A note from Jacquie Bocking, McGill nursing student with Highlands Hope

We received the following note from Jacqueline Bocking, McGill School of Nursing graduate student on a semester of study with Highlands Hope of Tanzania.

Hello from Tanzania!

Andra and I have now been in Njombe, in southern Tanzania, East Africa, for two weeks. After flying into Dar es Salaam on Sept 1st, we left the next morning to get to Njombe by bus - the Dar es salaam bus station is madness in the morning; most of the bus journeys are very long distances and so have to leave very early in the morning. Our bus ride took 10 hours to get to Njombe and most of the passengers were still continuing on for another few hours to Songea.

We arrived in Njombe in the evening of Sept. 2nd. We have been put up in a house all our own that the company (in whom's hospital we are working) keeps for longterm visitors. The house is about 200 m from the main guesthouse (the main guesthouse is where people normally stay for 1-2 weeks); our home is very spacious with 2 bedrooms, living room with fireplace, and a beautiful garden to walk through every day! We eat our meals at the main guesthouse, and so far we have already been through 3 other groups of guests that have spent some time there. Having our own house is working well for us as it gives us a quiet space for some downtime at the end of the day.

The first week was a lot of orienting ourselves to a rural town in southwestern Tanzania. Our placement is in a small, company-owned hospital, which sees mostly its own employees (they get free healthcare) and other private patients who pay. There is a government supported HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Centre here also, which provides free services to any patients in the area with HIV (it is much busier than the hospital itself). While we are here, we are doing a placement in the hospital ~ 2 days/week, we are doing our clinical projects with the healthcare team here (both associated with the Care and Treatment Centre), and we also have another course that we are doing via internet with our classmates back home.

We are already finding the experience extremely interesting. We have spent 5 days in the hospital by now and we're overwhelmed with 1) the severity of some of the morbidity in the patients and 2) how much more Kiswahili we need to learn if we are going to be able to communicate with our patients. Most of the patients here actually speak Kibena as their first language, and then Swahili. We have yet to meet any that speak English. We had been doing Kiswahili classes for several months before we left Canada and they are certainly helping, however it is definitely very different when you are immersed in a language! We have already caught on a lot so far, but there is much more for us to learn.

This past weekend is probably the most exciting activities that we've had so far. On Saturday we visited another hospital for a meeting of nurses who work at the HIV/AIDS clinics.. the nurse counselors at several hospitals in the area formed the group Highlands Hope of Tanzania a few years ago and they have meetings every 3 months to share ideas, successes and challenges that they face in their work. This meeting one of the counselors was presenting some research that he had done with mothers who had tested HIV+ prenatally and had been referred to the Care and Treatment Centre for followup.. he had explored with those who had been referred why they chose either to go or not to go to the CTC. The day was busy, as we had a 2.5 hr drive to the hospital, and then the meeting, and then back 2.5 hrs the same day, on dusty, bumpy dirt roads winding through mountains. Then on Sunday we drove with our project supervisor, Betty, to a local village where Peer Health Educators from the TANWAT Care and Treatment Centre were doing HIV/AIDS awareness raising. It was a whole day event, with dancing, singing, and a meal at the end. We also had guests in our group from an HIV/AIDS focused Tanzanian magazine, SiMchezo, who had clothing to give as prizes to participants in the day.. overall, a great adventure. Pictures from both of these outings are on the website link.

So, that's the start of things here. I think I can say that we have mostly settled in and are now trying to focus more on our projects and clinical work at the hospital. I'll send along another update in a few more weeks. Until then, I hope that all is well in Canada.