Tchia (Mamoli), Mozambique

Tchia is the first village visit of the day. The nurses, Horacio and Carolina have set up their folding table and chairs as a makeshift clinic, and the villagers have already begun to arrive with their children for vaccinations and checkups. They have not worked for long when an elderly woman arrives, bent over from carrying her four year old granddaughter, Ilda, on her back during the long, dusty walk to the village center. Her grandson, two year old Constantino, walks next to her crying.

The woman, Cristina Tembe, wearily sets Ilda down several meters from the nurses' station, and the family approaches when it is their turn. Ilda walks on her own now, but slowly because she cannot bend her right leg which is covered from foot to knee with burns. On her way to the table, she bends down to pick up two white hair bands that she places on her wrist and plays with them for the next hour.

Feb 17 Mamoli - Ilda 3.JPG

Joel, the Mercy Air pilot, speaks with the grandmother in broken Portuguese to learn what happened. Although she is only 4, Ilda has already started school. Five days earlier, as lunch was prepared at the school, it spilled on her leg and left behind a long line of burns. Instead of going to a clinic, during those 5 days, Ilda received the traditional treatment, a salve of leaves and sugar applied to the burn but there was no improvement. Now, Ilda sits quietly with her brother as Horacio and her grandmother speak. Flies are constantly drawn to Ilda’s leg, attracted by the sugar water. Despite this, she has a big smile on her face as she alternately plays with and comforts her brother next to her.

Joel and Horacio continue to talk with Cristina, trying to convince her to take Ilda to the hospital. But Cristina is worried because she is the children's only care giver and will have no way to provide for the children if they must stay overnight in the hospital. Because of this, she decides to continue with the traditional treatment. However, after several minutes of further discussion, Cristina, though hesitant, is finally convinced to take young Ilda to the clinic.

Feb 17 Mamoli - Ilda 4.JPG

In most cases, it is best if villagers help each other in times of need rather than depending on a Mulungu (foreigner). Aware of this, Joel makes contact with Francesco, the only villager with a car. After explaining their situation, Francesco agrees to take the family to Bela Vista hospital. Now, Ilda's leg can heal properly from the burns, and in addition to playing with the other children, Ilda will be able to help her grandmother again in caring for Constantino and their home.