It is hump day, but in no way does this reflect our sentiments as we all wish we could continue our for weeks more. Today we will be traveling to the village of Oldeani, about 30 minutes away and the location of Rift Valley Children’s Village which I have spoken of many times before. Mama India, or India Howell, is from Boston and came here well over twelve years ago much in the way we all end up coming to Tanzania. You will find that the majority of ex-pats working and living here originally came on vacation to safari and fell in love with the people and country deciding to discard their former life in the US for one of doing good here. India founded Rift Valley Children’s Village, or RVCV for short, about twelve years ago as a sanctuary for abandoned and orphaned children here. She realized, though, that these children would never feel safe unless they knew this was their home and so she and her business partner, Peter, have adopted all of the children who live there. There are now some 100 children there, from infants to the late teens, and when they are ready for college they leave the village to make a new life, but Mama India and Peter will always be their parents. She partnered with the local village to improve first the primary school and now the secondary school so all her kids as well as those in the village will have a chance to go on with their education. She has also sponsored visits from FAME on a regular basis to provide free health care to the villagers so the community will be healthier, benefiting her children. Unfortunately, the grant to fund that health care has ended, but the neurology visits, which we have done in conjunction with the FAME general medicine visits since 2011, were beneficial enough to continue and so we are going it alone for the first time since I’ve been here to see both villagers and children with neurological disease.
The drive to Oldeani is quite simply another with the same spectacular views as the rest I have described. The road there is off of the tarmac that heads to the Ngorongoro gate and travels along ridges and down into deep valleys where we cross now dry creek beds that are raging in the wet season. We eventually arrive at coffee plantations that surround the village of Oldeani and the Children’s Village and as we pull through the gates of RVCV we see our patients sitting outside the clinic rooms where we will see them. There are not the usual crowds here that I’m used to seeing when FAME also does their clinic, but there are enough for us to get started. Dr. Badyano has today and tomorrow off, so Dr. Mary is working with us and today she will be working with Kelley. The majority of patients here are children so I bounce back and forth between the rooms to check on Laurita and Kelley as we go. Several we are asked to see because of poor attention in school and possible delays and others because of epilepsy. They are split with follow up patients, for whom most we have prior notes, and new patients.
RVCV is perhaps one of the best volunteer jobs to get in Tanzania given the prestige of the facility and the opportunity work in such a magical place. The children all live in different houses with house “mamas” who care for them and the volunteers focus mainly on their activities during the day and helping with education of children not yet in school. We always look forward to lunch at RVCV as we eat what their volunteers eat and it is always one of the best lunches you could ever imagine. Today is quesadillas, fried beans, ground meat, salsa Fresca and fresh fruit. Oh yes, and cake for dessert. Simply delicious. Though we all definitely feel like napping after such a lunch, we fight the urge and forge on to see the afternoon patients which are quite few. The numbers are down most likely as we didn’t advertise here to the community since we weren’t sure until recently that we would be having this clinic.
We left early enough to enjoy a different route I know heading back with more amazing scenery of rural homes and fields of crops that are healthy and full. We arrived back to Karatu to make another visit to the dress shops for everyone to pick up things, order new things and try on clothes that have been ordered. Selina accompanied us again to help with translation as the women in the dress shop speak no English whatsoever. We travel back to FAME and I drove my vehicle down to Soja, who is the mechanic that works on all of FAME’s vehicles and is a good friend of Frank’s. Alex followed me in the old RAV so I wouldn’t have the walk the fair distance back to FAME. The Land Cruiser was leaking power steering fluid and needed to have the steering rack rebuilt. I was assured by Soja that we’d get it back the following morning so I could drive it to Oldeani again as we had a second day of clinic there tomorrow.