What Students Really Need to Hear

I didn’t write this… but I love it!
Its a great piece, written from the heart and describes how every teacher should feel about their students and should be teaching! What students need to hear… and believe!
“And the next day, guess what? I will be here waiting — smiling and patient — to give you a fresh start. Because you are worth it”.

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Scraggles & her transformation…

I was going to write about my lack of understanding of how people could bring a dog into their home, love it for a while then dump it onto the street and leave the country. Instead this is a happy story of a sweet dog and her shaggy coat getting a trim.

Here is her transformation video & story with photos below!

We have loads of street dogs here in Addis Ababa and there is no ‘official’ program to try to control the issue. However, in our neighbourhood the street dogs are generally in great shape. They have worked out where the best locations are to find love and be fed by locals from construction sites, schools and restaurants. They are in general good health and friendly but this isn’t the case in all places around the city.

The first time I met Scraggles

The first time I met Scraggles

Scraggles (the name we gave her) has lived on the street for around 6 years. She has her own grassy knoll she has claimed between the school gate of a local school and some shipping containers. She doesn’t move far from there its her home she found but she is happy there and while she won’t let you pat her… if you approach her she jumps up and her tail starts wagging!

A scarrgly mess

A scraggly mess

This is her short story from the last few months…

Vet Dawit trying to capture Scraggles

Vet Dawit trying to capture Scraggles – highly recommend him. Patient, calm and kind nature with her.

Took a lot of work & people but we finally got her to settle

It took a lot of work & people but we finally got her to settle

Sedated so we could trim her

Sedated so we could trim her

It took a team to complete the trim - this was just a few of the many people who helped

It took a team to complete the trim – this was just a few of the many people who helped

Dreads and trim almost complete

Dreads off and trim almost complete

One of the dreads - super thick, stinky & heavy

One of the dreads – super thick, stinky & heavy

Some of the community who helped - while Scraggles is back on her grassy patch to wake up

Some of the community who helped – while Scraggles is back on her grassy patch to wake up

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She has a tail which is now up most of the time she runs around

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Still cute as anything

Before & after

Before & after

Opening Hearts in Rwanda

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to join an amazing team visiting Rwanda in October last year. The Healing Hearts Northwest team from the USA is one of four teams that come to Rwanda annually to perform live changing & saving surgery every year. Hearts were opened, repaired and sewn back up… my heart was filled with admiration for a team so committed and talented truly changing lives.

Looking into surgery

Looking into surgery

The visiting team had brought a photographer/ videographer along to document the stories of some of the patients and she was more than happy for me to join her in following the team which I was truly grateful for the opportunity.

Here are just a few images of the amazing work that took places and the hands at work. For patient privacy I have not included any images post op of the women who were incredibly tough and up in moving with in 48 hours of surgery.

Surgery prep

Surgery prep

I learnt a lot about the process of surgery, the different ways surgeons operate and the loving after care that goes into the work. Over 8 days 16 surgeries were performed, sometimes the surgeons were in surgery for 8 hours attempting to first repair a value before having to replace it. They stood in one place for that entire time; no drink, no toilet breaks, in the same spot. I on the other hand sat, stood, walked in and out of the operating room, moved from the foot to the head of the bed, went out for a snack and drink – they stood, worked and problem solved. I was in awe of their work, the way their hands moved, hearts were moved to bypass and then powered back to life.

electrical cutting

The initial incision is made though an electrical cut

Of the patients operated on 14 were women, a lot of them young women who had not yet had families. Why does this matter? In Rwanda (as in many countries) a huge amount of womens value is placed on being able to bare children and have a family. Once someone has their valve replaced then they have to stay on medicine for the remainder of their life, pregnancy can cause blood clotting issues and potential death, therefore it is incredibly risky for women to get pregnant following valve replacement.

First incision is made

The sternum has to be cut through

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Incredible focus for hours

Teamwork

Teamwork at its best

Monitoring

Monitoring

Precision

Precision as the new valve goes into the heart

Many hands doing precise work on the valve

Many hands doing precise work on the valve

Bypass machine

Bypass machine

 

As I look forward I glance back…

So its about to happen… I am moving!

Well to be honest I haven’t really been settled anywhere for the past 2 years and have essentially lived out a of a backpack with no fixed abode – its been an adventure! Moving somewhere new isn’t a huge drama – except those loved ones you leave behind each time. I am incredibly excited to be moving to Ethiopia and building a new place to call home. For now just a weeks stopover to meet some amazing colleagues, a new school, position & start setting big goals for the year. Then back to Rwanda for the remainder of summer before settling into life in Ethiopia in late July!

I thought I would dig up a couple of old images from the time I spent traveling to see a small part of Ethiopia in 2010 which blew me away! As you can imagine I am looking forward to get back to the rich culture, amazing food and people and throw myself into everything the country has to offer and learn so much more. I hope over the coming months and years I can break down some of the misconceptions you may have about Ethiopia and the images that come to mind when you think of this part of Africa.

I will start here…

Tucked away after a climb up a huge cliff to a church in a cave...

Tucked away in a hidden cave… in the hands of an 80 year old who climbed like spiderman up the cliff

Stepping into the light

Stepping into the light from a church in Lalibela

Taking a break

Taking a break

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On a journey

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Seeing is Believing – Eye Care in Kenya

In September last year I joined a Hope Global team from Australia who had come to Kenya to work with Early Childhood teachers and also screen students for any eye problems which were potentially causing learning and/or behavioural issues in the classroom. Some educational sessions were done with students and teachers on eye care/ health and initial eye testing was completed. I was fortunate to be able to return to Kenya a month later to help coordinate and document some of the children’s journeys through surgery.

Pick me

Pick me

In classrooms we saw students eager to learn and contribute to discussions. However, we also found a lot of the children with eye problems had not talked to their teachers about the challenges they had and were sitting at the back of the classroom unable to see.

Group work

Group work

While identifying the eye issues was one factor we soon realised that there was a huge education piece missing in terms of eye care and health that needed to be integrated in all schools.  There were also some myths and cultural beliefs surrounding the treatment available that had caused some small eye problems to become big issues that were too late for treatment.

Testing

Vision screening

Eye testing made fun

Eye testing made fun

Cataracts

There were also some older community members who came to have their eyes tested.

Many of the elderly patients had cataracts which can be fixed with a quick and simple procedure. Although the surgery is performed regularly and has an incredibly high rate of success the patients were still scared of having it done. They believed that they would have their eyes replaced by pigs and a also faced huge fear of going blind from the surgery without considering if they didn’t have surgery they would eventually go blind.

Testing

Eye checks

A young teacher watches on as one of her students is seen by a doctor from Sabatia Eye Hospital at a screening session in the community.

Simple treatment

Simple treatment

Some of the students had simple allergies and were able to head home with just eye drops.

Sabatia Eye testing

Back at Sabatia Eye Hospital  testing

Further testing was performed back at Sabatia Eye Hospital a non profit eye hospital in Vihiga County North of Kisumu which specialises in eye care.  

Eye testing

Eye testing at Sabatia Eye Hospital

This was incredible to watch unfold… she exclaimed in a completely bewildered voice “I can see!” once she had the right glasses fitted. Her mother burst into tears.

Waiting pre surgery

Mothers and their children waiting for surgery

Surgery prep

Surgery prep.

A young boy watches as the needle goes into his hand pre surgery.

Surgery

Surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital

Incredible precision in eye surgery. A visiting doctor observes as the surgeon performs ‘sight’ saving surgery on a young patient.

Surgery

One of the children about to undergo cataract surgery at Sabatia Eye Hospital

Recovery

Post surgery recovery

In recovery

Nurses monitor the patients in recovery

Leaving surgery

Many patients waiting for their surgery as a nurse transports one of the children back to the ward.

Meds

The medical supply cabinet

Treatment is only as good as the post operation care which has to be explained in detail to caregivers in order for the surgery to be a complete success and for patients to avoid infection.

Too late

Too late

This teenage boy has a piece of debris removed from his eye which has been lodged in there for 5 years. He mentioned he had eye pain since something had flung into his eye years earlier when he was playing with friends. The optometrist removed it within a few seconds through a simple procedure (pictured here).

A monoclor

Making learning a little easier

A young boy is given a monocular as a short term tool before he gets access to glasses. His reaction from looking through it at the blackboard was priceless and his friends all wanted a turn as well.

Gaining independence

Gaining independence

After years of being restricted and feeling so alone at times this young lady gained back some independence by being shown how to use a walking cane. She took to it so quickly and when I returned a month later expressed such gratitude for the new lease of life she had gained.

It’s about time I told you about Marie Ann Corsino!

I have been meaning to put together several blogs about the trip I took to the Philippines in January. They are written in my mind & I have the images I just need to type them up. However, for now I wanted to introduce you to Marie Ann Corsino who made our/your direct & immediate support, to some of the people hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda, possible. 

I first met Ann in person when we arrived into Tacloban City. Stepping off the plane I couldn’t help thinking ‘come on give these people a break! … Seriously?’. It was blowing a gale and the rain was pouring down on the tarmac as we were handed umbrellas to make it from the plane to the terminal. Inside waiting for our bags to come we watched the porters scrambling over one another frantically trying to retrieve boxes and bags before they got drenched – you see the airport had no walls and was a shell with a semi repaired roof, covered with tarps the downpour was not being kept completely out.

Let me tell you a little about Ann. She greeted us with a huge smile, open arms and a ‘I can do anything for you’ attitude which continued to grow with our time in Luan. Incredibly humble about all she had done for her community and more focused on what we had done for her, it was difficult to explain to her that without the avenue to provide direct funds to and someone we completely trusted nothing would have happened; that she was the biggest link in a long chain.

Ann sharing a fun moment with children in Luan Village

Ann sharing a fun moment with children in Luan Village

It was late January and two and a half months since Yolanda had ripped through the island and to me it looked like a bomb had been dropped, a battle had taken place and torn everything from the island except the people’s resilience and spirit.  The road from Tacloban city to Ann’s village of Luan (30km south of the city) wound mostly along coastline and through many smaller towns.  The coconut trees looked like pick up sticks, stripped bare, the roads lined with debris, wires, power lines lay thrown across the roads and houses, cars stacked like they had been thrown across the street, trucks dumped into fields, it was hard to work out where houses had been & what was makeshift housing. Roofing on huge buildings was like a banana peel pulled back and just left hanging.

Cars & trucks through into fields

Cars & trucks through into fields

Roofs peeled back

Roofs peeled back

Ann was born in Manila and moved to Luan, Dulag when she was in grade 5.  She had always been top of her class in high school which she describes as her passport to scholarships in college and postgraduate courses. She also supported herself through medical college by tutoring her classmates at night. Ann knows the hardships of growing up with limited resources and living day to day off the land. She had seen her grandfather and parents struggle and through tears spoke about the miracle it was for her to be able to study and receive such an education.  After studying Ann decided she would move back to Luan in Dulag, her family’s village. Her parents were getting older and she saw a huge need for a clinic to be set up in Dulag. Ann says she has dedicated her life to helping others and hopes to give them opportunity she had. Growing up in a family where compassion for others and giving were natural things it’s no doubt Ann told me clearly “the more you give, the more you get”.

Giving blood in Tacloban city. The blood was used immediately for a young mother who had just given birth. There was still a serious shortage of blood at the hospital even at this time (2 & a half months after Typhoon Yolanda)>

Giving blood in Tacloban city. The blood was used immediately for a young mother who had just given birth. There was still a serious shortage of blood at the hospital even at this time (2 & a half months after Typhoon Yolanda)>

Four years ago Ann came back to set up a clinic in Bethany Hospital, Tacloban and another one in San Jose, Dulag. In many areas outside the city parents were receiving insufficient information from people not qualified and having to travel huge distances to have their children seen. Many times the expense was too much to make the trip so they wouldn’t be able to have their child treated. Setting up the clinic in Dulag solved a lot of these issues. Seeing Ann with her patients and their caregivers was inspiring. She truly did “treat each patient as if they were my child, niece, nephew, or family member”. As a pediatrician Ann see’s a huge part of her role as being an educator in the community. Teaching mothers the importance of breastfeeding, especially important over the Yolanda period with contaminated water. When Ann treats her patients there is a personal nature about it. With older children she talks to them & asks them questions “what do you want to become?” It was when one child told her “I dream of nothing” that she decided she had to come back.  “Dreams are free” she told me “everyone should have dreams”.

Ann giving a mother a reminder on how to best position her baby for breastfeeding.

Ann giving a mother a reminder on how to best position her baby for breastfeeding.

Giving one-on-one nutritional advice to parents & guardians based on a 24 hour food recall for their children at Luan Elementary School.

Giving one-on-one nutritional advice to parents & guardians based on a 24 hour food recall for their children at Luan Elementary School.

Under my mosquito net writing by headlamp I could hear the crashing of waves only 50 meters from Ann’s house, which had withstood the typhoon. I tried to imagine what the memory of living through the storm would have on people and how they could sleep at night hearing the waves. As we sat on the couch the next morning I didn’t imagine Ann would open her heart and tell me her story or the impact recalling it would have on both of us.

On Friday 8th November 2013 around 4.30am the strong winds started. The electricity went out at around 5.30am. Ann recalled the events to me with tears running down her face. For seven hours they hid in the house. She had made a decision she would tie herself to her mother so at least when her family found them they would know they had been together. There was no doubt in her mind what was going to happen. However, her home withstood the Typhoon and around 11.30am the winds died down. Ann recalls leaving the house and seeing complete devastation of the village. “Everyone was crying and there was just complete hopelessness around”.

Houses completely flattened & trees stripped bare.

Houses completely flattened & trees stripped bare.

A huge heart and spirit for the people around her Ann decided then and there that she had to help. “My house was intact, my car was okay, my clinic had not been damaged, I realized I didn’t need help but my people did”. After 9 days all of the frozen goods were gone from her freezer Ann decided to take her mother to Manila and then focus on raising funds to help people rebuild their homes. Harnessing the power of social media she made a post on Facebook appealing to friends and family to help her community rebuild their homes. While Ann has been beyond successful in this it was not met without resentment and objection from leaders from other villages. They came by questioning why she was cutting up her coconut trees to provide timber for members of the village when she could be selling them. Ann’s response “I don’t need much money to survive. How could I not help?”

Signs along the roadside displaying while homeless there was still HOPE.

Signs along the roadside displaying while homeless there was still HOPE.

Village members collecting plywood to rebuild their homes from Ann's backyard.

Village members collecting plywood to rebuild their homes from Ann’s backyard.

Within weeks Ann had received support from friends, classmates, family and other connections she had made through her outgoing personally and ability to display her true conviction to the cause.  Ann personally visited with every family in Luan village who asked for support, individually assessing their homes to ensure funds were distributed fairly and in line with needs. Every home was repaired, rebuilt, along with the roof at the Elementary school so the children could go back to class.

Ann speaks with a women from the village assessing her families needs.

Ann speaks with a women from the village assessing her families needs.

Images by Ann - After Typhoon Yolanda hit & after the rebuild support.

Images by Ann – After Typhoon Yolanda hit & after the rebuild support.

Images by Ann - After Typhoon Yolanda hit & after the rebuild support.

Images by Ann – After Typhoon Yolanda hit & after the rebuild support.

Images by Ann - After Typhoon Yolanda hit & after the rebuild support.

Images by Ann – After Typhoon Yolanda hit & after the rebuild support.

While Luan Village is now rebuilt there are still many more in neighbouring villages who have not received much needed support and funds. Ann has been approached by members of other communities asking for assistance, which she has agreed to give, with assessment, provided the support keeps coming in.

This is definitely a project we believe in and full heartedly support. We are able to see the direct and quick effects of support – the day the funds arrived, so would GI sheets and plywood, and they would be in the yard less than a few hours before they were carried off into the village to be used. If you wish to support please contact me tashmcphoto@gmail.com

You can read more about Ann’s efforts in Luan here

A whole lot of smiles & strength after surviving the super typhoon!

A whole lot of smiles & strength after surviving the super typhoon!