Annabel is volunteering with Tearfund Go for three months in Zambia, before she embarks on a career in healthcare. The contrast between medical care and facilities in the UK and rural Zambia couldn’t be more stark. However local churches and Christians are stepping into the gap...
As we get off the bus into the afternoon sun, we hear cries of, ‘Mzungu, Mzungu, Mzungu!’ – an affectionate local term for white people. We are greeted by an abundance of young, gleaming smiles – word has spread that there are visitors in the community.
Children run and shout from all directions, multiplying as they draw closer. Their hands reach out and trace the lines and freckles of our skin. We have been in Zambia for just over a month now and we are becoming accustomed to being followed around by crowds of excited children.
We are on our way to meet Esther*. Esther is a patient at the local clinic run by the Jubilee Centre, the Tearfund partner I am working with for three months. My mind is whirring with questions and words of encouragement that I want to share with Esther, who is living with HIV.
'God broke our hearts for his people. Our eyes were opened to the injustice of unequal access to healthcare.'
The trail of children gradually disperses as we near Esther’s home. We sit under a sparse tree, which offers little shade from the glaring sun. Her one-year-old son, Daniel*, is with her; full of life and with the most entrancing, sparkling eyes. We learn that he is also living with HIV, and our hearts sink. The burden of the truth is starting to hit: this is an epidemic and it doesn’t discriminate against age.
When it comes to asking my carefully constructed questions I draw a blank. My breath is taken away by the pain of it all. HIV is something we’ve heard and learned about, but here are the full effects of it on someone’s life. Instead of talking, I sit and listen, praying with them before we leave.
This was the first of three visits we made that day. God broke our hearts for his people. Our eyes were opened to the injustice of unequal access to healthcare. Why are some people able to access treatment for things like HIV and others not? I felt a burning anger at the injustice.
'Pastor Josephine has stepped into the gap and works tirelessly to support people like Esther and Daniel. And there are many more like her.'
Rewriting the story
Then I met Pastor Josephine. She works in the Jubilee Centre’s crowded health clinic. Josephine has been striving hard to provide health screening for all. She travels around communities, visiting and encouraging people to take simple diagnostic tests, while they can still be treated. Malaria, TB and HIV diagnoses are all too common.
Jubilee Centre is a Tearfund partner in Ndola, Zambia that empowers local churches and communities to offer the physical and emotional support we might expect to find through the GP or professional counselling in the UK.
People sometimes complain that British healthcare is like that of ‘a developing nation’. They would be shocked by the reality in rural Zambia. So many of the things they take for granted are conspicuous by their absence.
Thankfully, Ndola has Pastor Josephine. She has stepped into the gap and works tirelessly to support people like Esther and Daniel. And there are many more like her. Please pray for them today.
Find out more about how Tearfund partners are bridging the gap in healthcare, and see it for yourself with a Tearfund Go placement.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.