Jude travelled to Africa in 2009 to volunteer on the Swaziland and Botswana Homeopathic projects. These projects are aimed at providing permanent free Homeopathic clinics to these impoverished communities. The main beneficiaries of these projects are Men, Women and Children living with HIV and AIDS.
The following are Jude's emails to friends and family back home during her trip:
11th June 2009
"I have arrived safely in Swaziland, it is an amazing country, a Kingdom, still ruled by a King who has 13 wives and is looking for another later this year! It is winter here and the vegetation is actually quite lush with almost tropical plants and beautiful flowers. I am staying with a Homeopath in a basic cottage out in the Country, no furniture but who needs a chair!!
Yesterday we drove out into the bush into a Clinic based at a school for children who have lost their parents to aids - a lot of them live in Child headed households where about 10 kids live in a house, they are usually related, and they look after themselves as their parents and grandparents have died from Aids. Aids is devastating this country and obviously hitting the poor and underprivileged first. We treated some older women who had lots of chronic ailments and were so sad as most of their family had died and their husbands had aids. We don't know how luckily we are in Canada.
There is a huge contrast between rich and poor here and people are driving around in huge vehicles and then the indigenous people are starving by the side of the road. They have to pay for their own education and for health care - there is no state system and no welfare to be had. So lots of small projects have been set up by well meaning people to do what they can.
Check out the website Swaziland Homeopathy Project and the links. I am finding it all fascinating and hope to learn lots homeopathically. Everyone has been really friendly and helpful. Do not have a phone and being able to get to the Internet is difficult so excuse any spelling mistakes etc as my time is running out. I hope to move onto the Botswana project in a couple of weeks
Sending you all warm wishes from Swaziland"
25th June 2009
"I am now in Maun, Botswana. My last few days in Swaziland were interesting. The homeopathic project is involved in a research study using homeopathy in the local city hospital working with HIV+ and TB patients. I will never complain about a UK or Canadian hospital again. Mbambe hospital was run down, dirty and disgusting. The main TB ward was filthy and the patients were lying on beds and under beds - very scary. Prisoners were shuffling in wearing shackles. All very surreal!
The next day was better as we were working out in the open air, prescribing under a tree to local women. Unfortunately our vehicle broke down way in the outback and as the distributor cap had fallen off!
If anyone feels like helping, the Swaziland Project really needs some funds to buy a lap top only around 500 pounds or $800. The project is run by two women who don't get paid and spend their days treating local people who can't afford treatment and are very sick. The homeopathic medicine really works well for them and they are so happy to feel better, it makes a big difference to their already difficult lives. The homeopaths are using books to prescribe and this is time consuming if they had a lap top and homeopathic software they could help more people, by prescribing quicker, and they would not be so exhausted! You all helped me raise money for Botswana, which is really helping that Project, but I was not able to give any money to the Swazi Project. If you are feeling generous, any little helps, email me back at email@example.com and I will connect you with Barbara in Swaziland. Sorry I did not mean this email to be a plea!
Last Saturday I had a long bus journey to Johannesburg and stayed in a really grotty place before flying to Maun on Sunday. We flew over the Kalahari desert with hours of nothing and then landed in the middle of absolutely nowhere and that's where I am now!!
Maun is a cattle town with a sandy, dusty main street filled with people, donkeys (wild), cattle, cars and goats. People dressed in suits with cell phones mingle with the local women dressed in Victorian long dresses (really) with material in the shape of horns (they are the Horare tribeswomen and the horns represent the cattle they own). It is overwhelming in its chaos and very different from Swaziland. The weather is warm around 26 during the day and then very cold at night, no heating in the place I am staying and no hot water but otherwise it is fine.
The Project here has a clinic in town and gives free treatment to HIV+ and TB patients and we have line ups all day so it is busy and worthwhile. I am working with a homeopath, Anne, who has been here for 9 months and we are training two Botswanese students to become homeopaths so that they can eventually run the clinic for themselves, which is what I like about this set up. So most days are spent busy working in the clinic and then on Wednesdays we go to different villages out in the bush."
3rd July 2009
"Another week has gone by! Botswana is an interesting place. It is winter here at the moment and even though it reaches about 26 degrees celsius in the daytime the locals walk around wearing hats and over coats! They really feel the cold and as it is desert it does get very cold at night or at least feels very cold as the houses have no heating. Susan asked about the food (please ask questions if you have any) and there is not much to write about the food. Not much food is grown as the land is too barren and dry so most is imported from South Africa. The locals tend to eat very poorly with tons of white bread, loads of carbohydrates, very fatty meat and no vegetables or fruit, however as they walk every where and only eat two meals a day there are very few obese people here. There are no Botswanese restaurants or any fancy restaurants in town only the equivalent of McDonalds and grocery stores. No high end coffee shops or places to hang out.
I am loving the volunteer work, last week we drove out into the bush (my favourite days) and passed a million wild donkeys (don't know why they don't eat them!) and tons of cattle who just wander every where. After hours of driving on flat, sandy tracks we reached a small village and there were tons of people sitting in the shade under trees waiting for us. We set up in the local church and outside, there were 4 of us, two homeopaths and two homeopathic students who act as interpreters when necessary. We saw around 40 people ranging from the elderly to some small children. We took some sandwiches as there is no where to eat in the villages and no where to stop for a cold drink or whatever so you have to be very self sufficient - no place to go to the loo either!
The rest of the time has been spent in the Clinic which is now a permanent office space in the town of Maun, people who are HIV positive come and receive homeopathic treatment for free and we are always busy. It has been wonderful to see how well and quickly the medicines work at relieving the side effects of the Anti Viral drugs.
The contrast to all this is the way the ex pats live out here. Most of them work for the Safari industry and live in huge compounds overlooking the river and drive around in expensive cars. Botswana has a policy of high end, low volume, high cost tourism so the safari's are very expensive so that few people come and the landscape is not over run with people. Botswana also has diamond mines and a democratic government that gives the money back to the people in terms of free education and health care. Today I worked in the local hospital and it is so different from the Swazi one. The hospital here is huge, very modern and all the wards have only a few beds in them which have all kinds of modern equipment linked to each patient. They really are trying to do something to help the people but with over 38 % of the population with AIDs it is a tough challenge.
Thanks for all your emails regarding the photos - yes, it is cold here - would you believe it! I worked in a children's home on Tuesday and the kids were amazingly polite but so sad, most had lost one or both of their parents and had tattered clothes on and no shoes. They really pull on the heart strings! They look up at you with those huge brown eyes and tell you how hungry they are.
Yesterday I had an amazing day as I took the cheap Safari option and hired a local guide and took the Clinic 4 x 4 vehicle out in the bush to hunt/look for elephants. We were on rough bush tracks and talk about bumpy, after 12 hours on the road I felt like I had spent the day in a tumble drier, but it was worth it. We saw huge elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, snakes, warthogs, antelope and various varieties of deer, hyenas, a snake (very scary!), about 50 variety of incredible birds and the lesser spotted safari suited (plus Tilley hatted) human! It was wonderful to see the animals in their natural habitat and up so close too. I will try and send some photos separately as I can't download (or upload - sorry Vivian I never remember which it should be!!) onto this computer.
Today I am back in the clinic and feel more able to cope with all the depressing tales of sickness and sorrow after an uplifting day like yesterday. Amazingly their animals are protected and have plenty of food and yet their people are starving and dying - how did that happen?
Oh someone else asked about living arrangements. I live in a shack (cottage!) in the garden of an ex pat's house just on the outskirts of town and by the river. The house has a huge wall around it and a gigantic barbed wire fence on top of the wall. There are padlocks every where and it is not safe to go out at night. The owners have 3 dogs which is good for security and they help keep down the snake population! The shack has no heating and is very basic. I was supposed to be sharing it with another homeopath but she had moved into her own place before I arrived (long story) so if anyone wants to come over for a couple of weeks I have a spare room!"
July 9th 2009
"Thanks for all your messages and words of support, it is great to receive emails when you are in the back of beyond!
I had an interesting day on Sunday when I learned the best way to run from an elephant! I hired a local guy to take me out on a Mokoro - a wooden canoe made from a Sausage Tree - Maun is close to the Okavanga Delta which is an amazing wilderness region often called the Last Eden as it is totally unspoilt. The Okavanga river has its source in the hill lands of Central Angola and never reaches the sea. Instead it spills out onto the sands of the Kalahari Basin to create an oasis in the desert. Islands, lagoons and forests have resulted which support amazing wildlife and spectacular birds.
The Mokoro glides through the water with a guide poling at the rear of the canoe so there is hardly any sound and the scenery is amazing. After 2 hours in the water we stopped for a sandwich and a walk in the bush. We saw Wildebeest and zebra by a waterhole, wonderful varieties of antelope and tons of birds. Then suddenly we literally bumped into this male elephant that was in a treed area - the guide grabbed my hand and yelled run .... run and dashed off in a zig zag pattern away from this gigantic elephant!! Luckily we were able to get away but it was quite the adrenaline rush!! I am now staying in Maun for the next 2 weekends as I have had enough excitement for one trip!
It was back to work on Monday and a day of home visits. These are visits to people who are too sick to travel into the Clinic so you can imagine how poorly they are. I would drive out (Works run down old 4 x 4) with my interpreter down some sandy bush track to a "shed" with one room where a client was lying on a mattress with old blankets on top and they would tell me how they were feeling and then I would prescribe for them. It is so hard to see people suffering so badly when they should be in hospital and a clean environment. Anyway we just do what we can and hope for the best. I now know why they send the "new volunteer" out on these days as it is so depressing.
I am getting used to having no TV, no Radio and no company, no phone or internet (most of the time) from 6.00 at night when it gets dark. I am obviously supposed to have some quiet time and catch up on my sleep!"
July 12th 2009
"Well, the sun is still shining here, it is about 25/26 degrees celsius daily and I have had no rain since I arrived, it is the Kalahari desert after all.
I thought that the following snippets from the local weekly paper would give you an idea of what life is like in Maun - population around 30,000.
Front page - the sighting of an albino lechwe (a type of antelope) alongside "woman brutally murdered" - a woman's body was found on derelict land next to the Maun airport
Babies galore as older men and taxi drivers blamed
Female students at the local secondary school are falling pregnant at an alarming rate. - there is a widespread rumour that the students have unprotected sexual relations with elderly men, mostly taxi drivers!!
Gory end for poacher
A well known tracker was gored to death by a buffalo recently - he was in fact poaching at the time of the attack. Some of his body parts were apparently consumed by predators. The police had warned him several times for poaching activities.
Transport truckers killed in a smash
The accident happened when a car hit a donkey.
Bye-Laws officer goes to jail
The local bye law officer has been sentenced to 3 years in jail for corruption.
So that is the local news this week!
Not a lot to report this week as I have been mainly working in the Clinic and at the Children's centre. We have been short staffed as Anne, the other homeopath, has had to leave the project as they would not renew her Visa. Alex, one of the students, has quit, Lebo, the receptionist is away on holiday and Wasa, the other student, had to leave suddenly as his Uncle was taken ill. So actually that just left me and no interpreter so it has been interesting and hard work. Hilary, the Charity Director, is flying in from England on Thursday."
17th July 2009
"This week has been busy with Clinic duties and making sure all the children were seen at the Children's centre. You want to try and do it all but you can't - the problem is way too big! Hilary, the Charity Director, arrived on Thursday. So now she is caught up with what has been happening and is ready to hold the fort for the next 6 weeks. We had some interesting patients this week. One lady came in from the bush where she lives at her cattle post and had back pains but was really upset as someone was stealing her cattle and she did not have enough money to go to the witch doctor so that he could cast a spell on them!
My work has finished here so I am off to England for some rest and relaxation and a family wedding. So thank you for taking this journey with me, any questions just email me and I hope to see you all soon."
To find out more about these projects or to donate towards the amazing support these clinics offer the communities in which they work please click on the following links:
Maun Homeopathy Project
Swaziland Homeopathy Project