Ubuntu 2021 update
As we are all excited to hear from Jackson and Aceline and their work with Ubuntu Clinique this past year, we were conscious of the potential unpredictable interruptions of internet connections in rural Burundi.
So, in the event that we might lose contact with Jackson today, we prerecorded some interviews, which we are excited to share with you.
Part 1 - Introducing Aceline
This year, we wanted to bring focus to the work of Jackson's wife, Aceline, as she's taken on more and more responsibilities at the Clinique.
Dustin Welcome everyone. As we are all excited to hear from Jackson and Aceline and their work with Ubuntu Clinique this past year, we were conscious of the potential unpredictable interruptions of internet connections in rural Burundi. So, in the event that we might lose contact with Jackson today, we prerecorded some interviews, which we are excited to share with you.
Dustin This year, we wanted to bring focus to the work of Jackson's wife, Aceline, as she's taken on more and more responsibilities at the Clinique. Aceline has stepped into the role of general supervisor at Ubuntu Clinique. In the interviews Aceline spoke in Kirundi with Jackson translating and we have edited that conversation for the purpose of today's storytelling. So to start off, we have invited Aceline to share her experiences at the Clinique this past year.
Jackson So she's saying that she joined. this family and this work as a wife, and she didn't expect that there would be more than just being a wife. So she's saying that after we got married. She's been getting to understand, to know how things work. And from early this year, she took full responsibility of being the general supervisor in Ubuntu Clinique. And so she's been doing that, and really enjoying it though with lots of challenges and situations that have changed the way she sees life and the way she sees things. So she's saying that. She first had to understand why– She's been looking at wanting to understand why so many children get sick. Why so many pregnant women are sick and why are so many hospitalized. And so with the time she was spending in the clinic, she started to realize that there are people that are hungry. And, many of those, she came into contact with them while in the clinic. And so she started to explore what's happening around the community as well. And, she realized that there are people that are even more hungry and sick, that are shy to come into the clinic, because they may be asked to pay or they're just shy and not wanting to come in. And so, she started to think: how can we intervene or how can we look at the healthcare we're providing in a holistic way. And so she thought about the feeding program, starting with those that are hospitalized. And that was, pregnant women and under age five children that are hospitalized. And so she started this program, the porridge program. Her intention was to make sure that a child that is being treated will take the treatment with medication, not just on an empty stomach. To be able to do that we had to tap into our agricultural produce, which she's also focusing on growing foods that have protein, like soy beans and corn for the volume. And she says, she's been doing it twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. But she has a huge challenge, because to be able to to evaluate the effectiveness, it would have to be at least Monday to Friday. You know, nine months straight. At least there, she can see that there has been development, in the wellbeing of those malnourished kids and pregnant women. And so, she's saying that she's not able– –we are not able to produce, enough soy beans and enough maize to be able to do this on an ongoing basis, especially when you have to do that for a hundred kids per day. And she's saying also, sugar is a very big issue. She was saying, last time the container came, someone threw in a bag of sugar and she wished that she knew that sugar is available. She would have asked for more, since sugar is available here in Burundi, but it's expensive and we can't grow sugar at the farm. She says those are some of the challenges, but her objective would be to see that we hospitalize as few patients as possible, because living into a hospital or being sick because you are mainly hungry and your natural defense system is weak, she says it's sad. She wants us to be able to fight against that, so people are able to heal themselves. But their immune systems have to be boosted. Yeah. That's where she was.
Dustin Yeah, that was a lot, a lot. You had jumped into so much information right away. Aceline, you're a trained nurse. Right? So where did you study nursing and how did you enter into the career of nursing?
Jackson She says, from when she was a very young child when she saw nurses, she felt like they were the most important people. Any health care providers, she thought they were lifesavers. They played a big role in the human existence. And so, she grew up wondering how could she also be part of that? And so, her passion for being a nurse was something that she got from being a child and looking at other nurses as role models. She says she did her nursing at the Institute, technical institutes, of medical teaching, medical training of Bujumbura —that's in the capital city. Did you start working anywhere else before Ubuntu? She says she worked as a pediatrics nurse at a hospital. That was what she did. Her passion was to work with the kids. So she was in the pediatrics ward.
Part 2 - General Supervisor
Could Aceline tell us about becoming the general supervisor of Ubuntu Clinique?
Jackson She says to be honest, when she first came here, she thought at the beginning: okay, she's coming from a big family, she knows how to work among big teams. She knows how to share. She didn't realize that there will be times when she has to make– –to be part of decision-making where it's life or death. And so she says the beginning was very challenging because her expectation was totally different. So she says she did feel like quitting, because of some of the decisions that had to be made. Some of the decisions that had to be made were just so overwhelming and so scary, that she felt like giving up. But again, she says, because she had committed to be married to one of the people –myself, I guess— that is involved in this, so she hung in there. And she says, she's not there yet, but she's becoming accustomed to it. She didn't say "used to" she's becoming, she's managing to live with it. And I guess, I could just ask her because I haven't learned too match. I also can learn some of these decisions that made her feel like quitting.
Jackson She says Burundi is a culture where men are more dominant so she says that was challenging to be part of the highest decision-making in a world where— or in the community where men are sort of a seen as higher. But she also says that the two most challenging situations were where she has medical doctors, surgeons that are older than her. And more highly trained than she is. And so, having to feel that she had to supervise them or, make decisions on what they should be doing and when they should be doing it, was very challenging. And another challenging part was when you have to make a decision without the means to be able to... she knows what the decision has to be. She knows that a patient has to have a certain surgery to be able to survive, because she's been informed. But there are no resources to be able to carry out that decision. So she says those were some of the challenging things. But she's getting accustomed, she's getting used to to living with making decisions in vulnerable situations, circumstances.
Part 3 - Porridge Program
Aceline has started a porridge program to address hunger in patients. Where would patients get their food otherwise? Can you tell us about this need?
Dustin As you've taken on the role of general supervisor of Ubuntu, you've jumped in and you've recognize the need of nourishment that many patients are coming into the clinic without having access to food. How do people who are in the clinic regularly get fed? Where does their food usually come from? And then, how did the need for this porridge program come about? We talked about it a little bit in the newsletter, but I think this is a good chance to just share.
Jackson Well, I'll let Aceline respond because I know that people get fed (in the hospital) in Canada, but that's something that shocks her. So I will just let her speak about on it and how she feels.
Jackson Okay, she says, she wants first to excuse herself for using the word "poverty", because just saying it she feels that it has to be eliminated from her vocabulary to be able to overcome it, but she says the reality is there is poverty. The whole country is poor. And she says, it's even challenging to find enough medication to give to the patients, let alone talking about food. So, she says the reason why she went into the porridge program– —and she says, by the way, she also does informal stuff even more than the porridge itself. The porridge program is a formal thing, that she wants to to be able to evaluate the progress. But she says she also does it informally, where she has to cook from our kitchen and bring food into the hospital, so a full meal because people don't have food. Many patients don't have food. So she saying. This situation is not just at Ubuntu Clinique. We have to look at the way we can eliminate the poverty. And that's why she's growing more maize, and encouraging more people to grow maize and create employment. Informal employment. In Ubuntu Clinique, people that work there including housekeepers, they are qualified, educated people. And so, she's thinking that to be able to get rid of that word that she doesn't want to keep in her mouth: the poverty. Is to grow more food, to create more employment. And so, she's already starting that. She's not just feeding the porridge that comes from elsewhere. She's trying to grow the community, to grow the society where people can produce more. And she doesn't think, Ubuntu Clinique will be able to feed all the patients. Because she sees that already sustaining the medical care itself is difficult. Butt she believes that, if people can be economically stable, they'll be able to feed themselves while they are hospitalized. Or they'll be able to pay, maybe one day if there is a cafeteria. They will be able to pay for their own snacks or food. But she says that the intervention now is very important because these children, young children, they're in that developing stage. If we wait until the economy is stable, their brain won't be developed and it will be too late.
Part 4 - 2021 Highlights
Jackson describes highlights from this year, including the arrival of the shipping container of supplies.
Jackson We have a main, how could I say, like a dorm or a big room? And that was specifically for the the feeding porridge program. So that one, we have changed into post-op patients, because we're getting many C-section patients, that we didn't have a place to put them. So even though we are limited with space, we need to build the new maternity and the new paedatrics, but we were able to to change around things that we have. So we got the beds from Canada, and we were able to borrow that cafeteria for now, for the post-surgery patients. So, that's one of the main highlights. Also for me, the stability of funding this year —we haven't had to struggle much. With the joining of ADW and sort of scheduled funding coming in it has been a huge relief, because we haven't really struggled, in terms of getting medical supplies and paying for patients. In the container also there were other medical supplies, like gloves. The gloves came in right at the point when we really needed them. So that has been useful in terms of helping. Dustin: What was it like when the container was driving in to your yard and you were able to open up the doors?
Jackson Sorry guys, this is making me tear a little bit, because I am hearing the words that she's saying. So, she says she remembers telling me, asking me and I've never answered her... She says, "Who are these mysterious people? on the other side of the globe, that can take their time, their funds, to invest into huge expenses or huge equipment and supplies that are flying or heading over to another side of the globe. With no means of following up and just trusting. So she says she still doesn't understand, and she wants to know what I do. –me– what I do in return as payback or what was my relationship with those people, because she doesn't really understand how people can have that extreme love and trust and get to the extent where they can spend their own money and time with very high value equipment and supplies. And so she says she still doesn't understand. She wants to know what kind of relationship I have. But she says at the same time, it makes her feel or ask herself: how many people are there in the world? And how many people, how many more people can we have to be able to have a world, as a—
Jackson She asks herself: "How many people are there in the world that just want to do good? And how many people can the world have, —how many more— to be able to to at least make life easier. Even the lives of strangers to be easier, because good hearted people are working?"
Dustin I think for a lot of people in Canada that Aceline hasn't had a chance to meet yet– You said helping strangers, but your family doesn't feel like strangers to us. Aceline, Jackson has captured the hearts of lots of people in Canada. And, he's a part of lots of different families here. So, everybody who's trying to support the work from here is because Jackson is a part of all these different families here too. You haven't had a chance to meet us yet in person, but one day, hopefully you will. And, you can see how your community can be expanded.
Part 5 - Living through COVID-19
We asked Jackson and Aceline to share about their family's experience of having caught Covid-19 this past year and living through it.
Dustin The next thing that we wanted to ask you about was that you and your family, and I think a few other people that live in your house were diagnosed with COVID this year. Did you want to share about that experience at all?
Jackson translates for Aceline She says the COVID situation it's a very complex issue that can't just be addressed by us as a community, but the whole government needs to be really involved, but she says, she can't talk or she's not going to go to the government and force what needs to be done or what she thinks has to be done. All she thinks about is how can we deal with the situation here in our facility, in our compound, especially being victims of COVID-19. So she says, the way we got COVID 19 was simply because of the limits. Setting limits in our setup is very, very difficult. She's talking about preventative measures. People that came to us were very vulnerable. Poor people that are really sick or needing help. And so, helping them from a glass window would be the best way to go. But, we don't have the measures in place to be able to to set up those limits. We don't have other places to move. She says, we literally live in the hospital. And so, it is very difficult to be in contact. What we're able to do, or what we should do, we try to do things like washing hands, as often as possible. maintaining a distance limit, like a certain distance where people don't get close. It's very difficult because of the cultural norms. But, we tried the best that we can, but that didn't work because we literally live in the hospital. Some of the dishes go in, we clean them, but we don't know whether something else has come in. She says she was very overwhelmed when we all caught Covid. Especially with the experience of losing a child early this year. This came as a huge hit, because it caught us all. She's very grateful that we were disciplined enough to isolate ourselves and to make sure that we are hydrated and we're just isolating ourselves and got the rest that we needed. And, to carry that period of confinement, of isolation, until we felt better. And that's the message she gives to other people. Prevent yourself from (catching) COVID. If you can't, Covid is— you can heal from COVID, as long as you are disciplined enough. She believed that COVID is not a death, just death. You can recover from it because we recovered from it. But it's a very, very painful disease to have. So she's saying with the situation we're in and the measures of prevention that we have, she believes the struggle continues with COVID. For me, it was a quite... I didn't think... like we had set up wash stations. I wore gloves, I wore masks as often as I could And so, I didn't expect it. To us, we thought we were the ones where: keep ourselves clean, keep our hands clean, things like no shaking hands... But because, like she said, we live literally in a hospital setting somehow it got to us. But in a way it was saying, "Hey, this experience. If I'm a health professional and I know what I'm supposed to do. But I'm getting it, maybe because the people around are not –maybe I'm protecting myself— but those around me are not disciplined enough. And so their freedom to not wear masks or freedom to not wash their hands, is affecting my freedom, and my health. And so, that experience was quite a wake up call. I had to go on telling people, COVID is real. Beause lots of people are saying, "COVID is just a myth." Lots of people were saying "COVID is just something that someone has created to be able to bring the world down." So having had it, myself and my family, it gave me another boost to be able to go say, "COVID is real. COVID hurts. And COVID kills." So I had to go in and say, that all those things are real. It's best to prevent yourself from getting it. And if you get it, if the worst comes and you get it, it's important that you have discipline, that you isolate yourself from keeping spreading it. And I have even talked about vaccines even though the government is fairly against. I mean, there is vaccines available in Burundi and they keep telling you, "Don't come to us if you have any side effects, if there's any other longterm complications, don't come to the government and say "government!" You know, you're doing it at your own risk. And then you say, "Okay, let me get it anyway." It becomes fairly complicated even to get access to it. Right now only NGOs (international non-governmental organizations) or embassies are able to give that to their employees. So it's still challenging. But we're hoping that Aceline and I we just want the vaccine. We talked about it: how many vaccines have we had, over the past? Why didn't we yap-yap or complain about them. And now with this, that we already experienced, that is real. We just, we want to be vaccinated, especially that we are not going to leave this community, especially that we have to be here dealing with people that will be infected and carrying it around.
Jackson It's called the CDN, Chibitoke Diaspora Network. So, it's a radio that is in this province and it was set up by the the members of diaspora. So, all the Burundians living and working abroad and those who have lived abroad for more than five years. With the help of the foreign affairs ministry and the government of Burundi. But it's run and owned by the Burundian diaspora. After I got the COVID, I think it gave me the courage to be a little, to be a little, how can I say... to be adamant, to just be straight up, you know? After getting the disease and almost died from it, and you see people are still trying to build some senseless defensiveness like that COVID is a myth, COVID doesn't exist, or that vaccinations are very bad for you, or will kill you. That it's a way of controlling the world, it's whatever... you know. So, now I go in fairly frustrated, and tell people openly and say, you can't be– –you know, don't play dumb. Because this almost killed me. Almost killed my family. Not just me, but all of us experienced it. So, the people who have come on the radio shows that I had and try to argue and say, why is the vaccine taken so short time to be able to be found? When vaccines need time? And I say, I'm not going to argue about that. But there's so many people who have scientific professionals who have spoken about the good things about vaccines, and how effective it has helped. And so I just say, whatever we need to do to not get COVID, or to not transmit COVID, we should do it.
Dustin I think it's pretty significant. It just really demonstrates that your care in healthcare is so much more than even just your immediate community in Mugimbu, Gasenyi where you are living. You're taking these opportunities to talk about your experience and it sounds like you took like a strong public health initiative to go out there and educate the community beyond your initial scope about how to respond to this crisis. I think that's really significant.
Part 6 - What's Next?
What do you hope for in this next year? What are your dreams? What are your needs?
Jackson For me, I think. My experience of the last few years that I've been working this, I have literally met with people who have said: "thank you for saving my life." I don't call myself a lifesaver because we are a team and there is a God, there is a Creator who gives and takes, who gives life and takes it. But, I call myself just a shepherd or a facilitator to be able to to influence the health and wellbeing of the people. Those are the things really the help me, because there are other healthcare providers in Bujumbura and maybe other places, but I feel happy and I feel fulfilled. We feel fulfilled that we can simply just help and educate, and bring up a generation that can be can get to a point where they can make their own decisions. I'm talking about the children, the sick children. They come in very vulnerable with all their lives lying in our clinic here., hoping to be– –that monkey in the background is distracting me— —hoping to be saved. Hoping that their lives can be saved. Just yesterday, a 12 year old boy ate pesticide. He was hungry apparently, and was eating tomatoes that had been sprayed, in early morning yesterday. And so, the very first thing was they came looking for me, where I was camping actually, with that child, and saying: "We have nowhere else to go. We heard you up here." And I said, "if that is the case, run to the hospital!" They said "We couldn't, we don't have the means of getting there." So I had to carry that boy on my bike quickly to Ubuntu Clinique. Unfortunately he didn't make it. Which is sad. I felt that people know, or appreciate what we do. And they acknowledge that their lives, even though it's not quite true, but they do feel that when they're sick their lives depend on us. And this is something we don't want to take for granted. I feel that it's a responsibility that is bigger than any other responsibility in the whole world that we live in. And that we've been sort of asked to carry out... and we don't want to take it for granted. We keep saying, the up above, you know, the almighty, show us the way! I'm only 30-some years old and having to make some of, to carry out some of these responsibilities, are fairly overwhelming. But when there is no other options, what do we do? So I would say I want to be part of this, as much as I can. I can't leave just because things are overwhelming. At least there is more results, positive results, than the worst case scenarios. And so. We are at the point of no return, just wanting to do as much as we can. And praying that we can have the resources needed to be able to do our work, effectively. That's my prayer. We do have qualified and educated people, but we do need the scopes. We do need the medications. We do need the equipment to be able to treat people, or to provide full effective care, I would say. So the journey is still long. But like I always say, my vision is as big as looking up in the horizon. So I want to push as much as I can. And so I call on the Canadians, my friends from Canada, those from elsewhere around the globe to partner with me, to journey with me. I have given myself to be on the ground, and Aceline has given herself to be on the ground, to carry on this journey together. And I have the staff members that are not here that are fitting into the vision, and they want to to do the same to provide effective health care. And so the limitations that we have, that I have just mentioned the resources to be able to do is where we invite our friends to come on board and help us work or support the people that are in need. I guess that's what I can simply say.
Part 7 - Message to Supporters
Is there anything else that you want to say, Jackson or Aceline?
Jackson The first very important thing to her is that she's always grateful for the support, a huge financial support that helps the work. She says she's very grateful, always grateful. She tells me about it. We talk about it. But she says she needs Canadians, the supporters to know that she's very grateful and she doesn't want to to leave out her feeling that you, all the supporters, are still a mystery to her. She still can't wrap her mind on the fact that you can give so much to people that are not your blood relatives, or some people you don't even know. She says it's still a mystery for her. But it also gives her courage to be able to do good to other people. Because she says the majority of the people that come in, she doesn't know them. And so when she reflects about how the good comes, she used the word "the grace", the grace of goodness comes it comes from unknown people, and it's also okay to go to be benefited by the unknown people. And so she says: thank you very much.
Jackson Another thing she wants you to know: We are in the education of life. As we are in this education it is very important that there is someone who holds you accountable. There has to be someone you can give report to. She says she feels so happy that she can give a report on the good that she does. She says she gives a report to God, but she doesn't know if God smiles and says "ok, that's good." So she says the same where she and I have discussed about things. She also feels very happy that we can have a moment like this. And if we can have more moments like this where she can feel in her heart that she is sharing what she's accomplished because of your support. Then it feels like we're working together. It feels like we're completing, we're accomplishing something, together. So she says it's very important and she feels... Umm, umm, I don't know how the Canadians will take this word because in Burundi, when you weigh more, it's good. So she says, she feels like she weighs tons. When she can share from... So I don't know how you take it, but by weighing a ton, she feels more strength, more steady, more stable... That she can report. She can proudly share the effectiveness of the seed that you've planted.
Jackson Being part of this work has really open to her mind. But she doesn't want to just be the person that will have that challenge, that cultural challenge of saying, these (others) are more qualified than I. So, I can't tell them what to do... She says, this is a hopefully a temporary thing. She says she really wanted to be the best children's doctor. And that vision, that plan, she still has. And she feels she has to go on and study to be one of the best pediatricians. Or, if that doesn't work, she wants to work with anesthesia, she really believes that is a department where, when someone gives you their life and you put them to sleep, it's very delicate. They're vulnerable. Just like kids can be vulnerable, little kids, infants. She wants to be able to carry that role of carrying people through that phase of life, and care for them. She's got the passion in those two things and she wants to further her education.
Jackson She's a very smart person here. Very intelligent, soft spoken, but a big thinker. I'm so glad. I mean, I wouldn't say I'm lucky. I'm blessed, how things just work. It's a mystery I can say too, it's just a wonderful, a wonderful team we've made.
Jackson laughs and translates “power couple” She says, thank you very much. She feels proud. She feels happy that she can be given a platform to speak and to feel that she's also part of the picture. And so she says she's very, very happy. Well, you guys, we ain't got all day. She has to go give her porridge.
Mike Jackson and Aceline you've given us a very compelling and realistic picture of what you do and I just want to say that what you do really matters. Your call right there, where you said "help us" really calls to me and I want to keep helping you. It's our honour to help you. What you do really matters, it really inspires us. You're working against tremendous odds and I just want to encourage you to keep going, not giving up hope. Thanks for all you do.
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