Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Celebrating and Considering Gratitude

The dancers and drummers you see below are from the St. John's Volunteer Ambulance group. They came to the American International School of Lusaka to help celebrate Zambian Independence Day which is October 24. School is not in session that day so they celebrated early. The students and staff at AISL gave these boys and girls a rousing reception which they richly deserved. They were very energetic, athletic, and amusing too. I was invited to sing a song at the assembly and led the audience of about 400 in Love Grows.
The country of Zambia came into existence in 1964 gaining their independence from Britain. Zambia is named after the Zambezi River, a major river in southern Africa. Prior to 1964 the area was called Northern Rhodesia. The standard of living is very low in Zambia with widespread poverty, disease and unemployment but the people have hope and many are proud of their young nation. 99% of the population in Zambia are black Africans but prior to 1964 the country was ruled by a white government. Think about this --the USA celebrated 45 years in existence in the year 1821.

There are so many things I take for granted living in America. Being here in Africa reminds me I shouldn't. Quality health care in Zambia is nearly non-existent. A friend here told me a story that illustrates that point. The mother of a man who worked with him became very ill and had to be taken to the doctors. It was determined that the elderly woman had had a heart attack. The doctor gave her two aspirin and sent her home. My friend was outraged and went to the doctors office to demand an explanation and the doctor took him into his supply room which had empty shelves and only simple bandages and aspirin. The reality in this situation was that he couldn't do any more for her. If you have a dangerous medical problem in Zambia you have to leave the country to receive care. When my friend broke his leg, a serious but fairly routine injury, he was flown to South Africa to be treated.

A shocking fact is that the average life span in Zambia is 38 years old.

While riding on a bus with the groups pictured above and below I told their coordinator that our son Patrick was a firefighter. He smiled broadly and said, "That is wonderful!" I agreed and we began to talk about fire fighting equipment. He said that Lusaka, a city of between two and three million people, had two fire engines. I don't know if he was precisely accurate but he may have been, and the point was well taken. Hillsdale, our town of about 1000 people has 3 or 4 fire trucks. Given how much we have and how little they have I thought it was particularly great how excited the St John's Ambulance coordinator became when I told him about Patrick. We surely do owe a great deal of thanks to all our volunteers.

October 24 also marks the day the United Nations came into existence in 1945.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this makes me very grateful for being so fortunate when it comes to the issue of health care. Sometimes it's easy to forget how fortunate we are until we see the opposite end of the spectrum first hand.