addition, one girl has been suffering from a cough for over a year and we are waiting on the results of her TB test.

With so many babies in the safe-home looking healthier and more active, let’s hope some of their positive energy rubs off on Tlotlisang and Tlholohelo.

Friday, February 3, 2012

village health workers

Yesterday was quite an eventful outreach trip. We loaded up the truck with food and formula and set off for St. Martin early in the morning to check in on a few children. The first child we visited was a smiling, crawling, and active 11-month-old boy who has responded incredibly well to TTL’s assistance and most likely will be graduating next month. It is always great to see these types of success stories.

Although we weren’t able to conduct the second scheduled checkup (the mother was out in another village and wouldn’t be back until the evening), we did run into a few of the Village Health Workers (VHW) that TTL has trained. These VHWs work with TTL by keeping an eye on children out in the villages and referring any children or families in need to TTL. On this day, the VHWs spotted the TTL truck and literally came running to get our attention. They told us about several children in the nearby area who were in need. When we found the families, we discovered that two of the children were malnourished and in need of medical care. After weighing and measuring the children, the outreach workers spoke with the mothers and decided that the children needed to see a doctor right away. So the mothers gathered up a few things and we drove them back to the hospital in Mokhotlong. The children are being assessed at the hospital today, and it sounds like one, or both, of them will end up joining us in the safe-home in order to receive the medical and nutritional support they need to get back to health.

This experience showed me that there continues to be a dire need for the services that TTL provides in the villages around Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka. Although we have been seeing fewer severely sick and malnourished children than we have in the past, there are still many children who need TTL’s support.

-Tucker Dunn