Monday, October 1, 2012

Gbondapi


           We traveled 3 hours of difficult roads to Pujehun District on Wednesday, Sep 19.  It took 2 hours to go the last 16 miles!  On Thursday morning, we set out to find a village to be our new home.  Mamie Jinnah (our Sierra Leone midwife friend and mentor) went with us – she has contacts in the villages and had previously informed them that we were coming.
 
            We visited different villages but decided on a village called “Gbondapi”.  We had a meeting on the chief’s veranda with the village chief and elders.  Of course, we drew a large crowd….everyone was so curious about the pumoys (white people).  We spent about 20 minutes explaining our intentions and answering questions the chief and elders had for us.  After all of the questions were answered and they understood our intentions, the chief and elders welcomed us to stay and live in the village.  They seem excited to have us come and stay!
 
            Gbondapi is located at the end of a dirt road full of potholes.  Some potholes you literally have to drive into and then drive out of!  Jenna and I are learning a new type of driving : )  The road stops because there is a large river on the other side of the village.  You can take a boat on this river and be on the Atlantic Ocean in just a couple hours.  We are at the end of the rainy season, so the river is very flooded right now and even coming up and flooding part of the market.  Every Wednesday, there is a trade fair in Gbondapi.  This is a large trade fair with people coming from all over the country to buy and sell.  They say the village size doubles on that day from 1,000 to 2,000 people!

            Most people in the village speak Mende (tribal language we are learning), but a few people also speak English or Krio (like Creole).  We were very surprised to find a health centre in Gbondapi!  There are 2 midwives, 2 nurses and a Community Health Officer working there.  They do general healthcare but focus on maternal/infant care.  They say there are about 20 babies delivered every month.  People from many surrounding villages come for deliveries, especially if there are complications.  We are excited to partner with this clinic.  One of the nurses working there is actually my friend – I was shocked to find out that she was working there!  : )
 
            The chief arranged for us to live with a family in Gbondapi for the first 3 months.  The father’s name is Paul – he was the one to give us the tour of Gbondapi.  He has a wife and children and a boat!  They live just several feet from the river.  I will let you know more about the family as I get to know them. The first year is primarily language learning and culture learning.  Jenna and I are excited to live with a family and to learn how to live like they do in the village.  We will not only be spending time learning the language with our language helper but also working in the farms, fishing, cooking, going to the market, playing the local games/sports, and all else that is part of life in Gbondapi.  We move this Wednesday, October 3.

             Jenna and I bought a puppy.  We saw her in a nearby village when we went to drop off our friend.  We had planned to get a dog at some point….this one just came along sooner than we expected!  We inquired about her and bought her for $2.25 : ) Her name is Jayla KonԐ.  KonԐ means “happy” in Mende.  It is pronounced “Konay”.  It is a girl. She will move to the village with us.  Pray that she will be encouraging and fun for us as well as for the kids in our host family! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Thankyou to everyone for your thoughts and prayers :)  

I just thought I would send out a small note to tell you about my first African birthday here!

It started with the birth of a baby boy at 6:01am!  We were at the hospital all night waiting for him to be born as he is the son of one of the carpenters at the orphanage!  I didn't think we would be a part of a birth so soon!  The baby was born at a Doctor's Without Borders Hospital.  It was cool to see their set-up.  The nurses even gave us a tour of the clinic.  It is quite overwhelming to think about practicing as midwives here, but thankfully we have this beginning time to learn culture and language.  I am very glad for that!

After the birth we went outside the hospital to eat some potato leaves and rice for breakfast.  All of a sudden, two huge tubs of rotting deer flesh were placed right in front of us!  Maybe they wanted to sell us some, but the smell almost made our bellies loose their breakfast!  It was pretty funny :)  Apparently they hadn't smoked the meat good enough.  The deer here are very small, maybe the size of  a raccoon.  All meat that is wild is called "bush meat".    

 In the evening, Kayla and I walked around to each of the 5 homes where the Jonathan's House children live and passed out some celebratory birthday candies.  At each home the children sang me birthday songs.  They were pretty sweet.  Then we enjoyed some delicious brownies that Christie (the JCC director) made for us.  

What a great first African birthday :)  

Tomorrow we hit the dirt and potholes road to go to Pujehun to look for a village!  It seems crazy that we are planning to just drive around a check out villages to live in, but that is exactly what we plan to do!  Thankfully Mammy Jinnah has a few options for us to look at!  

Today we did our first official language lesson using the material that Kayla studied during her language aquisition course while still in the States.  It was a good feeling to have a direction to go in language instead of just learning random words and phrases.  I am excited for more of that.  

I would love continued prayers for safety as we travel tomorrow, and that the Holy Spirit would show us clearly the village that we are to live in!  Every day I feel a little more settled here, even though I still feel some ups and downs :)  But that is normal!  The people are so friendly and willing to teach us.  I am thankful also to be with such a great teammate (Kayla).

Till next time,

Jenna

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Salutations from Sierra Leone!

Hi Everybody!

We have made it safe and sound to Bo, Sierra Leone!  We are so happy to be here, and enjoyed a warm welcome from all the staff and kids here at Jonathan's House (the orphanage).  Our trip here went very well; we had no problems at all and even made it with all of our luggage!  What a bonus!

We have started learning the Mende language.  Everyone is very enthusiastic to teach us.  It is fun for Jenna to try all the new food, and Kayla is enjoying eating it again.  As we are sitting here writing this at the internet cafe, Jenna is eating a "meat pie" for the first time.  She likes it :) 

On monday we are planning to drive to Pujehun villages to start looking for a host family and a village to live in for the next few months.  We will let you know what we discover next week.  Thankfully our local midwife friend, Mammy Jinnah, is connecting us with the villages and the people there. 

Thanks for your prayers and support. 

We will try to update you all sometime soon if we can!

Jenna and Kayla

Saturday, September 8, 2012

12 Hour Count Down!!


It is only 12 hours before we leave Marshalltown, Iowa and start our journey to Sierra Leone!  There is excitement, enthusiasm, sadness, and anticipation in the air.  We have completed our packing and planning, emails and thank-you notes, taping boxes and washing laundry….we are ready to go.  We just finished our last American dinner full of yummy pizza and coke with our families.  It has been so nice to have our two families together here in Iowa for the last few days before we leave. 

Our families and us spent some time packing the shipping container for the orphanage in Sierra Leone.  It was fun to all work together; see the attached photos.  Among the piles of clothes and shoes that we have packed, there are also boxes of medical supplies, pallets of floor tiles, bicycles, basketball hoops, baby clothes, school supplies and much much more!  Thank-you so much to those of you who spent time, energy and resources to donate items for Sierra Leone. 

We will be stepping onto African soil at about 7:30pm (Sierra Leone time) this coming Monday!  We will update you as soon as we settle in. 

Thank-you SO much for all your love, support, encouragement and prayers J

Love Jenna and Kayla





Sierra Leone, Here We Come!




The emotions are mixed and many! Some days, we are so excited and it’s hard to wait another day. Other days, we miss our family terribly just thinking about it. Some days, we are nervous about learning a new language and then the next day we will be so excited to jump into the culture and language. Sometimes, it all seems so surreal and other times so normal.


Flight Schedule


  • Sunday, September 9 @ 1:38pm - Leave DesMoines, IA to Chicago
  • Chicago to Brussels, Belgium
  • Brussels to Freetown, Sierra Leone
  • Monday, September 10 @ 7:20pm (1:20pm Iowa time) - ARRIVE IN SIERRA LEONE


Initial Steps
When we first arrive, we will find a host family and language helper. We will apply for our residency card, work permit, SL driver’s license, SL Nurse License and SL Midwife license. Please pray with us as we fill out paperwork and attend meetings to become legal to live and work in Sierra Leone.

Language and Culture
In July, Kayla attended a program of language acquisition in Colorado (www.mti.org). She learned how children learn languages and how to expand our American “box” of hearing and pronunciation. Children are not burdened with the conjugation of vowels, etc. They learn comprehension and context through repetition and kinesthetic learning, then later the conjugation. The training gave us activities and tools to effectively learn a language. We are excited to implement the learning tools taught to us and start learning Mende!
The first year will be primarily learning the Mende language and culture. We will language learn full time. We strongly believe in learning the heart language of the people in order to have greater long term effectiveness. We trust that the year of full time language learning will be helpful in building relationships and trust. Please pray for us to have patience, diligence and grace as we work hard to learn the Mende language and culture.


Village Life
We are hoping to initially live in a small village outside of Pujehun. Please pray that provision will be made for moving to the village and that we will find a host home there. Living in the village, we will be away from the hospital. Consequently, we will have the freedom to learn language and build relationships full time without the pressure of being full-time midwives.


Host Family
One of the first things we will do is find a family to live with. We hope to find this family as soon as possible and immediately immerse ourselves in the culture. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would be preparing that family and their home. Please pray also that we would be led to this family.


Updates
We will keep you updated as much as possible about life in Sierra Leone. We won’t have internet access in the village, so we will come into town periodically to write home to friends and family through newsletters and blog updates.  It has been advised to us that we have minimal contact with home for the first 6 weeks in Sierra Leone. This will help us bond better and quicker with our host family and local community. So please forgive us if we don’t respond to email or facebook comments. We will be writing short blog posts within those weeks to keep you updated. Know that you are still in our thoughts and prayers. We appreciate your support so much!


Love Kayla and Jenna





Saturday, August 25, 2012

24 hours till I fly away....

In just over 24 hours I will begin my journey to Sierra Leone! I will first be flying to the States to visit my cousin and meet up with Kayla in Iowa. It will be a good time of meeting her family and making final preparations for our new life in Africa.
Friends at my goodbye party!
I feel so loved and supported by all my family and friends here in Canada. My mom and dad put on an icecream sunday goodbye party yesterday evening. It is so amazing to be surrounded by so many people who are cheering me on with prayers and support. Thanks to all who have invested into my life! I am so grateful.
Ma and Pa with me at the photobooth :)
Goodbye Cake
Prayer time at the goodbye party
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A small peek at the large pile of donations!  Hope they all fit in our pickup truck.....
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The donation pile has grown and grown! We are now bringing over 200 baby kits, clothes, shoes, school supplies and medical supplies to Iowa to be packed into the container and shipped to Sierra Leone! I have made arrangements with the USA border to get all the supplies across without any issues, but prayers would be appreciated. My parents plan to drive our pickup truck packed full of these donations to Iowa in the beginning of September.
Goodbyes are always hard, but I try to remind myself that it is good that I feel sad to leave my home, as it means that my connections and relationships here are rich and deep.
 See you soon Kayla!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Introduction


Hello everyone!  As Kayla mentioned, my name is Jenna Falk.  I am so excited and honored to be joining Kayla in this amazing adventure to Sierra Leone.  I thought I would give you a little background about myself so you can get to know me. 


Growing up
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and then moved to beautiful Black Creek, Vancouver Island, British Columbia when I was 9 months old.  My Dad has been the pastor of our church since that time.  My mom is amazing!  She stayed at home to raise and home-school my three younger brothers and I.  I feel so blessed to have grown up in the country with lots of time spent outside.  My usual activities included playing in the forest, horseback-riding, fires on the beach, playing guitar/piano and hanging out with friends.  My parents also started and ran a children’s camp, so most of my summers involved helping out at camp.  After graduating from high-school, I went to another local camp called Camp Homewood where I worked as a horse wrangler.    

The Background to Midwifery
I have been interested in midwifery since I was 17.  However, though I applied and was granted an interview at a University of British Columbia for their midwifery program, I was not accepted at that time due to my age and lack of life experience.  Instead, I decided to stay at Camp Homewood as the head wrangler for my first year out of high-school.  1 year quickly turned into 5 incredible years serving at camp with kids and horses.  Although my vision to become a midwife had been put on the back shelf of my heart, the desire was still there.  When I heard about Newlife International School of Midwifery in the Philippines, I knew that I needed to look into midwifery again.  After applying, I was accepted into the 2 year program; I began my journey to the Philippines in August 2009.


Two Years in the Philippines
Over the next two years, I was challenged, inspired, educated, and amazed.  Although I went to the Philippines excited about delivering babies, I came away in awe of the impact that a midwife has on a woman and her entire family.  Because of the intimacy of the job, a midwife has the ability to quickly develop trusting relationships with women that transcend culture, faith, and socio-economic backgrounds.  I saw many women’s lives touched as they were empowered be strong, wise, and healthy mothers for their babies.  While in the Philippines, I was also made aware of the many moms and babies who die unnecessarily around the world, often due to a lack of trained health care provider at the time of birth.  Every year over 350,000 women die during pregnancy, birth or postpartum.   80% of these deaths are completely avoidable.  99% occur in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  3 million babies will also die this year before they are 1 month old.  

Meeting my Team
While in the Philippines, I became really good friends with my roommate, Kayla Hatch.  Kayla was preparing to return to Sierra Leone as a nurse and a midwife.  Although we talked lots about Africa, I didn’t ever mention that I was potentially interested in joining her.  Everything changed one day in September 2011 when Kayla and I were talking on the phone.  She gave me the invite to come, and my heart leaped!  We spent the rest of the conversation dreaming about Africa together, and from there I began to seriously think and pray about going with her.  After Kayla came and visited my family and I in January, I finally committed to going for sure!  I am so excited about this next year and everything that God has for us in Sierra Leone.  He has been so extravagant in these last few months as we have been preparing to leave.  From committed support people, to medical supplies, we really feel His hand of favor on our lives and on our decision to go. 

 We will be leaving North America on September 9 2012, and travelling to a town in Sierra Leone called Pujehun.  God has already prepared the way for us to settle in this place!  Because the town is a hub, with over 300 villages surrounding it, it is a very strategic home base.  Also, when Kayla visited Pujehun in Sept 2011, she met Mamie Jinnah, a Christian midwife who has welcomed us to come and has called Kayla her “sister midwife”.  Mamie Jinnah is already training locals to be midwives and would like help!  There is also a brand new maternity/child hospital in the town that was built by UNICEF last year.  However, it is run by only one doctor, 2 midwives, and untrained volunteers.  The district medical officer in charge of the hospital was excited when he heard that Kayla planned to move there and help.  His only regret was that she wasn’t staying right that day!  It is so amazing to be going to a place where there are so many open doors for us.         

Sierra Leone Stats
The stats in Sierra Leone are grave.  It is one of the poorest countries in the world.  Almost everyone knows someone personally who has died in childbirth.   1 out of every 8 woman will die at some point in her lifetime due to pregnancy or birth.  1 in every 5 babies will die.  In this country of 6.5 million, there are only approximately 70-80 doctors and 112 midwives.  In Pujehun, there is 1 doctor and 2 practicing midwives with whom we hope to work with to serve over 300 villages.  The need is huge and the numbers are overwhelming, but as we go, I am reminded of Heidi Baker’s quote to “stop for the one”. 

Our Vision
The plan is actually pretty simple.  Move to Africa.  Learn the culture and language.  Make friends with the people.  Practice as midwives.  Reproduce birth attendants and fight the high death rate by training up locals to be midwives.  Love on every person that we meet.  Be the hands and feet of Jesus to share His good news. 

Thanks for reading this long post!  Hopefully the next one won’t be quite so lengthy!  May you be encouraged and blessed this week as you walk out your own journey in whatever place God has you! 

                                                                                                Jenna Falk