Wish for Africa Foundation


Saturday, 15 August 2009

Walk 4 wish 15th August 2009

As we all arrived in Morrison’s Thamesmead at 10.00 on a warm but overcast day, we looked across and saw a growing array of red and white. Great I thought people have come, as we gathered, chatted, hugged and welcomed each other even more turned up.

We had the customary photo shot and pep talk from Femi and then started to split into groups and headed off. I was walking with Michelle, Folakemi, a Doctor friend of Femi and Beth and Tolu. Danni started the walk with us but she (the fit one) was running so soon she sped off in her lycra!

The kids had a great time Beth on her bike and Tolu on his scooter, I am sure they did 3 times as much as us, back and forth. The weather brightened up and the sun came out. It was a lovely walk along the Thames path, with blackberries to pick and sailing boats passing by.

At the half way point (by the skateboard park Woolwich) we all met up and well earned refreshments were waiting. We sat chatted and when everyone had arrived, Femi gathered us all together to thank us and remind us why we were doing this.

30 or so people sat and listened to an inspired and inspiring man sharing his dreams and being encouraged to do their bit. He shared his dreams for Wish for Africa, that one day affordable healthcare in Africa will be as accessible and well known to all as MacDonalds. That no one will be turned away or have second rate services due to their income and status.

We were reminded of the state of healthcare and the cost that many, probably 65% (the amount that live in poverty in Nigeria) find difficult to afford. How it has the second highest maternal death rate in the world. How the woman who we performed a caesarean section on would almost certainly have died if she had gone into labour due to the state of her uterus.

We then gathered for photos, tidied away our rubbish, gathered together all the bits and headed back to Thamesmead. Tired and hot we were all treated to ice creams, which really went down well with the kids (and the adults). Again a big thanks to all that attended from Femi and we headed off.

Some of us went back to Folakemi’s and were treated to Jollof rice and chicken, a fitting end to a Wish for Africa day.

I can not begin to name all those that took part, I would only forget so many and misspell the rest, but I am so proud of everyone that attended and it was a fun day. It was great to meet you all and put faces to names. I look forward to seeing you all again soon and hopefully next time with your friends.
Thanks to all

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

UK, London, Trafalgar Square August 12th 2009

The first of our two August events that we had been excitedly preparing for, Ola standing on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square had finally arrived.

The day commenced with meeting Femi at Greenhithe station to catch the train into London, this gave us time to catch up on agendas and updates of what is going on with things in person rather than via email and text. We headed from Charing cross to Warren St station to make our way for an interview with Flower on Ben TV, after a cancelled train it was a fast walk to get there on time. We were interviewed and were able to share what Wish for Africa has been up to with things like the River State medical mission, my trip to Lagos and forthcoming events such as today’s and the Walk 4 Wish event on Saturday.

The TV interview over I headed back to Charing cross to meet family and friends, whilst Femi headed to Colourful FMs office for another interview with Rosemary Laryes. For me it was a well needed coffee, after which we made our way to meet Ola at Trafalgar Sq. The famous tourist attraction was as busy as ever.

I called Ola and he was being interviewed in the big green portacabin owned by One and Other the event organisers, so I headed over to meet him. Finally many of the friends and family supporting us turned up and it was Ola’s turn on the plinth. The big JCB with a green cage came to pick him up and transport him up onto the plinth, to the sounds of cheers from all us down below.

With Ola on the plinth, the rest of us adorned our T shirts and raised the banner displaying the cause that we had united to support ‘Wish for Africa’. Many people came over to ask for more details and took information. A lady that had been thrown a T-shirt by Ola from on high came over and explained that she was going to get fellow artists at her college to sign and donate money to the cause and would send it on.

With the web cam constantly on checking out Ola’s goings-on on the plinth and relaying it all over the world, this was a fantastic opportunity for us at Wish for Africa. Also Mr Youb from Ben TV came along to see us. We also had the opportunity for a live chat with Naija FM’s Sen’ Clemence, chatting with us and sharing the day with his listeners, again giving us fantastic support and coverage.

The hour on the plinth sped past and the JCB headed over with the next person on in. Ola dismounted the plinth to a huge cheer and a very English chant of ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’, which did make me laugh as it wasn’t a mainly English audience!! The final photo shot and thank yous to all that had come to help and support the event and we dispersed home. What a great day and great opportunity to plug a worthwhile cause, along with the chance to meet many facebook friends and to share the work with others too.

A huge thanks to Ola, his beautiful wife, my Husband Tony and Beth, Michelle, Aminata, Adebola, Olaitan, Toyin, Christina, Temi, Abby, Oladunn, Olu, Sarah, Funke, Tolu, Mo, Clint and all the other supporters that I have forgotten to mention by name. Also again for the support of Ben TV, Naija FM and Colourful FM for the coverage they gave and continue to give.

Ola said that he had been inspired by my efforts to help his fellow Nigerians through Wish for Africa and because of that he had given his time on the plinth to raise awareness of this cause. We can all make a difference, we can all do something small or big, never think “it’s not enough to make a change”, never think “what is the point”! I did something, Ola has done something, you too can do something, and you too can be change agents and make a difference! Go on try it….you know you want to!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Goodbye Lagos! Saturday 6th

Awoken at 06.30 by a shower of texts, each one lovely albeit a bit early! Eventually I rose from my bed, showered and began to pack. After obsessively checking every draw and cupboard several times, I convinced myself that I hadn’t left anything. Soon I had a visit from David, wanting to make sure he saw me before I left, to wish me a safe journey and to talk about his dreams of visiting me in England one day.

Mr Solomon also came to show me my bill on my request so I knew how much money I needed to exchange. As you can’t take money out of the country and exchange it, there’s no point in having more than necessary. He also asked to keep in touch and offered to take me and or my luggage to the airport should I need it, in his own car.

As I waited for Femi, who was seeing to a patient this morning, to come over, the electricity seemed to be off more than on and the internet the same. I think this was to ensure I would become frustrated enough to be willing to get on the plane and head home!

Eventually Femi arrived and I settled the bill and we made our way to the airport to check the luggage in. Unlike Heathrow you take your bags to a manual scale, then they open your hold luggage to check it, then you put your luggage on a ‘normal’ airport scales, get your boarding pass and the luggage goes to the plane. The terminal is incredibly busy and unfortunately Nigeria doesn’t take advantage of this (as with so many other things) and have its own airline.

We then decided to leave the airport and as I had just over two hours to spare before last check in. We headed for Ikeja and a Chinese restaurant called Jades. As I walked in I was taken aback by the grandeur of the place, there were huge chandeliers beautiful Chinese décor, ornamental gardens, this has been replicated in three locations. They were very busy the car park was full; there certainly is a call for such things in this area.

After finishing the lovely meal we headed to visit Gloria and say farewell. This took us down Allen Ave, this reputedly is one of the dearest roads in Ikeja, it’s said that many of the houses were bought by drug dealers, who paid over the top prices causing them to be over inflated. They then tried to clean up the area from drugs but the high prices remained; now this has become the ‘red light’ district, with lots of young girls walking the streets at night.

As we passed into a gated area where Gloria lived the security man stood guard with a bow and arrow as his weapon of choice, to deter any would be criminal. I said my goodbyes to Gloria, along with some prayers to commit this whole journey back to God and then left for the airport. A policeman went to stop us hoping for a dash, but Femi refused to stop and get into the conversation, he commented and said what is he going to do…shoot us? At this I ducked and we both laughed, at the fact that acted so quickly!

At the airport Femi dropped me a departure entrance a quick hug and before any tears (from Femi…not me of course!). Perfect timing, I walked through the passport control found my gate and waited to board. As the gate opened we walked through ‘the tunnel of darkness’, the lights had gone out in the boarding tunnel, with a few clipped ankles we boarded the plane (a fitting end to my trip, NEPA down). The plane lifting higher off the ground Lagos below becoming ever more distant, some areas with lights others in almost darkness. I say Good bye, to friends, to chaos, to a vibrant state and pray that I will return.

I feel blessed to have been privileged to have spent a month with such wonderful people, to have experienced things that many will never see or choose to see. I pray that my trip has touched people and that from this small seed big things will grow. I know that Nigeria is a huge and complicated country with many issues, health and poverty is just a small part of those issues. I know that I cannot change things, but I also know that God can. He uses people, people that themselves may not feel qualified or equipped for the task (like me, like Femi, like you!), but when you walk in faith and trust and rely on Him things happen.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Penultimate day - Friday 5th

Well this is my penultimate day in Mafoluku, Lagos. I had planned to meet a facebook friend Eniola at the centre today at 10.00. The hotel manager kindly gave me a lift in his own car to the junction and as excited as a child I finally get to cross the road alone! Guess what, I made it safely!

When I got to the centre Eniola and her daughter Hazel were waiting for me. We sat and chatted for a while about my trip and the experiences I have had. They then suggested we went and ate locally (they do like to feed me here) as Eniola hadn’t got her car as she had hoped. We went to a Tetrazzinie and although I said I didn’t want much I some how ended up being the only one eating a huge fish and rice. Typically here people are so kind and persistent, It's easier and politer to acccept. It was so nice to meet her in person; I would have been disappointed to have gone home without the opportunity to do so.

We returned to the centre where the lovely Mr Dee took me up stairs and presented me with a hat that was made in Abuja and some beautiful material printed in his home state of Abeokuta in Lagos. As if that wasn’t kind enough he called the tailor and commissioned him to make me a Buba a typical African outfit for me.

We then went downstairs and all the staff had come to a farewell party for me, everyone in turn stood up and said some lovely things. I then had to get up and speak to them about my trip the enjoyment it has bought me and the friends I have been blessed to have made. They then presented me with a card that they had all signed and wrote some lovely words in. They went and found a photographer as they all wanted photos with me.

Eniola then presented me with even more beautiful material, yards and yards of it, she suggested I got something made for my husband too (he was very pleased when I told him later). We then proceeded to have sausage rolls (a bit like a fresher Gala, but still dryer than I’m used too) and coke for the party food. I was so overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness, love and generosity. I couldn’t have wished for a nicer send off and I will take away such wonderful memories of today.

When all the fuss had died down, I asked if I could pop along the road to see Funmi and the family, to say goodbye to them. I walked along with young Funmi and Mrs Fashe. We went through the tailors shop front and went along a corridor where each room appeared to house a different family. We went into the small room which contained a double bed and the contents of the family’s belongings. There on the bed was the beautiful baby who had the most gorgeous big brown eyes and a mass of tight curls. Also in came her big sister who always manages to give the nicest smile ever when she sees me. As I was leaving the little girl said in Yoruba ‘I want to go with Oyibo’ everyone laughed and I held her hand and we walked down the road to the centre, her Dad then took her back home and she turned and waved (beautiful!).

A few of the girls and me stood out side and watched the world go pass. Then the men that sit at the entrance to the road (the ones that always greet me when I arrive) and another man suddenly started rowing. It was like watching African Magic (a TV channel that is full of soaps with angry African men on, acting quite badly), lots of raised voices not wanting to give in, as soon as one walked away, they would come back and start again. This went on for half an hour, in the end we went inside whilst they continued.

Back to my hotel, I will miss the wonky taps, the excitement of not knowing how many or how big the towels will be. The thrill of receiving my meal and finding out it’s not what I ordered. The adventure of trying to tell people what I require, in a language that doesn’t appear to be as understood as you would think in an English speaking country (but then again I struggle with Irish, Scottish and Welsh sometimes!).

As I skype home the internet keeps giving up, probably due to the torrential rain and thunder storms that are going on out side. Thankfully I came when they haven’t been too bad. Mr Solomon informs me that July and August they have rain most days. I cant quite get motivated to pack my bags, so I’ve decided to leave it till the morning as nothing has been planned for tomorrow anyway, and it never takes as long to chuck it all in to go home as it does to come. So it’s off to bed for the last time in Nigeria (well at least the last time for this trip!).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Two more sleeps....Thursday 4th

Another nice lazy start to the day, got up, showered and called Femi for a lift. We went over to the medical centre, today I was expected to give a talk to the staff. I felt a little unsure of what exactly I should focus on but felt confident that it would all fall into place as we went along. I showed Femi the guidelines that I had commenced, and printed them off as guidance to what I was going to say.

Once all the staff had arrived and was ready, we went down stairs and greeted them. Femi discussed the importance of learning and improving on what is already done. How with people like me coming from the UK can add knowledge and suggestions that may be helpful in improving practice.

I started the conversation by congratulating them on all the hard work that they do and by acknowledging how different things are here compared to what I’m used to, with regard to equipment, support, training, not to mention electricity, water etc. I spoke about the type of things that are done in the UK and what and how small changes that can be implemented to here from these. I was keen for it to be a conversation and not a lecture so I encouraged opinions and questions. Most of them were happy to join in and keen to learn about APGARs (a simple tool used to express the condition of a baby at birth). They also wanted to be shown the obstetric wheels, and some guidance books on vaginal examination.

I also showed them the guidelines briefly, explaining how useful having these is. They are not used to having guidelines and I got the impression they thought they were a negative thing. I told them that in the UK we have hundreds of guidelines for every event and we can refer to them to remind us what we need to do. This is so that everyone knows the standards that need to be met, and everyone is doing the same thing, reducing inconsistencies that are evident in the notes I audited. I also stressed that these guidelines can be looked at by them and if there are things that they feel won’t work or need adding, then this can be addressed. I want them to feel part of the process and solution.

I also commented on the fact that I was sure that a lot of what I have written in the guidelines they already did, but as the record keeping is minimal, I can not see the evidence of this. Drawing attention to the importance of writing what you have done and when, so who ever looks at them can see and it’s not just down to memory.

The staff here are all very keen and willing and certainly have the ability to learn. I also told them that we can never say we know enough, as part of being a midwife we have to help train others coming up and also keep up to date with research and change, always reflecting and improving on our practice. After about an hour or so of talking and discussing, we called it a day.

Around 18.00 I decided to make my way home, again on foot. This time Femi asked one of the young assistants to walk with me, Tope who is 19 walked and chatted with me all the way to the hotel. As many of them do here, she wanted to carry my bags, but I always feel it’s not fair to make them carry them when I’m able to so I declined. The roads were busier than on the walk to the centre as the sun was cooling and many people were making their way home. Trucks went past (these often saying load only) full to the brim with people standing. Women at the side of the road preparing for their evening custom, the food cooked often changes. Akara and fried yam is mainly found in the evening and not in the day time.

Back at the hotel, with my happy greeting from everyone I passed, I headed for my room. I skyped home and chatted with everyone there. All of who were well and looking forward to me returning home. Then feeling hungry I called down for the menu as it had been removed from my room. David came up and said there was no chicken, so I just asked for chips as I didn’t fancy any thing available. He suggest I had egg sauce with it, not knowing what I was going to get I agreed to try it (same for most things I order here). It ended up being a curried like scrambled egg with peppers in it and I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Walking Wednesday 3rd

Woke up thinking how can I make today more memorable, nothing was planned, it feels like the trip is ending in an anti-climax. So I thought to my self either I would get on an Okada or at least I would walk to the medical centre, easy enough I thought. I put on my face book status that this was what I was thinking of doing and soon the replies came back. Someone said ‘walk ACCOMPANIED’, and I replied OK I get the message.

Great I could walk along and take a few photos of my daily journey, I rang down to reception to ask if someone was able to chaperone me. At this point I again wondered if I was speaking a foreign language. ‘I would like to walk can someone walk with me please’ I repeated. 5 minutes later the phone rang ‘Madam your driver is ready’, I so nearly said OK and agree to just except the lift, which I often do when I haven’t got what I asked for.

In the end Mr Solomon the hotel manager rang me and said he would come and walk with me. When he eventually arrived he said was I sure I didn’t want him to drive me, I explained how I wanted to walk so I could see more and take photos. So we walked the 30 minutes or so in the baking heat of the by this time midday sun. He pointed out different things on the way, the shopping plaza, factories, what the work being done was, and we just chatted generally. On the way people called out Oylibo and when I turned, they all say welcome, a phase commonly used here. It felt good to be walking and taking in all that I will shortly miss.

He insisted on walking me to the door of the centre, by the time we arrived the sweat was pouring. I think the humidity must be even higher than the UK here as although it’s often reported to be between 30-35 degrees it always feels much hotter. Mr Solomon made his way back, probably on an Okada (which I am still tempted to try). As I entered the centre Femi informed me that there had been a power surge and the electric had shorted and caught alight. The ‘electrician’ was coming back to sort it out (hopefully as he had been paid up front). This also meant no fans, so the sweat continued to pour, with no relief.

We sat and chatted for a while and I expressed my disappointment that the trip to a general hospital had not materialised. Femi although did not feel it was something I needed to do agreed to take me to Ikeja General training hospital. Femi explained the history of the hospital, which had a mixture of very old and new looking buildings.

We entered and were advised to go to the Professor, we entered his room and Femi introduced us and why we were here. He generously gave up his time to speak to us and discussed the problems he faces and the politics behind a lot of these issues. He said that maternal death rate in Lagos was 650 per 100,000. He says that people don’t get antenatal care and that many birth at home or in churches with non qualified people looking after them, the figures are probably higher than this. People are not educated to know better, health education is not very well achieved here.

He then rang his Matron and asked us to be shown around. I had heard people say what to expect, birthing rooms etc. I can’t deny that I was shocked by what I saw. In a small centre like a Mafoluku I expected there to be lack of equipment and poor conditions. This was a teaching hospital, it was at best out of the dark ages. Women in threes in labour rooms, it appeared that little or no pain relief was being used, monitored with pinnards, they said they had sonic aids but I couldn’t see any evidence of them. There was a CTG machine (to monitor the fetal heart) but it wasn’t in use (maybe they were all low risk!). The walls were peeling, the beds were bare and tatty, the rooms were hot, and hygiene didn’t appear to be this big issue it is in the UK, no birthing partners to be seen.

When they are about to deliver they are taken across the corridor to a birthing room. In here was a couch with stirrups and a very old resuscitaire unit. The rooms were ugly, harsh and not clean looking in comparison to what I am used to they looked barbaric. The Midwives I spoken to said that they knew that things were not as they’d like and know they could learn a lot from people in the UK, the matron said they would benefit greatly by doing some kind of exchange with their UK counterparts. This would be a great idea, but what when they return the equipment is so dated and it would have been condemned in the UK.

We were then taken to the ante/postnatal wing; these again were very basic poor conditions. We were told that women that who can not pay or who turn up with out having had antenatal care are put into another area, which was more basic (can’t quite imagine getting more basic). The matrons that I spoke to were all concerned about maternal mortality and I have great respect for them and the work they do in the surrounding that they have to endure. I work in a relatively new hospital, it’s clean and equipment is generally modern and or well maintained. Women generally receive one to one care, there is choice of pain relief, partners can give support, and everything is at hand and no one is given a second class service on matter what they wealth or social standing.

I came away saddened at what women in this area have to endure and others hospitals may be different. Some may be more modern and have better décor and more up-to-date equipment. I would imagine that this isn’t too different to many others, when I’ve taught Doctors how to use a sonic aid because they have never seem one, when a nurse/midwife from another hospital wasn’t even aware what one was. I walked out of this hospital and said to Femi that I had assumed that his centre was basic and not the most cleanest of places, (no water, no sewage etc) but after seeing this teaching Hospital, I felt that the centres standards were certainly no worse than this and in some things better.

In a country that has only five radiotherapy units in it (the whole of Nigeria not just Lagos), Abuja the capital city has only 2 defibulators, Lagos only has three mammogram machines. There are many people dying prematurely due to lack of equipment, drugs etc, immediate medical care (ambulance service) is reportedly almost non-existent The average male lives to be 45 years of age. Health care is a vital need that should be available or accessible by all. Primary health care, health education and screening should be a priority.

This is not a poor country; this is a country that appears to not be managing its finances efficiently. A country that produces oil but doesn’t then refine its oil, it sells it and then purchases it back. This country has fantastic beaches, but where is the tourism? I could go but I won’t! Nigerians deserve better, there is a need for changes, there is a need for Nigerians that have seen the grass is greener to return and sow the seeds of change, to demand better, to expect better and to put in what ever they can to improve and to excel.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Traffic jam Tuesday - 2nd June

A very early start this morning, Femi texted at 04.50 to make sure I was up (doesn’t he trust me!!). I was picked up by him at 06.00 and we headed for Lekki, Lagos Island to go to the Silverbird studios for another TV interview. This journey can normally be done in about 40 minutes or so, but the morning traffic is so bad with everyone heading for work on the island. We queued in the chaotic morning ‘rush hour’ to get onto the bridge and at every junction leading off the bridge until we met our exit.

Whilst driving along, Femi gave me my present from the wedding that we went to on Friday. Here it’s traditional to give the guests presents, it amazed me once more how generous people are. Their was a printed bag, a small printed hand towel and toothpick holder (everyone uses toothpicks all the time here due to the toughness of most meats they always get in between your teeth), all these had Angela and Damola’s names wedding date etc printed on them. Also in the bag was a gas ring lighter, a small flask and a bible. Certainly not something we would do or expect in England.

Eventually as we arrived at the Bar beach area of Lagos, we were thankfully going against the flow of traffic as we headed out of town towards Lekki. The journey took us over 2 hours, when we arrived at the studio we were taken up and introduced to Roli and Patrick Doyle. Then we were taken to the studio, we waited for the current presenter to finish her slot which over ran. When we did get on air we ended up with approximately 5 minutes, Femi managed to quickly get over his email, website and phone number (so I guess it wasn’t a complete waste of time?). Personally I’d have rather had a longer sleep!

When we returned to the car there were several missed calls from people that had been watching the show and interested in finding out more. Time as always will tell what will come from these. The first radio show we did, Femi received a call from a carpenter who said he had no money but could offer his trade for free. This was followed up and he lived in the area where the new clinic is being built, Alagbado and is potentially going to be offered work. Another call from a trained nurse, maybe leading to her coming into the centres and continuing with training, ensuring that issues that have been highlighted are addressed and improvements are continuous.

We headed for the Silverbird Galleria, where Femi had a couple of meetings. This also meant the opportunity to eat something non-Nigerian, sandwiches and chips and a double espresso which was enjoyable. Whilst Femi got on with his meetings, I sat and went through the guidelines I am in the process of producing. Whilst listening to Barry White repeatedly on a loop! About an hour or more passed, Femi then purchased me an hour’s internet, as I was obviously looking like I was losing the will to live. That helped, within 2 minutes of logging on the internet dropped and the frustration continued as well as the boredom!

Femi also had a meeting with Emilia, who works in media, production and broadcasting. She came across as a very intelligent young lady that certainly knew her trade. Listening to her she had her opinions and was very straight forward with getting them across. She has lots of contacts and was able to give help and advice on many of Femi’s ideas. Emilia spent the next couple of hours with us.

We then went to see another acquaintance of Femi’s Mark Eddo, someone he met in England that worked in the media (for ITN in the UK I believe) and had cut a DVD on Lagos and its potential future (Lagos Africa’s Modern Megacity), which featured Dr Olaleye and Baby Mohammed at the Mafoluku clinic. We watched it and the quality was excellent far more superior to anything that I have seen on the Tele since being here. Mark was a very well spoken and charming man and had a lovely clear English accent. After leaving here we proceeded to sit in more traffic and it was as difficult to get off the island as it was to get on it this morning.

Returning to my hotel Femi requested hot water for me so I was able to make a cup of coffee, as my last attempt to get some wasn’t very successful. David one of the staff brought it up for me, a nice young boy that aspires to one day come to England. He lost his Mother when he was young and like many here hasn’t had the best start in life. Minimal schooling and now minimal wages, but he is hopeful. I promised that I would keep in touch and when he comes to the UK I will show him around.

Monday, 1 June 2009

My final week - Monday 1st June

After grappling with my conscience about my Hilton stay and after a most pleasant nights sleep only being awoken (at 06.00!) by an encouraging text from the lovely Mr Dee, I decided to be even more extravagant with breakfast in my room. The excitement of All Bran with proper milk (not powdered as I have only known since being here) and brown bread was too much for me to resist (this is what a month in Naija has brought me to!!!). This with hot filter coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, ham (with a couple of olives on the side!), jam, yogurt and fruit platter I was stuffed and had the leave some. A treat that I really enjoyed after not having breakfasts since the beginning of my stay.

I can hardly believe that it’s June the first and in a few days time I will be heading home, back to my normality and all this, both the grandeur and the poverty will seem a million miles away. This morning though, is time to pack and head back to Mafoluku, Lagos and to leave this other side to Nigeria behind. I headed down to check out and to wait for Femi and Christa to pick me up. I went to use the toilets down in the reception and was taken aback that in the Hilton’s loos they had run out of toilet roll and then when I washed my hands there were no hand towels either! Certainly not the standard you expect or pay for, in a Hilton anywhere in the world.

I was picked up by Christa and Femi and we headed to the airport to catch the 11.30 flight. The roads (although still nothing like Mafoluku) were much busier than at the weekend and the familiar beeping of horns became more apparent and familiar. As we drove past the many huge and grand buildings, some being very impressive while others obviously built in the 1970’s looked some what dated in design, Christa pointed out what they all were. With these buildings obviously come influence and money and powerful people, which probably has a lot to do with the difference that has been achieved in Abuja.

As we headed along the fast running two lane road which leads to the airport, it was noticeable that work of some kind was in progress. Christa explained how they [the government] are spending a reported $1 billion dollars to widen the road, knocking down many trees on the avenue like road. For what purpose I ask, the road very rarely (according to Christa) has congestion. The existing road lighting apparently never works, maybe this should have money spent on this, or affordable housing for those along that route that are not living in adequate dwellings. Maybe this would be better spent on health, it was commented at the weekend that there were only two defibrillators in Abuja (one of those at the Hilton, so I would have been ok at least for two days). These are commonplace in the UK even Tesco are said to have them!

Nigeria, so many Nigerians have commented is run by many (hopefully and I am sure not all) corrupt people and things are often agreed depending on the size of the bribe and money that can be made from it. This is how a lot of contracts are won and why things are often not done. This I guess is at the heart of the countries problems. If this could be eradicated then things would be improved for genuine reasons and for the love of the country and not for the love of money.

This corruption is so rife, it can be seen by every police man that ‘keeps order’ everyone that is pulled over hands over a dash (bribe, money) and goes on his way, The law is not upheld but the police are on a fantastic earner, chaos continues and it is excepted and expected and nothing changes. This continues up the hierarchy of people in this country and this is probably the main cause of the problems, but how does this stop? Many will not admit its happening; I imagine many Nigerians reading this will not want to admit this is the huge problem that it is. My guess is (for what my opinion is worth!) until this is controlled in some way, shape or form, much of the unfair inequalities that people just live with because ‘that’s how it is here’ will continue.

We landed in Lagos and headed back to my hotel and the familiar sights and sounds of the chaos. Okadas dodging around us and yellow taxis’ many looking like their not fit enough to last the journey fill every gap. As I pull up in my hotel I am greeted by smiles and welcomes, more genuine than that at the Hilton, they know me here and many I know by name. Although I loved Abuja and everyone that I met that made the weekend special was great, I also have no regrets about coming back. People here are equally as generous and kind at heart, just that these people haven’t got the money, but their kindness is no less appreciated.

On return the internet was working well, thankfully so I was able to catch up online. Shortly NEPA was down, and the generator needed resting and refuelling. So rather than sitting in a dull room, I took my place outside, watching everyone going about their chores and greeting all that passed. I also watched a female lizard run to and fro, as always no one else took a blind bit of notice of her. Just as I was about to go in the heavens opened as I looked across at the security man he gestured me to wait and found a big umbrella and walked me the 10 meters to the entrance.

Speaking of kindness, I asked one of the men who is always pleasant, as I walked in if he knew where I could get Akara balls from. He said they won’t be cooking it till gone six, but that he would run out and get it for me. Just after six he came up to knock and asked how many I wanted, I gave him some money and said get himself some if he wanted. When he returned with it, he had even gone and got a plate to put it on and not left it in the newspaper everything here comes wrapped in. This is so typical of the kindness so many Nigerians have shown me.

Final Sunday in Naija - 31st

My last Sunday in Nigeria, I woke early after a not very sleep-full night, surprisingly so as this was the most comfortable bed I have slept in on my trip and the air con was silent. In part I was kept awake because I was struggling with the fact that I had paid so much for such opulence with staying in the Hilton. When I had left such poverty and the thought of what I could have done with the money that I’d spent on two nights. I tried to balance this feeling by weighing it up against how much this trip has actually cost me and after giving a month of my time here, is it wrong to be extravagant for a weekend?

We were to be at church for around 08.00, not an easy task when you have had an enjoyable late night. We left our hotel about 08.30 in the beautiful sunshine of Abuja. This service was at another Salem church (the same group as we visited last week), this like my own church in Dartford (Dartford community church) is not housed in its own building, and it is a new church plant and has been here for around a year. The congregation was a similar size to back home roughly 100-150. The service was very good and enjoyable, I knew a couple of the worship songs and they were at a speed I was used to. I even managed to keep up with most of the preach, either it was clearer or my ear in tuning in at last.

After the service we spoke to Joyce an acquaintance of Femi’s, who is also the Archbishops daughter. We were introduced to the Archbishop Sam Amaga who was a charming man and made us feel very welcomed; he has planted several churches and was in even in Lewisham, London for a while. We then met his wife who was delightful and also very warm, the usual photo session commenced and then we made our way back to the hotel.

Both going to church and coming out it was very noticeable that there were far less people walking about than you would see in Lagos heading for church. This is probably in part because there are noticeably fewer people here anyway. There is not the crammed full on feeling here with hundreds of people going about their business. Everything is more spaced out so many people drive or get green taxis (the small buses and taxis are not yellow here).

A few hours later we were picked up by Joyce and taken to their very luxurious home a couple of miles away. As we drove up the security man opened the gates and we parked under carports to avoid the sun. A spread of food had been prepared for us by the cook and freshly squeezed juice which was delicious. The house was large and very grand but there was also a warm feeling of love and it was certainly a family home and we were made to feel welcome.

Their hospitality was so generous; Joyce and Kella her younger sister decided that we needed ice cream and a film. They took us to into the local town to an ice cream parlour and we all had proper scooped ice cream which seemed such a treat. We then went to a small shopping mall had a walk around the shops and then went to catch a movie ‘Night at the museum 2’. The cinema chairs left a little to be desired as they rocked when we sat in them (just to remind me that this is still Naija). So much talking and laughing, two lovely girls a credit to their loving family, such a blessed afternoon and such great company!

They dropped us back at the hotel and we waited for Femi’s friend to arrive. His friend had hoped to host our stay but unfortunately the weekend we were able to do this trip, she had been out of town. When she arrived, she drove us down the road as Femi wanted me to try Suya another Nigerian dish cooked at the road side on a BBQ. Beef thinly sliced and peppered, there was also Gizzard (sort of like kidney) which I also had. I took these back to my room, which stunk it out. I ended up putting the rubbish in the bin in the corridor to avoid my room smelling in the morning (not sure if you meant to do that at the Hilton? But hey paid enough for the privilege!).

My overall feeling on Abuja is I loved my weekend here (short as it was). I feel it’s the sort of place that I could bring family to without them feeling so far removed from their comforts in the UK. It’s not got the shock factor that Lagos has when first seen. I am sure the problems with NEPA is as bad here as anywhere in Nigeria, which being in the Hilton is one thing you never notice, they have that well and truly covered. The golf course I understand is one of the best in the country. I would feel comfortable driving around here, where Lagos is certainly more challenging. I like the area and would hope to one day return, but I also feel Lagos is where I’m meant to be at this point.

Sorry for delay....Saturday 30th

It’s the weekend and time to chill out and have some fun. We have decided that today we would take an internal flight to Abuja. This is partly to get another view of Nigeria and partly to have some fun.

The last Saturday of the month everyone (at least in Lagos) between 07.00 and 10.00 has to tidy and maintain there surroundings as its ‘sanitation day’. This in turn means nothing much happens until after this time and then everyone hits the road (there wasn’t a noticeable difference in the surrounding; I guess most use it as a lay in!). This gave me time to pack up my belongings as I was checking out of my hotel until Monday.

Femi picked me up at the hotel, and the Manager Mr Solomon very kindly allowed me to store my luggage in his office. Mr Solomon is a lovely man and goes out of his way to help make my stay comfortable when ever able. We left for the airport unfortunately we missed the flight that we were hoping to catch, as it was boarding as we arrived (this flight was rarely on time). We then purchased tickets for Virgin Nigeria, this flight true to form was not running on time. This gave me time to grab a lovely Danish pastry and a coffee, the first I’ve had since arriving in Nigeria (those that know me well know how fussy I am with my addiction for a strong black filter and a ‘hot hit’).

Without too long a delay we boarded our plane, soon after receiving our complimentary cake and drink we were descending into Abuja international Airport (a flight of about an hour). As I watched out of the window the terrain was much greener and rural than that we had left, also more mountainous. This surprised me as I was expecting it to be very built up, but the city itself was about a 30 minute drive away. Departure was stress free we just walked off the plane, picked up luggage from the only conveyor belt and walked out of the building briefly showing the luggage label to a man on the way.

Femi’s cousin had kindly picked us up and drove us into Abuja. This had a very different feel to it, as we travelled on well made roads, passing small mountain ranges (granite hills I believe) and road side sellers, which were much fewer in number than seen in Lagos. As we entered the town there was no rumble, no derelict building, no Okadas and no potholes. There were green verges, tree lined roads beautiful buildings and space, a complete contrast to even the better areas that I have seen of Lagos.

As will drove up to the Hilton (this is where we had decided to stay) a huge building of about thirteen floors (10 accomadation), with its palm tree lined entrance, it felt like another world. As we entered the grand foyer, it certainly was another world (one that I am certainly not used to). As I handed over the money for my two night stay I thought I must be mad (for what I’ve paid for 2 nights paid for 6 at Sena). Then as I entered my room the quality was a far cry from that of the Sena hotel. Huge mirrored doors to the bathroom, soft comfortable bed, it just spoke luxury. The negative (some would say greedy side) is that very little is included in this price, no internet, no drinking water, they kindly fill a kettle and give you two complimentary tea bags and coffee sachets and the usual toiletries.

Unpacked and then we headed for pool side with netbook and coffee, it’s the place to be. A quick wash and change and then we were off to the IBB golf course. A friend of Femi’s, Faridah Wada, is the ladies captain, and she invited us along to the prize giving dinner for the tournament that had been played earlier today. This certainly felt like a different class of place and entertainment. The band played some high-life and there was plenty of dancing going on and of course we joined in. The food was great, goat pepper soup with meat in not just fat, and beef stroganoff with chewable meat, such a treat. The lady captain offered us a lift back to the Hilton but it was still early (she understandably was tired as she had been in the sun playing golf all day).

As we got back to the Hilton we decided to go into the Captains bar, to taste the entertainment and soak up a little of the atmosphere. The music was varied more high-life and plenty of reggae, plus others too. After a couple of drinks, (those that know me won’t be too surprised) I had to get up and into the groove! They tend to pick on members of the audience to get up and strut their stuff and (to Femi’s surprise I think) I did. He was keen to retire to his room (probably out of sheer embarrassment) but I had found a second wind and was not prepared to give in that easily.

All I can say at this point, on first impressions, is that Nigeria can certainly get it very right; Abuja is a fine example of that. It only became the capital in 1991. I’m sure as with any place it has its short falls, its deprived areas. On first impressions, this feels more polished, the bits that are right are very right not just money in the midst of chaos as everywhere I’ve seen in Lagos. No, it’s not that I am staying in luxury and am blinded to what is around me. In Lagos we went to the Pink Ball in a luxurious part of town, just along from the Hilton and more expensive hotels, but there was still mess, potholes and chaos. So why does it appear they got more right here, yet they haven’t managed to replicate it in Lagos?

Friday, 29 May 2009

The end of another week! Friday 29th

Today in Nigeria is a bank holiday, Democracy day and its ten years since Nigeria became a democratic state. For me, today I was honoured to have been invited to a wedding this was the lovely Gloria’s sisters, Angela and her partner Damola.

I was picked up after dressing in my tailor made top, made from a typical Nigerian style print. Femi was adorned in the same print with matching trousers (very smart too!). We were going to an area that was new to me, an area called Festac. Femi explained how 30 years ago that the Naija government built this huge housing estate with houses, flats etc. Basically (excuse me if I get some of this wrong) they held a grand festival and housed many people from many nations in these properties.

When the party had finished the buildings were empty and so they decided to hold a sort of lottery and who ever won, got the property free of charge! So thousands of people received housing for the cost of the ‘ticket’. Amazing! The only sad thing about this is although these people benefited from this hugely, it could have been thought through maybe and if people had received low cost housing this money could have been ploughed back into making more and many more may have benefited.

As we made our way towards Festac we took another road that I had not been along before, this appeared to be truck world. For miles along there loads and loads of trucks and here they are the huge American style ones. There were also the usual large potholes that hadn’t yet been repairs some taking up half the road. We passed a man with a goat hung around his neck, obviously about to have dinner, maybe goat pepper soup!

We arrived at Festac It looked very different from any other places we have visited, many more flats or tenant type buildings, although plenty of these were in need of painting and were scruffy much of the area was generally tidier and less derelict than many we had been to. Glorias father I believe was one of these ‘lucky winners’ and live in a kind of cul-de-sac, each road had a number rather than a name. This was a tidy road and in the better end of town, with what appeared quite big houses.

Today for the wedding there were canopies outside and inside the garden. The first part of the wedding which is the traditional part was to take place at the house. It was bright and colourful, the brides family and friends tended to wear beige, gold and browns while the grooms side wore turquoise blue. Everyone looked stunning in their traditional clothing and the ladies with their spectacular head ties.

The ceremony is quite long with lots of acts, starting with the groom lying on the floor begging the bride’s parents to let him marry their daughter. After a while they announce the bride is coming out but the first two times it is a fake bride and the groom has to pay the women to take her away. Eventually the bride comes out and meets him and he pays to take her. Lots of prayers are said and lots of money changes hands. At one point a bowl of Kola nuts is passed around, this is a stimulant that is chewed and swallowed, I tried it but it was so bitter I can’t say I enjoyed it .The groom offers her gifts such as food, yam sometimes a goat and a bible, the bride always takes the bible.

We then eat pounded yam that I watched being pounded earlier, cat fish, beef or goat and a spinach type dish that was all nice. Once that was eaten we made our way to the church for the blessing and the white wedding. This was at the Church of the Pentecost a large slightly more traditional church than the others I’ve been to here, with pews and an organ. I was asked to cover my head in a scarf as all women were expected to (know I should have got a head tie to wear!).

In part the service was similar to what we would be used to, hymns, prayers etc, but the bride and groom do plenty of dancing which is great fun to see. Then there was an offering the whole church (there must have been at least 200 or more) danced down the aisle and placed money in the big bowl and then singing and dancing went back up the side to their seats. This was so cool! Such fun and everyone was so happy and enjoyed it. Then the bride and groom went with collection bags up and down the aisle dancing, singing and collecting for the women’s association.

This was then followed by the reception which was held in a hall down the road. It was crammed with people, not the 50 to the sit down we do. It was who ever turns up gets fed and is welcomed. A comedian hosted the evening, Femi found him very funny, but unfortunately these jokes were wasted on me as I only caught the odd word. Again we ate this time Moi moi, jollof and fried rice and a piece of chicken. Drinks were flowing for everyone, the generosity at these weddings are amazing. The couple then cut the cake and again tradition is that the bride has to feed some to her husband and then she gives him wine. They don’t tend to give gifts to the couple but they get the couple up dancing (Nigerians certainly can move!) and they through money at them and place it on there foreheads (sweep, I believe it was called).

This was a fantastic day and it felt a real privilege to have been allowed and accepted to be part of it. I wish Angela and Demola a very happy and fulfilling life together and long may they be blessed. This will be one of my lasting memories of Nigeria (of which there is many).

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Time flies....Thursday 28th

Today we had an appointment at Radio Nigeria, in Ikoyi, Lagos. This wasn’t the early start of the previous shows, so no rush to get up. I was picked up by Femi at around 11.00, also in the car was Ken, an acquaintance of Femi’s that worked at the station. Ken said he knew of me and when I asked how, he said he ad seen me at church the first week I came.

We travelled across the 3rd Mainland bridge which when we checked on the milometer in the car was over 10 km in length (I believe one of if not the largest bridge in Africa). On our right as we drove across (and driving is on the right here) is where the stilted houses are and the fishermen were out in there boats catching the local (fat) fish. Also we can see a University as we get to Lagos Island and a large saw mill can also be seen below.

As we pulled off the main road to go to Ikoyi we went through a market which was heaving with people all going about there business, in the usual hustle and bustle way. Every where you look are Okada, Tuk-tuks, taxis, buses and the average driver all juggling and aiming for what is their spot on the road. No rules of the road, you can under or over take, pull out at traffic to make them give way to you, pull over any where you fancy, turn any where, park anywhere, you have the right of way at all times. This is driving in Lagos.

We eventually arrive at Radio Nigeria, which has large premises, with several buildings. We are taken up to the office of Funke Treasure Durodola the broadcaster that we will be interviewed by. As we sit and chat she gets quite excited about the River State Medical Mission, that Femi organized in April this year. This was a project that Femi orchestrated to bring multi-skilled Nigerians (Doctors, Midwives, Nurses etc) working abroad to provide a week of free medical consultation, treatment and operations, in six medical centers in six days, Around 800 people were seen and over 100 operations were performed.

This program that we were doing unlike the others was not going to be live. It’s a program called Nigerian pride and it is aired across Nigeria on Tuesdays at 17.30. It will also be linked to their website http://www.radionigeria.net/. Funke decided to do the interview as two separate shows, the first meeting Femi and discussing River State and how Femi has come back to his home land. The second, was both of us, discussing my involvement with the charity and how things can be improved and to encourage others to give time, skills or money to help such a venture. We were interviewed for about an hour in total so it could be cut into the two shows.

Whilst there we were also asked if we could be interviewed by another broadcaster Fabian Anawo, who does a news type program and he wanted to speak to us. As he wasn’t quite ready we popped into the staff canteen to grab a drink and a bite to eat. This is when you think to yourself, I bet the canteen at Radio one isn’t as tatty and shabby as this. As Femi pointed out its about expectations, in England as in many countries we expect and demand certain standards, here they are used to the way things are and often know no different, so put up with things as they are.

While there we enjoyed Jollof rice with fish (mackerel I think) and sauce, with plantain (I say we, but I didn’t want anything but Femi who now appears to know me too well got enough for 2 and an extra spoon, so I tucked in to his dinner!). He also picked up Puff puff for me to try, this turned out to be like small donuts that are freshly made and not too sweet, I liked these too!

After lunch we went back into the studio and chatted with Fabian about the issues that could be improved about Nigerian health care. What I was doing specifically, how this small thing can help, what has been my approach and how will I enforce changes. This interviewer was much more interrogative then the others, but I feel we got our point and our passion across. Remaining positive that Nigeria has got potential and there is certainly hope for its future especially if enough people make these small drops eventually change will be made and seen.

By the time we had finished here it was getting on to about 16.00 and we new the traffic would soon start to increase. So we headed off home. We called into the medical centre to see if my top had been made for the wedding tomorrow. Before leaving I picked up some Piriton as I have been bitten a lot suddenly and my arms were driving me mad with itching. My top wasn’t ready so we headed back to my hotel via the money man at the airport, who now says he likes me (think he just likes my money!). This old man on his Vespa has become quite familiar to me now as I wave at him through the crowd to grab his attention. I returned to my hotel and later that evening Funmi (one of the staff at the center) came over on an Okada to bring my top that was finally finish and fitted perfectly.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wednesday 27th already!

Today had another early start, this morning we had to return to Ketu, this time to appear on a morning TV show, as a result of yesterdays radio show. I nervously got ready and I felt slightly more anticipation about this as live TV is less forgiving than a radio show. Femi picked me up at about 07.30, and on the drive to Ketu we discussed the points that we wanted to try and get across, including the need for donations to sustain the charity and to help it grow.

When we arrived we were greeted by the make-up artist, who proceeded to powder our faces ready for the studio lighting (even Femi benefited from a touch of make up!). It is children’s day here in Nigeria and we were linked to this theme. The presenter welcomed us and asked many questions, about my trip, how I was finding Nigeria, what are then main issues I have noticed regarding health, and how could the government improve things in Nigeria. To this last question I felt I had to reply with the fact that I am not a politician and do not know enough about these issues to answer and I added that I would hope to come back to the country so thought it best not to get on my soap box, potentially up setting the government.

Our slot went on for about 20mins and in this time Femi and I was able to get across quiet a bit of information with regards to Wish for Africa and the future plans for Optimal Medical Centres. We were able to mention certain things that would make an immediate difference such as a portable scanner, generators, descent medical supplies/equipment, text books, skilled people to come and share there knowledge and train staff. I pointed out that many people can do something. If I am capable of doing this with odds stacked against me such as newly qualified, work commitments, family, white, female etc then others could too, each offering what ever gift the have.

After this we headed again to the clinic in Ketu, today was antenatal clinic, so I went in with Dr Yussuf to observe and question practices. I also give them a sonic aid to be used within this clinic and demonstrated its use. It soon became apparent how much they don’t do, that we do in the Uk, and the primary reason was cost that would have to be passed on to the patient. In this and other deprived areas people just can’t afford the additional cost of things that are routinely done back home. Scans are rarely done unless true indication (no dating or anomaly scans). Blood is tested for HIV and Hep B but if they don’t routinely do full blood counts. At this clinic routine urine testing with a dip stick is not done again due to increasing the cost. Although folic acid and iron is given to all, assuming that most have poor diets and will require it. From the world health organisations recommendation all women receive prophylactic malaria which payment for medication is subsidised.

I was able to have an immediate influence on encouraging them to measure the fundal height (routinely women are measured from top of there pubic bone to where the top of the womb is felt roughly weeks = centimetres, so if you were 28weeks you’d measure 28cms +/- 2/3cms). They just do a visual inspection and use fingers which is a good skill to keep but it’s simple enough to do both and allows for accuracy in detecting too much or too little growth.

The women also liked the fact that they could also hear the heat beat when we used the sonic aids. One woman who had three previous miscarriages possibly due to her being Rh neg (blood group) and not receiving anti D in her first pregnancy (something that helps your body stop building up antibodies and potentially causing problems with future pregnancies). When I found the heart beat that although she was about 32 weeks pregnant she had not heard before, she gave a huge smile and tears came to her eyes. Something else fairly simple that we take for grated in the UK.

Back to the Anti D issue, this is something that is offered to all women that have a negative blood group in the UK, during their pregnancy and if the baby is a positive blood group they will be given it again after delivery. If this woman had wanted it here, she enquired to the cost at the pharmacist and it was between 10-12,000 naira (about £40-45). An average weekly wage in this area is probably about £10! The minimum wage here is 5000 naira a month (£20) but this as with most things is not well enforced.

This woman’s case also lead us into discussion on her delivery, she had previously had a caesarean section but (probably due to cost again) was keen to have a normal delivery. We spoke about how she would have to be watched (I hesitate to say monitored!) and not be allowed too long a labour this time. This allowed me to point out the lack of consistency in their paperwork with regards to the recording of times when things occur and the potential indications for these omissions. Dr Yussuf was very receptive of my comments and suggestions, he was also happy to show his staff how to measure women and how to use the sonic aid etc.

My evening ended in the restaurant of my hotel, a nice quiet meal I thought. Well Manchester United v Barcelona on the tele and a room full of very excited men. All shouting for Man Utd and of course as an avid fan myself I couldn’t but join in! Disappointed by the score I headed up to my room. I received a text from Michelle, our mid week church cell group were meeting at hers. This meant only one thing skype cell, which was great as friends from China are heading back this week and another friend is going to Russia for a week so a great opportunity to pray and be part of home. Thanks all x.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A huge THANK YOU!!!

I would like to say a huge thank you to all that have kindly donated money for me to spend on my trip. Because of the generosity of so many friends in the UK and to ChiChi Dike in the USA, it was possible for me to bless the Adogoke family.

The Adogoke family recently had a beautiful baby girl by caesarean section here at Optimal Medical Centre Mafoluku. The cost of this treatment although minimal by UK/USA standards and even Nigerian standards, for the family it would have taken a long time to complete the payment. This has been a real blessing for them and a weight lifted.

This week I also opened the boxes of donated goods and goods purchased with donated money that I had shipped over from the UK. Shipping itself as I discovered is a costly procedure. Thanks to Oando freight services, which kindly collected and packaged for free and reduced the price per kilo the cost was also covered by donated money.

As we unpacked all the clothes, toys, blankets, pens, medical equipment, everyone here was amazed at the generosity that had been shown. Plans are being made to have a children’s party to give the children’s clothes and toys out.

Also donated were 3 sonic aids from dopplerhire.co.uk a company from Wales that just so kindly took on the spirit of the cause from a chance email I sent them. These have been very useful and very well received here.

All this has only been made possible because so many of you cared enough to give money or items and I can truly say from seeing the faces of people here, it has made a big difference.

So from Me Jo Watts, Dr Femi Olaleye, the staff and many people in Lagos who have or will benefit in some way by your actions THANK YOU!

It's Tuesday 26th here at Radio Continental 102.3fm!

An early start this morning, well at least for me, Femi was meant to pick me up by 07.30. It was his turn to be late and struggle to get up (at least it’s not just me). We were heading to Ketu to appear on the morning breakfast show of Mr Femi Sowoolu, at Radio Continental 102.3fm. I was slightly nervous as I’m not one for public speaking (no really I’m not!). As we arrived Femi Sowoolu was outside to meet us, he recognised me from facebook (and maybe due to the fact I was the only white woman in the car park). Femi had seen the ‘event’ on facebook (for those not on facebook an event is a way of advertising, something that you are doing or involved in, this was ‘Watts going to Nigeria’) and had contacted me to invite me onto his show.

We received a warm welcome and was shown inside to a board room, and waited to be called for our slot in the programme. Someone came and got us and we headed towards the studio, we sat down and mikes were adjusted and we got straight into business. Femi was very kind and gentle with me and welcomed me to Nigeria and gave an introduction to who I was and why I’m here. He went on to ask if I was enjoying my stay, had I been worried or nervous about my trip, if my family had concerns, what did I think of the people, what did I think about the state of health here etc. He then spoke about the charity and about how it came about with Dr Femi. Who was obviously able to go into more detailed answered than me about the Wish for Africa charity.

We then had several callers asking questions and all being very generous with their praise towards us. The callers were thankfully answered by Dr Femi with the odd grunt of agreement from me. Someone asked how they could contact wish for Africa so Femi gave his mobile number, web site and email details. By the time the show was over and we had got into the car, there were already several missed calls.

This broad casting company is still fairly new but also does TV as well as radio, this is something that Femi had hoped to get into. He had previously had a show on a Nigerian channel in London and did a Doctors chat programme, inviting people along to talk about issues and current events etc. It was left that we may be invited back for a TV slot, but also seemed promising for the future and Femi’s plans. After our ‘five minutes of fame’ we headed back to the reality of why we are here, the clinic in Ketu.

Unfortunately the doctor was not there as it was a quiet day but we spoke to the staff and I pick out three sets of notes to audit. These notes as with the ones from Mafoluku were not up the UK standards and the problems I could see were similar in both areas. I made a few notes and am in the process of writing some guidelines for them to adhere to, to help improve there practice. This is not an easy or pleasant task as I don’t enjoy being negative about what people do. The issue is there is not a huge amount to be positive about, but too much change at once will not go down well, so I have to be choosy on what changes I ask them to make and at what pace new practices are encouraged.

Whilst we were there a couple of patients came in to see the Doctor, as he wasn’t there Dr Femi saw them as to not waste their journey. I sat in on the consultation and was even asked for my opinions (I think they thought that I was a Doctor too! even though I had been introduced as a midwife from the UK). One of the problems with note keeping became apparent in these general practise notes (these were not obstetric patients), highlighting to general bad practice of not recording details efficiently. This didn’t lead to any serious problem, but this patient had to be asked to return when the resident GP was there, assuming he would be able to recall from memory the omitted details.

The problem in part is due to the fact, you often don’t know you don’t know something until you’re shown it or taught it. As a student some mentors would get annoyed with you if you didn’t do or write certain things, I would stand confused at why they would expect me to realise things that were alien to me, that I hadn’t been shown. This is the same sort of thing on a larger scale. If no one has pointed out the importance of doing something or the possible consequences of omitting information, why would they know? If things are not audited or poor outcomes are not investigated and lessons learned from them, or they have just been ‘lucky’ and had no repercussions, why should they feel practice needs alteration?

These are just a few of the issues that I need wisdom on how to approach, so if anyone reading this wishes to pray for specific things please add this to your pray list!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Week 3 - Monday 25th

Thunder storms and heavy rain over night, with this came more power cuts meaning the air con would keep going off and the heat would rise. So another disturbed sleep, I decided to get up assuming it was around 8-9 and looked at my phone to see it was 10.45! I was meant to be up and out between 10 and 11….oh well!

I tried to skype home as promised before I had left this morning, but no sooner had I got through, NEPA (electric supplier) went down again, no electric, no internet, no skype! I tried to send a text to relay the news and no phone use either, but there is no point in getting frustrated as this is what it’s like here every day.

I made my way over to the medical centre the pot holes in the roads this morning were full of water after last nights rain. Huge puddles waiting for the sun to come and dry them up. It was still overcast and grey with this tends to come a bit of wind so it feels slightly cooler.
When I got to the centre I helped the girls open the second of the large boxes shipped over from the UK with donated goods in. We sorted them into toys, child, adult clothes etc had the photo shot and put them into bags. Everyone was amazed and happy with the amount of things that had kindly been donated or purchased with donated money. A couple of teddies were selected form Fumni’s new baby and little girl and a toy was also given to one of the nurses for her little girl who is 4.

Suddenly I realised that a few items were missing, that had been unpacked on Saturday. Everyone began to search for them, but they could not be found. It was thought that someone had taken them, but I couldn’t believe any of the staff would have done that. I felt terrible that I brought items and from this we were standing accusing someone of stealing. I prayed that they would turn up and the negative feeling would be relieved. One of the nurses called in to say she had taken them home for safe keeping after we had gone out on Saturday as she didn’t like to leave them around in case some one took them. Relief was felt all around to know that they had not been stolen after all.

Later that afternoon the staff came and found me, as they thought I might be bored. I went downstairs and they gave me lessons in Yoruba, as I tried to pronounce simple phrases, we laughed and any small tensions that were left had lifted. I finally felt accepted by them and they cease to see me as a threat in anyway .My favourite phrase I think is “mofe jo” I want to dance. I then went and got my netbook and we viewed the photos I had taken over the past two weeks.

Mr Adegoke (the husband of Fumni who had the baby) came to measure me up, as he is making me a top to wear to a wedding at the weekend (he is a tailor and Femi had some traditional material). I had decided that with some of the money which had so generously been donated by friends in the UK and by ChiChi Dike from the USA, to settle the balance from the caesarean section. This was no huge amount by USA/UK standards but to this family it is a great weight lifted off their shoulders and would probably otherwise had taken them ages to have settled the bill. He was completely surprised and over the moon. So thank you all those that gave which allowed me to bless this family. I also gave him the teddies and baby toys for the baby and her big sister, which I’m sure they will be equally as thrilled with.

I returned to the hotel when my lift had come to get me. The weather had been overcast all day so the puddles had not dried up, everywhere was still very wet. As they dropped me off I said “oshe gan” thank you very much. He laughed, so I asked if I had said it correctly and he smiled and said yes!

I decided to go down to dinner after speaking to Tony and Beth on the phone due to the fact that the internet wasn’t working (that’s unusual!). I asked for chicken pepper soup (and chips not very Nigeria but felt yam and riced out!), when it turned up it was fish pepper soup (lost again in translation?). I usually love fish but had steered away from it after seeing where they fish (ref- previous blog and the sewage from the houses on stilts in the water and the men fishing…fat fish!). Saying this I must say it was nice, not sure what the fish was and there was more than a head which is what I commonly see everywhere. I think that the pepper is hot enough to kill almost anything that crosses its path.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Two weeks down two to go - Sunday 24th

Strange bed and head spinning form the evening before (although not a drop of alcohol passed my lips), not the best sleep ever! I awoke early and started on yesterday’s blog but had to be up and dressed for the church service which commenced at 09.00. Richeal, the hotel receptionist that is a friend of Femi’s kindly called me at 07.30 to make sure I was up as I was concerned I would over sleep. I also had to pack all my things as we were heading back to Mafaluku and my hotel afterwards.

The church we were attending today was Salem International Christian Centre. Another large well attended church, with again far too little room between row for my liking and comfort (but necessary to fit everyone in). Worship commenced with the choir singing and with volume up .I again didn’t know many of the songs sang and again the ones I did know seem to be sung much slower than I used to. I still enjoy the great ‘gospel’ feeling it is uplifting, I just wish I had the word on the screen rather than our faces, but everyone knows the words so I guess they don’t feel the need for the words.

The guest preacher was a Nigerian that lives in Essex. I lost a lot of the meaning of the preach, due to the strong accent and speed and volume, but what I did keep up with I enjoyed. The theme was on obedience to God, something that I feel I am being by coming to Nigeria. This was a good reminder as to why I’m here as half way through the month, I suddenly feel home sick and would like a roast dinner and a strong black filter coffee (one of my vices that I have had to leave behind). This probably isn’t helped by the fact that I hadn’t been in contact with home for a couple of days, due to timing and internet failure.

When the service finished, Femi made his way up to see the Bishop to introduce him to me .He was a very pleasant man, but the fact that we had to go through rooms and people and request to see him surprised me. This is something (religious etiquette) that I struggle with, I am a Christian and respect the Elders and leaders of my church, and thankfully my church doesn’t have this kind of religious requirements. Our Elders hang around chatting with who ever needs to speak to them, they do not place themselves out of reach or make themselves unapproachable. This is something that is however common in a lot of churches and it is by any means just typical or critical of Nigeria. What I did like was that (maybe just as a new comer to this church) I was given a donut, this is something that we are sometimes lacking with at DCC. Saying that I will probably now be expected to purchase some on my return!!

After the service we headed back, but before leaving the Island. We stopped for some food at Tantalizers again. I suddenly felt this overwhelming tiredness and didn’t feel hungry, so just grabbed a meat pie, knowing that I could easily eat back at the hotel should I become hungry later. Then travelling back past the luxury high-rised hotels and the grandeur and the immense amount of work in progress, it’s easy to see why people that only stay on the Island can almost be fooled into thinking that this is more the norm of Lagos and be blinded to the mammoth scale of poverty and deprivation that is a stones throw away.

We hit the long bridge that joins both sides of Lagos together and leave the luxury and wealth behind us and return to Mafaluku. A warm welcome awaits me at my hotel some of the staff are now becoming quiet familiar with me. After my more expensive but substantially smaller room in Lekki, I am pleased to be back on familiar ground. I am disappointed that the internet isn’t working again as I desperately want to chat with home, but after an hour or so I receive a call from reception to be informed that the server is back. I am soon chatting on line to Tony and Beth and reassured that all is well at home and they have been so kindly looked after by another family at my church, so many of who have been such a blessing to them whilst I’ve been away. I think I might just have to get the donuts in on my return after all!

Time for some fun - Saturday 23rd

All work and no play……as they say! Today had been planned to have a break from the medical centre and work. It was also the day of the pink ball, the breast awareness event set up by Genevieve magazine to raise money for the cause.

I was picked up by Femi, with bags packed for the beach and a stay over in Lekki which is on Lagos Island (the nice side of town). To start with me and the girls from the centre got into opening the boxes of donated goods that I collected and shipped over. This was while Femi saw some patients that had turned up to see a doctor out of surgery times, with no doctor in today, Femi sorted them on before we got on our way.

We headed for the airport to exchange some money, passing on the way the Lagos equivalent to DFS, ten or more individual units next to each other with leather suites for sale. I asked why they tend to sell the same things in the right next to one another, Femi said this was because if you need a certain thing you know which area to go to, people can’t or don’t want to go from area to area as we tend to do.

When we got to the airport and exchanged our money, on the black-market as this is seen as the norm here, and you get a better rate of exchange (apparently both official and black-market rates are published in the papers). Femi offered me Kilishi, pieces of beef that are peppered, and then left in the sun to dry (all those that know me well, will I’m sure be amazed that I’d eat a piece of meat that had been left on a table out in the sun to go dry, what about hygiene, sell by dates and flies!). As determined to try everything, I tried it and it was really nice, a strong meaty taste and very spicy and hot. So far my stomach has been ok and not too affected by what and where I’ve eaten.

We then headed for Lagos Island, stopping by to pick up our tickets. Then taking a look at the beach here, which has been redeveloped with a promenade and looked very nice until you looked into the sea, unfortunately it didn’t appear clean, lots of waste floating in it. We headed for our hotel and put our bags into our rooms. This area is full of big hotels and lots of money, although evident all around is the contrast of poverty. Immediately out my room window I could see and run down shed type building with people living in it.

After eating in Tantalizers another Nigerian food chain, we headed towards a beach where Femi knew the sea would be cleaner. As we drove along a 20 kilometre stretch of road we passed huge complexes being built, walled housing estates again showing there is obviously great wealth coming to this area. We passed several large banks, churches, schools and shopping malls. Scattered around these, I suspect almost invisible to their wealthy neighbours was thousands of these shed like buildings worthy of demolition, all filled with thousands of people ( to get an idea of how many people I see daily here, picture some shopping centre like Bluewater at Christmas).

We detoured off the road to Lekowe, along unmade roads to a plot of land that, Femi hopes to one day build another medical centre on. The area had lots of unfinished properties and as with all Femi’s clinic not in the nicest part of town. The excitement obvious on his face at the thought of many low cost affordable, good standard clinics available to people that deserve better than they have in a country that appears not to care for its lower class citizen. Certainly no government support, no councils houses, no social benefits, no free health care.

Then we headed for Eleko beach, as we drove down a long road we came to a barrier (a rope across the road) the men insisted they worked for the government and we had to pay money to head for the beach, on request for a receipt, they refused to give one (probably due to the fact that they didn’t work for anyone other than themselves). A few hundred meters further on and another barrier this time a receipt was offered and we had to pay again.

There in front of me was miles of beautiful fine sand and as I found out lovely warm Atlantic sea, palm trees. This could rival any beach I have been on, although like so much here neglected there was rubbish, bottles, cans etc by the load full all along as far as you could see. Wake up Nigeria you’re your sitting on a gold mine, income from tourism is huge!

The sea was strong and as you walked in the waves swept you off your feet, but it was beautifully warm. I sat and watch as two young boys entertained me with the acrobatic display, they could make any gymnastic team given the opportunity, with their breath taking back flips etc. Not normally one to buy ‘souvenirs’, I couldn’t resist the wooden Okada and the wooden doctor and midwife checking a pregnant woman, they made me laugh…..Beth wanted a present!!! I then suddenly focused in on the sand to notice loads of tiny crabs shooting about at great speed. The boys obliged and caught one to show me in greater detail. At the end of the afternoon they deserved their few Naira for keeping me amused, which of course is what they had been hoping for.

Back at the hotel, I rushed to get ready for the Pink Ball (in aid of breast cancer awareness) I only had forty minutes or so and was very sandy and salty from the beach. I realised my room was in darkness the lights were not working (only here!). It didn’t appear that anything was going to be sorted so I showered in the dark, then got dressed and as the TV worked I managed to put my makeup on by the light from that, regularly changing channels when the programme went dark. Ready at last cinders and prince charming left for the ball.

What a glamorous affair men looking handsome and women, beautiful in some stunning dresses (Femi also scrubbed up well in his tux and dickey!). The décor of the room and tables was very well done and quiet spectacular, all with a pink hue. Speeches were made and an auction for a watch went for 800,000 Naira (about £3200), donations were pledged. Music played, food was eaten, a fashion show and a special performance by an ex-governor Donald Duke and his band, which got everyone up on their feet. We finally left at gone 01.30 and after meeting many people Doctors, comedians, motivational speakers and many more, whose name I will not even attempt to remember. It was an evening that I will surely remember.

Friday, 22 May 2009

It's friday 22nd

Today started with a lay in, no rush to head over to the medical centre as nothing was planned for today, I leisurely got showered and ready, decided against breakfast, really not eating as much here. I’m not sure if it’s due to the food being filling or the heat suppressing my appetite. What I do have I generally enjoy.

My lift was called and we made our way through the usual noise and traffic of the morning rush. Past the men and women selling there newspapers, yams, rice, past the people tending there ‘garden centres’. Work seems to start early here, probably before the sun gets too hot (but then they are there working all day), or just that they are hard workers.

As I was dropped off and walked up to the centre I had my usual welcomes from the men at the entrance to the street. I walked into the centre which was in darkness, NEPA was down again. As my eyes adjusted I walked up an already darkened corridor past the consulting room to the stairs at the far end of the building. These stairs always fill like a mountain to climb, I think it’s due to the uneven depth of each step, certainly not to there total height, and undoubtedly not helped by the fact that it is always very warm in this area.

I thought the Doctor was out at meetings today and that I would be pottering about at the centre. As I arrived he was still there and suggested I came with him to a meeting, at a small private hospital, at which the owner may be moving away. This was in the area of Dopemu, not too far from where we had been yesterday.

On the way we passed through Akowonjo, Femi told me this area was where he worked before heading to the UK. We was about to pass the old hospital that he worked, Crystal specialist hospital, he decided to call in a pay a flying visit, the first time he had been back since 1995/6. No sooner than we had pulled up on the drive and got out of the car, came screams of excitement from people that remembered him. We went into the very busy hospital and met many people that worked with Femi They obviously had nothing but fond memories of him. Every department we walked into gave out yells of excitement; both men and woman alike were all frilled to see him. I just follow him laughing at all there reactions as he entered the rooms.

I was escorted through to meet the owner, Femi’s mentor and trainer Dr Adeyemi a renowned gynaecologist, Femi fondly recalled him being like a father to him. A lovely man that had a warmth about him and obviously, as with all we met, a soft spot for the charming Dr Olaleye! It felt great to have witnessed and been there to see the genuine affection that they all have for Femi. I see it from the pretty young ladies that I have met whilst here, they often speak highly of him, but knowing and witnessing how charming he can be; I smile and agree with them. This was genuine admiration from colleagues, people he worked with for many years before heading for the UK, this rubber stamped for me the kind of man Dr Femi Olaleye is.

After our short visit and with promises of Femi returning to see them, we headed off to the meeting. The hospital we now entered was large on first impressions, but in contrast to Crystal specialist hospital which was brimming over with people, this was quiet. The owners a man and wife, Doctors politely showed us around and Femi discussed with them he’s business. The rooms which all had potential were tatty and looked hardly used. Something wasn’t working here, a shame when you see what they have in comparison to the clinic in Mafaluku.

On our way back, we looked for roasted plantain and nuts which someone had recommended I tried. Unfortunately no one was cooking these so we settles for roasted corn, something you see a lot of people cooking and selling here in big BBQ type drums. These I was informed by Femi you eat with coconut, a combination that does blend well together I must agree.

Back to my hotel, NEPA was, as is the case numerous times a day, down as I blindly made my way to my room in the darkness of the corridor, until I opened my room and found light from the window. I grab my stuff and headed out to the bar area after spraying myself with the now compulsory insect repellent. I am hardly able to breathe for a few minutes, due to the fumes and smell, and then cringe at the string as I put some on my face. I sat myself in the usual place, able to plug in if needed and if NEPA complies. Whilst catching up with this blog, emails, policies etc and watching the staff going about their business, whilst saying welcome to me, every time they passed by.

On return to my room the internet server was down, unable to contact home, I made my way down to dinner and order a now favourite of mine, rice and sauce with chicken and plantain. This is something that isn’t on the menu but I have learned is available on asking. The sauce is red and hot and delicious, fried plantains if you haven’t tried them are similar in taste to roasted sweet potatoes but look like bananas. I feel the need for a Nigerian take away to open near me when I get home, plenty of the food I’ve tried can easily rival many Indian and Chinese dishes and I’m sure their will be some foods I’ll miss on return to the UK.