You may recall in early 2000, Mozambique was devastated by floods. The combination of rains, released dams in neighbouring countries and a small scale tsunami wreaked havoc on the coastal lands of the country. I was part time Assistant Editor for Soul Survivor magazine at the time, living in Oxford, and doing regular locums in paediatric departments across the midlands. A friend from church called me one day and said they were looking for medics to go and help with the crisis in Mozambique, this was just a few days after the floods had hit. I couldn’t think of a reason not to go and I was glad to be able to lend a hand. So about 10 days later we were both on a flight to Mozambique – we scored “cost” fares from TAP airways as we were doing volunteer aid work.
I recall, as the plane was making its decent into Maputo, realising with a certain degree of amazement that I was returning to Africa! For years I had said I had no interest or desire to visit the place, I told myself that my time in Morocco had been enough. The negative attitudes and associations I felt with Africa from growing up there were strong and I didn’t want to give it the time of day! Yet here I was about to spend two weeks in Africa as part of the international effort to help the flood victims of Mozambique. It had all happened so fast from Michelle’s phone call, fund raising, getting all our travel gear together, immunisations, finding flights… I remember smiling to myself as I realised that God had done a fast one on me! in all the preparations it had never occurred to me that I was going to Africa, all I knew was that it was right to go and lend a hand!
SO here I was, in Maputo the capital of Mozambique, it was March 2000. We were based at Iris Ministries, an orphanage run by Heidi and Roland Baker. A handful of others had travelled in to lend a hand, some medics, others just willing to do whatever was needed. There was plenty to be done and the regular staff were stretched beyond reckoning already. The orphanage itself held at least 100 kids, if not 200, of all ages, some with aids, others with learning and physical disabilities. It was a full time job caring for them all medically, but in addition we ran a clinic for the neighbouring communities as well. I wasn’t involved with much of this stuff, not until my next trip later in the year, but that’s jumping ahead!
Each day the medics (docs, nurses and assistants) would split into two or three teams depending on how many of us there were. Each team would head out early in the morning with one of the helicopters delivering WHO food supplies to the stranded communities. The helicopters were all military craft and operated, from a range of different countries joining in the relief effort. We would stay for the day in the community, tending to their sick, teaching them how to purify their water and prevent diseases spreading in the current conditions, then in the late afternoon while it was still light, the helicopter would return and collect us.
To be continued….