McGill nurse Sylvie Lambert writes from Njombe

Our second McGill Nurses for Highlands Hope Fellow, Sylvie Lambert, is in Njombe working with Highlands Hope of Tanzania on the develoment of training modules for nurses and other health care workers on the front lines of the HIV-AIDS battle in Njombe and Makete Districts. She writes:

Description of activities (November 12th - November 28th)

I arrived in Njombe two weeks ago and time is going by very quickly. As soon as I arrived, I was invited to participate in the many events and activities taking place at TANWAT hospital and within the Njombe community and surroundings villages. I was quickly introduced to our Tanzanian colleagues at TANWAT hospitals and found that the few words that I knew in Swahili were really helpful in establishing initial contact. A simple "Kamwene" or"Shikamo" were found to be important "ice breakers". As I tried to anxiously put together a few words, people smiled (and laughed) and were keen to show me more Swahili.

Early on in my stay at TANWAT, nurses and other health care professionals expressed their interest to learn more about different health-related topics and participate in professional development activities. Consequently, we promptly began discussing the different aspects of pain assessment and management that could be addressed at upcoming workshops. Since, I have been interviewing nurses, nursing students, and medical officers to learn of their pain education needs to contribute the most appropriate pain information. Our first workshop will be planned within the next week.

In addition, I have been involved in several community activities in Njombe and the surrounding villages. A few days after I arrived, Betty Liduke, Director of the TANWAT HIV-AIDS Care and Treatment Centre and Coordinator of Highlands Hope of Tanzania, was invited to a formal event organized by the local NGO in Matembwe for the orphans, widows, and people living with HIV-AIDS. During this time, school materials and other goods (e.g., soap, shoes) were distributed to the orphans and pigs were given to the widows. I felt extremely fortunate to be invited to this event and had the unique opportunity to observe the gathering of this community to respond to the needs of their members.

The following day I was invited to a second communion. That morning Betty left Njombe for Dar es Salam to attend a seminar on sexual health education and gave me my first mission: go to the reception and have fun!

I was a little anxious as I entered the home and introduced myself. By that time I had learned: "Jina langu ni Silivia, nina toka Canada, ni muguzi" and the response was a warm "Karibu sana". I was quickly introduced to the 6 or 8 women preparing the feast and shown how to cook on an open fire. The festivities lasted all day and were filled with dancing and singing. Guests danced their way through the head table and presented their gifts to the family. As the Kibena Women Association and staff of the TANWAT hospital presented their gift to the young boy, I was invited to join the group, although I was a little shy to dance in front of 70 + guests.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to join a group of visitors meeting with the teachers and children of two neighboring elementary schools. We met with every class and were greeted with lovely songs in Swahili, including the national anthems, and English. Teachers were enthusiastic to talk about the different subjects they teach and the teaching strategies used. Many were curious to learn more about the education system in Canada. This was another exceptional day that contributes to making my stay here in Tanzania remarkable.