Friday, February 17, 2012

From hot meals in Phinney Ridge to a health screenings in Zambia..and back again!

Dr. Ken Elam frequently joins the PNA Hot Meal Program team to help provide for the basic needs of community members in Seattle. We recently learned that he is also working with a group of grassroots volunteers in Zambia who also aim to provide basic needs such as education and medical care for residents of Ng'ombe, an overcrowded zone of Lusaka which lacks safe drinking water or adequate sanitation, but not the organization and drive to provide a create a better future.

Ken writes about the project:
I first visited this area in 2008 while participating in HIV testing for children, and became aware of Needs Care Day Centre, a program in one area of Ng'ombe where local residents have already organized to provide free schooling at the elementary level, and have trained 50-60 health outreach workers to regularly visit at risk homes- those beset by HIV and TB.

I asked the leader of that effort, Esther Mandakawire, a woman of phenomenal energy and compassion, how help could be given. She mentioned that her outreach workers could use bicycles to get to clients. My wife and I persuaded cycling friends in Seattle to donate enough money for 15 bicycles made in Zambia. After two subsequent visits, we have become more engaged with this committed group, and raised funds for shoes, school supplies, cooking pots and teacher stipends for the school of about 500 children, and more bicycles for the outreach workers. In 2010, we started a small medical clinic at the school location where nurses currently see patients without charge twice per month. We have trained the outreach workers to take blood pressures, and this past summer I spent two weeks working with the nurses in the clinic. I was greatly impressed with their caring and skill. One major health focus we have is the detection and treatment of hypertension and diabetes, conditions that often take a back seat to HIV, malaria and TB and so cause silent chronic damage to productive adults.

Ken just returned from another visit to the Needs Care Day Center, where he celebrated Martin Luther King Day with the children at the school. After teaching them about the U.S. tradition of celebrating the life of this social justice leader with a day of service, Ken helped serve birthday cake and ice cream while the children sang Happy Birthday to Dr. King.

To learn more about the Needs Care Day Center, visit their Facebook page.

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