We’re constantly encouraged to hear that our program is truly making an impact in the lives of Zambian women and their families. And we continue to be surprised at just how far-reaching those impacts are. So we want to share one of these stories with you, a story of how one 2-hour class can save a life.
Patricia is a recent graduate of our program. She’s in her young 30s, has a growing family, and has carried her youngest son, Mwila (9 months old), on her back every single day that she has come to the Chikondi Community Center. Although she graduated in September, we still get to see this gorgeous duo 2-3 times a week as Patricia is a very talented designer/tailor working on projects for CiH customers and personal clients. Patricia has never missed a Monday. Mondays are our product workshop days when women bring in their personal designs, we purchase them to sell later, and all work together to dream up new designs and products.
But this Monday Patricia didn’t come. Not at 10am when we started, not at 11am, and not even by the afternoon when we wrapped it all up. Perhaps she had to attend a funeral last minute, a sad reality with life here. Or perhaps she just got caught up doing something else.
Then Tuesday arrives and Patricia is here. Though she looks sad, distraught, tired. Mwila is tied on her back, head tucked down and asleep. Patricia asks to see me alone in the office. She then explains that Mwila is very sick with malaria. He’s spiked a very high fever, and as I feel his soft skin, I run my fingers over the bite bumps on his legs and the sweat droplets along his hairline. His eyes are open but he doesn’t even flinch when I touch him.
Patricia tells me that she is going to the clinic tomorrow. And admittedly I become worried, afraid that Mwila doesn’t have until tomorrow according to the timeline she’s presenting to me, with Mwila symptomatic since Friday. My heart hurts for her as I see the fear in her eyes. Her young baby, suffering greatly from this disease that has taken lives of many, even of family members of some of my closest friends.
So together we must discuss a plan. Patricia knows I’m not a doctor (though many times I wish I was or had one nearby). Patricia is confiding in me, not as some savior of Mwila’s malaria, since we both know that I’m quite ill-equipped and of malaria’s unpredictability and threat to a 9-month-old, but she comes to me as a friend. Someone to feel with her. Someone to encourage her. Someone to know.
Patricia shares that the clinic is closed now. Mwila can’t be seen today. And after we fumble around words trying to communicate with each other, I remember a very important detail. The word for “tomorrow” is the same word in Nyanja as “yesterday.” In the confusion and emotion, Patricia accidentally said tomorrow, but really it was yesterday. That’s where she was. On her own, she took Mwila to the clinic within the crucial time window of treatment before a very high risk of death. On her own, she sat in front of the compound clinic doctor and demanded a malaria blood test- a procedure that surprisingly isn’t always done to arrive at a malaria diagnosis. On her own, she instructed the doctor to examine further and to prescribe all medicines to treat Mwila’s confirmed malaria case. On her own, she purchased every single medicine he needed, thanks to the CiH product sales she benefits from.
And she did all of this on her own, because she’s loaded with the knowledge. She knows the symptoms of malaria. She knows the appropriate treatment and time window to catch it. She knows that the drugs are dangerous without the actual disease. She knows that she has the ability to ask questions and to make requests in the clinic.
All because she sat for one class at our Chikondi Community Center when we taught about malaria. With Mwila on her back, crying to be fed, playing with her pen, distractions plenty, Patricia listened to the lesson, she learned, and she became empowered with that knowledge of malaria. Knowledge that this week has saved Mwila’s life.
I saw Patricia today. She strolled through the gate at our center with Mwila on her back, his head raised, eyes alert. His forehead and stomach were cool to the touch. His body re-strengthened. And Patricia wasn’t far off from being exactly the same. Her head was held high. Her face relaxed, and a smile even spread across it. Her soul re-strengthened.
So together we rejoiced in the gifts of knowledge and grace that have saved her baby boy. Patricia pulled me aside, looked me square in the eye, and said, “I was scared. Really scared.” Her son almost died. Malaria is real, and a killer of way too many. But today Mwila is alive, his mama is relieved and encouraged, and all of us are celebrating his precious life along with her.
The education we provide for women at the Chikondi Community Center may seem basic or like a simple Wikipedia find to some of us, but to the rest of us, it is life-giving, life-saving, and empowering.
Today Mwila is alive and we rejoice in that. We cannot wait for the day that Patricia gets to share this story with her son, as he will surely learn to value education and live in the light of grace, just as his mama did when she helped to save his little life.
Thank you for making this life-change possible. Thank you for impacting mamas to impact so many others, even the little ones that join them every single day at our center. Your contribution makes you a part of this, and we are all so very grateful.
With Chikondi, Amy