Friday, May 17, 2013


The view from Ha Mafa
St. James is responsible for 7 rural health posts and clinics in the Mantsonyane area. These clinics provide basic medical services to the people living around them. The idea of these clinics is to make it easier for Basotho to access healthcare without having to travel far distances to the nearest hospital, which in this case is St. James. Clinical services range from routine treatment of cuts and scrapes, to distribution of drugs, to HIV/AIDS counseling. It’s quite a large range of services. Some of these clinics are close to the hospital, and some are very far away. A doctor visits each of these clinics on a monthly basis, but for the most part, day-to-day treatment is done by clinical nurses living at the health centers. During my 4 months here (hard to believe it’s been 4 months already!), I hadn’t had a chance to visit any of the clinics until this week. I got to tag along on two different trips out to two of the seven clinics.

Ha Mafa Health Post
On Tuesday, I joined the PHC (Primary Health Care) Coordinator and the Pharmacy director on a trip to the health post in Ha Mafa. Ha Mafa is about a 30-40 minute car trip over some rough mountain roads. It definitely requires a 4x4 to get out there. This wasn’t just a normal visit to the clinic, it was for the monthly vaccination clinic for children under 5. This particular vaccination clinic is a government-funded project. Vaccinations are free to all who show up and register. There were easily over 100 people waiting with their children when we arrived in Ha Mafa. This is a really good turnout, and it’s a testament to the hard work the village health workers are doing in Ha Mafa.  All sorts of vaccinations were given out. Polio, Hep B, Measels, etc. Pretty much what a kid gets in the states. Everyone that showed up to the clinic was given lunch by a Catholic ministry from a neighboring village, Ha Auray. People are much more inclined to show up if there’s food provided. I think its great that there’s some ecumenicalism going on to help get these kids vaccinated!

The PHC Coordinator

Those were not small needles...

Everyone queuing for lunch

The Pharmacy Director (Standing) & one of the
Ha Mafa nurses

These girls were so excited to have their photo taken

Ha Popa Clinic
On Wednesday, I once again joined the PHC coordinator on a new journey out to Ha Popa. Now if I described the road to Ha Mafa as “rough,” I’m not sure how to describe the road to Ha Popa. I think using the word “road” might not even be applicable. I guess if we use “road” in the literal sense of the word, as in “a path connecting one place to another,” it’ll do. This “road” was absolutely ridiculous. It took about 2 hours to get out to Ha Popa, and during that 2 hours the car didn’t stop shaking once. If I had been driving, we would have driven off the mountain within the first 30 minutes! I took some great video, but the Internet is far too slow to upload it, so you’ll just have to suffice with a photo for now.

The "road" to Ha Popa

PHC Coordinator in the Ha Popa exam room
The trip to Ha Popa was a regularly scheduled medical officer visit. Usually this means that a doctor is visiting the clinic, but there was only one doctor on duty at the hospital that day, so we had to go without him. We also brought out some medical supplies and drugs to restock the clinic. Now everyone in the village knows what day the doctor comes because it’s the same day every month. So when we arrived with only the PHC coordinator, the driver, and myself it was assumed that I was a new doctor coming out to work. As you may know, this was not the case. After quickly clearing that misconception up, the PHC coordinator and the clinic staff got to work seeing patients. There were roughly 50 patients that showed up that day. I made myself busy with taking photos and walking through the village. Unfortunately, I’m not very useful when it comes to things of the medical nature.

It was really great to finally make it out to the clinics and see the PHC program in action. These clinics are really the first link in the medical chain here in Lesotho. If you make medical care accessible to the people, they’re more likely to use it. People are much more likely to take a 20 minute walk to a clinic than they are to take a 6 hour walk to St. James or another hospital. With the PHC approach, it’s all about getting people in to seek medical attention. Sometimes that 20-minute walk might be for a simple cut or bruise, but sometimes that walk makes the difference between life and death. An early diagnosis of a serious medical condition almost always betters the chances of treatment and recovery. The clinics can diagnose these serious conditions, like TB, Diabetes, High blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, and refer someone to St. James for proper care. I'm so glad I got to visit some of these amazing centers and see how they work. I’m hoping to make it to all 7 centers before my year runs out, but the coming winter might prevent that!

The last brave flower of Autumn

Quite the sunset

That’s it for now! My calendar is telling me that I have less than 3 months left in Lesotho! What!? That doesn’t seem right. Sala hantle! 

Monday, May 6, 2013


Full Moon at Lake Logan
I worked for my home diocese’s summer camp, Camp Henry, all through college. I have so many amazing memories from those 5 summers on staff. It’s nice to be able to reminisce about those days while I’m here in Lesotho. One of my favorite times of each summer at Lake Logan was the full moon. I loved it for many reasons, one being that it made for amazing photography, but the biggest reason being that each summer it felt like that moonrise was meant just for me. It's like God was saying, "Hey kid, get a load of this!" I know probably countless people have seen the full moon over Lake Logan, but every summer it felt like I was seeing something that had never happened before and that I was blessed to be seeing it. Out of 5 summers full of memories, the full moon stands out brightly in my mind.

Flash-forward to Lesotho a few months back. I was riding back to Mantsonyane from Maseru one Sunday evening with Ntate Lekhotla, the hospital mechanic. I don’t know how it timed out so perfectly, but we arrived at St. James right as the sun was setting and the full moon was rising over the mountains surrounding the hospital. The sky was a color of purple that I’ve never seen before in my life. I can only describe it as the heavens opening. It is literally one of the most awe-inspiring sites I’ve ever seen. My camera was either packed away or wasn’t with me so I didn’t get a photo, but from that point on I was determined to catch this moonrise on film.

The conditions were finally perfect last week to capture this scene. The sky was not quite the color it was the first time I saw it, but it was still incredible.  Not a day goes by that the beauty of this country doesn’t blow me away. There’s beauty not only in the natural surroundings (which I want to point out are ABSOLUTELY gorgeous), but it’s also in the people and the culture. Make no mistake, life in Lesotho and especially in the Mantsonyane area is hard. Little to no employment, little to no transportation available, high sickness rates, and very cold weather during the winter months to name just a few things. But the people are resilient. Life is simply at a different pace.

There’s a spot by the river that I’ve been going to recently. It’s on a high cliff that looks over the river gorge, which is the main water source for the hospital and surrounding community. I go here and I sit, and I listen. One thing I love about Mantsonyane is that there is NO background noise. No airplanes overhead, no far-off cars cruising down the freeway, no loud music endlessly blasting away (Ok, that last one’s not always true). But that’s not to say that Mantsonyane is silent. In fact, it’s far from it. Sitting by the river you’ll hear many things. You’ll hear a herd boy singing while the bells around his cows’ necks jingle softly. You’ll hear the late autumn wind blowing down the gorge. You’ll hear the bah-ing chorus of a flock of grazing sheep high above you on a cliff. You’ll hear a village singing just over the ridge and the women giving their powerful ululations. Plain and simple, you’ll hear life. It’s a life that hasn’t changed in a very long time, and it is overwhelmingly beautiful.

Thomas Merton once said that, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” My life, compared to most of the world, is not normal. Even by American standards, it’s not normal for someone to pack up and move half way across the world (not to mention doing it again next year!).  But what I’ve found is that God finds ways to show me how blessed I truly am, no matter where I might be. Whether it be on the field at Lake Logan during the summer’s full moon, on a cliff high in the Maulti’s watching the same full moon rise over the mountains, or sitting over the river listening to the sounds of a life very different from my own. God always finds ways to plant these things in my soul. Blessed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. Until next time, Sala hantle.