It’s hard to believe that 7 months have passed since we left Canada. We are starting to really feel settled here in Madagascar. For the most part we have regained our autonomy as a family, being able to shop, pay bills, and manage every day life on our own. We have started to get to know our neighbours and now feel a part of the community that we are living in. While at times it is still bizzare to have “staff” working at our home, we are really appreciating the relationships we have developed with them. At Christmas we had a Christmas party for everyone and their families. It was a great evening and really helped deepen our relationship with everyone. Our house worker, Mama Stella, has been bringing her daughters to our home on Friday afternoons and our girls love playing with them.
The visits have provided Rachel with the opportunity to try to diagnose Maman’ Stella’s youngest daughter’s medical condition. Rachel thinks that she has autism. The unfortunate thing is that there are no resources or help for people with special needs here in the city. We had one lead on a pediatrician specializing in kids with disabilities. We had her assessed by him and he simply prescribed her a massive list of expensive medications. Autism needs therapy and not medication. This is an ongoing problem in Madagascar- physicians prescribing expensive and unnecessary medications (which they sell). Our guard’s girlfriend had a baby in December and they are now in the Sarobidy Maternity Center program. Penolote and baby Tino often hang out at our place during the day when our guard Tsinjo is working and we have really enjoyed being a part of this new family.
Rachel continues to enjoy her time at the clinic. The clinic has just hired 2 new midwives and a nurse in anticipation of growing the program. It has been rewarding for Rachel to be part of the discussion of where God will grow the center in the future. It has become very apparent that there needs to be a network of Sarobidy maternity Centers throughout the city. Compassionate and safe maternity care simply does not exist in the city. In order to accomplish this we need to mentor and grow a team of fantastic midwives who will be the foundation of the center. They will become our future mentors and teachers. Mentorship is time intensive but this is something Rachel has always enjoyed. In addition to hands on, bed-side learning, Rachel does weekly lectures on a variety of obstetrical topics. She is also leading the ladies through hands on workshops where they can practice emergency obstetrical skills. A very experienced Belgian midwife will be joining the center in July, which will be a huge asset to the clinic. It gives Rachel comfort to know someone experienced will be stepping in when she leaves.
A very exciting new facet to the ministry started in January- the Sarobidy Kitchen. Nearly all of the patients are in various degrees of malnourishment. Pregnancy is one of the most important nutritional times in your life and it was so discouraging for Rachel to tell moms they need to eat more but to know that they just don’t have the money to do so. Twice a week we are now feeding a complete, healthy, protein rich lunch to the Sarobidy women (and their children). Mark and the girls come and help with setting up and serving the lunches. It has been a fantastic way for the whole family to get to know the Sarobidy patients and to feel personally a part of the clinic. The reception to the Sarobidy kitchen has been fantastic. It has been so rewarding to be able to respond to such a huge need among patients.
Mark is enjoying teaching the girls in school and is filling in as the temporary bookkeeper for the World Venture Missions office in Madagascar. He is also working with our friends here and is assisting in the planning of special projects for Eden Reforestation Projects and Sarobidy Creations.
Megan, Emily, and Julia are loving many aspects of our life here. They enjoy the calmer pace of life and with it a lot more free time to just play and be kids. Mark and Rachel have divided up the home school teaching and we enjoy having the flexibility to teach the kids things that we are passionate about. It is wonderful to be able to spend so much time with them – to go on field trips and outings with them and to see them learn and develop. We have experienced major issues with our internet, power and water and this is the kids’ least favourite thing about life here. At one point it seemed that we never had all 3 working at the same time, although recently things have been better. It is the hot season, so when the power is off for most of the day it makes the heat just so much harder to endure. Lack of internet makes North America seem so far away. Our whole family has developed a deep appreciation and understanding of just how good we had it back in Canada. It will be a long time before we start taking the many conveniences of life back home for granted again.
Life here is not always easy. At times it is hot, buggy, and miserable but it is hard to complain when our neighbours are so much poorer off than we are. We have daily struggles with the reality of the poverty around us and the inequity of life. Our girls have realized that poverty affects not only people but also animals. After noticing that a neighbour’s dog was starving and wouldn’t last much longer, Megan and Mark started to feed it. Now the dog listens for our gate to open and runs to greet us every day. We are continuing to feed it and another malnourished puppy every day. The price of rice has increased 35% since December and people are struggling to feed themselves and cannot always afford to feed their animals.
While visiting people in the neighborhood one day, Mark and the girls discovered a very sick little boy who lived with his grandmother. Rachel has been visiting him since and sadly, he died last month. He had an incurable illness but he would have suffered so much less had he been in North America. The family spent every cent they had and then some to try to get him help, but the medications he was given were of no benefit and likely harmful. Now this family has literally nothing and they lost their son. This happens over and over again here and it is so frustrating and discouraging. The issue of justice is something that we wrestle with often and we would really appreciate your ongoing prayers for us and for the country of Madagascar.
We continue to be so incredibly grateful for and humbled by the ongoing encouragement, prayers and financial support that we have received from friends, family and strangers at home. We came in faith that God would provide for our needs here and the needs of the people who we have come to serve. It has been amazing to see God’s provision through you all. On behalf of the Malagasy people here in Mahajanga, thank you!
~ The Bright Family