Hiram College

Written by Timyra Askew ’18

This blog post is written in response to Askew’s fall 3-week study abroad trip to Zambia with Professors Emily McClung and Amber Chenoweth.

The visit to the School of nursing sciences and the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) was a very interesting, engaging, educational day for me. That day we had the opportunity of tour UTH with the nursing faculty. The faculty navigated us through most of the hospital and showed us the variety of departments in the hospital. We made a visit to the wards, the causality/emergency room, and the out-patient facility.

The first thought that come to my mind was that this place lacks cleanliness and it doesn’t have the most sterile environment. Secondly, the amount of personal space for the patient was slim to none, which is something we, as Americans, aren’t used to. The tours of the different floors were very informative and provided a great deal of insight on how the medical department operates in Zambia.

My group was able to experience an unfortunate event of someone losing their life and seeing the family grieve. This experience almost broke my heart because there was no place for the family to grieve in private, there were only about two family members there. The child of the patient who passed was completely torn and the faculty just sort of pushed the family’s feeling and emotions out the door. They gave them about 5-7 mins to grieve and then asked the daughter to sit back off the bed. They covered the patient’s face and rolled them off the floor, leaving the daughter to just sit there and grieve without any support or any comfort. I thought this was very different and that faculty didn’t really show any compassion or comfort towards the grieving family. I literally wanted to just go and hug the woman, because I know what it feels like to loose a close loved one and I know the feeling of wanting someone to just be there and comfort you. All I could do was say a prayer and hope for the best for the woman.

Though many wouldn’t see this as a pleasant or appeasing experience, that experience provided me the opportunity to see how death is viewed in another culture compared to our own. In a hospital setting death isn’t an event that is uncommon. It happens daily but the amount of compassion and sympathy shown towards the family and friends of the patient is far greater in the U.S. than what was shown at UTH. In the states, to my knowledge, the hospital gives the family time to come in and view the body right after they pass.  There is also a hospital priest that is available to yield sympathy and help the family get through such a hard time. The nurses will show compassion towards the family.  Comparing that to the Zambian culture, it can be stated that we may dwell too long on the death of the patient or it can be stated that Zambians don’t give enough time to grieve in the event of a person passing. I’m not quite sure if UTH  or the Zambian culture just views death as another patient out allows for another patient to come in and that is a positive thing. I just can’t quite wrap my head around how death is viewed, but it was obvious that it wasn’t similar to the culture of Americans.

The group had the opportunity to visit a local village that was considered a ghetto. The mission of this trip was to aid in the event of and help spread the word about recycling in the community. Before coming on this trip, I had thoughts that the ghettos in Africa would have children like those shown on the television commercials. I thought that the we would see many homeless people and those who just looked as if they had nothing. In class, we were told that people had no problem snatching bags and criminal activity was very prevalent. These were the things that I thought could potentially happen while walking through the village, but I had no fear of it actually happening.

When we entered the village there was a sense of peace that came about. I almost felt like I was home. Now, I have never lived in the ghetto. I have had friends who have and I have frequently visited the ghetto. We began picking up the trash (plastics) off the ground, out of the bushes and ditches. As we walked we started to catch the eyes of those who lived in the village. The children and adults were so interested in what we were doing in their neighborhood.  They were curious why we were doing such a kind act.  The children became very eager and began to help us pick trash up.  Some of the adults wanted to become more aware of the mission and some even said they would try to do better by the community.  Because there is not a sanitation system in place the people don’t really have a place to put their trash except for on the ground.  They have a practice of digging holes in the ground and burying or burning trash. This is both harmful to the earth and to the people because  of the pollution that is being produced. After walking through a good portion of the community we had all of our garbage bags full and ready to be recycled. Standing in that moment, looking at my surroundings, there were some many children and young adults that had joined in collecting trash and we all had a sense of accomplishment from the duty that had just been completed. In that moment there was so much unity and togetherness amongst the community.

Now looking back and reflecting now on the experience, what I thought the communities would like before and the things that I thought I would see were completely true. There were those who looked as if they had nothing, those who looked homeless.  There were children who looked as if they at the lowest point of poverty but there was so much more than what the eye could see.  There was contentment, unity and there was a yearning for more knowledge.  I could just sense the people wanting to do better now they knew better.  Now, who is to say that they actually will do better? I won’t know unless I go back.

I decided to apply this experience to my future career. Applying this experience to my future career, patients will not know that there is a problem and or will not acknowledge the problem if it isn’t presented before them.  They will not do better if they don’t know what to do or isn’t taught how to properly take care of themselves and their medical conditions.  I hope to always educate my patients fully on their conditions and be able to show them that whatever is being taught to them is for their benefit and will yield good results.