Thursday, October 18, 2012

Gogo is Still Sick and Meet My Friend Deli

An update of Gogo’s condition.  A few weeks back I wrote a blog about Gogo being sick and the difficulties in getting transportation for her to see a doctor.  After those initial visits, she was sent back home with an unsure diagnosis and a packet of antibiotics.  Since then, Gogo’s condition only deteriorated and Make took her back to the city hospital where she was admitted.  Gogo has been at the hospital now going on three weeks.  Being at the hospital this long with no improvement, I can only assume Gogo won’t be coming back to the homestead, so I went to the hospital to visit instead.
I took the 9:00a bus to the city arriving at 10:30a.  It is about a 15-20 minute walk to the hospital from where the bus drops me off.  On the way there, I pass the most modern mall in Swaziland, complete with a set of escalators.  Swazis are very proud of the mall and its very common for school field trips to add this mall to their list of attractions so their students can marvel at the moving steps.
Coincidentally, as I am passing the mall, I see my Make approaching me from the direction of the hospital.  She is on her way home to check on the homestead, to arrange for a tractor to come the next day, and then to plant the rest of her fields with maize.  It is planting season, and regardless of Gogo’s health, there will be a bigger issue in the fall if there is no maize.  My family, like most Swazi families is reliant on subsistence farming for survival, and Make does the bulk of the work by herself.
As we finish our short talk on the side of the road next to the mall with escalators, Make gives me directions as to how to find Gogo at the hospital, even giving me the siSwati words to ask for help.  I learn that Gogo’s name is Maggie which makes me happy for some reason.  Make doesn’t seem confident that I will be able to find her room, but she also doesn’t realize is that most people are really eager to help me (especially places where there aren’t usually white people).  So I rely on this expectation that someone will help me and don’t fret about not finding my way.
Upon entering the hospital grounds, I instantly realize that this place is bigger than an upscaled single-hall-wayed clinic that I had envisioned, but this hospital was a maze of corridors (more like covered sidewalks between buildings), a maze, a very similar feeling  to hospitals in America.  I am basing my comparisons on my first-hand knowledge of American hospitals which coincidentally can be counted on one hand (first-hand, one hand… get it!), but also my extensive knowledge of hospital tv shows.
So after being led to the female medical ward by a very accommodating nurse, who I’m sure stopped everything she was doing to walk me to the other side of the hospital, I successfully found my Auntie taking care of Gogo in the female ward.  The ward is like nothing I have seen before.  I walk into a large open room with 16 beds, about half of which were occupied.  There are curtains around to separate the room into 8 – 2 bed ‘rooms’ with only enough room to walk between the beds.  There are large open windows along the long wall.  This day was overcast and cool with intermittent showers all day and they have all the windows open.  This is a room full of sick people and probably the only room in Swaziland with every door and window open.  The people in this country are notorious for shutting the windows on public transport even on the hottest of days, but maybe the open windows here are to suppress the transmission of communicable diseases since there is a pretty high rate of tuberculosis in the country.
Auntie, Make’s sister is staying with Gogo alone now that Make had to take care of business back at the homestead.  Auntie’s responsibilities are to stay with Gogo, change her sheets daily, bathe her, feed her, and make sure she is warm and comfortable.  Meanwhile, Gogo is curled up on her bed looking thinner than ever even under the mountain of at least 5 blankets piled on top of her.  Gogo is on oxygen now and I can hear the air flowing.  It sounds like a pretty high dose from what I can tell.  Gogo has a catheter in; the pee bag is hanging off the side of the bed.  I doubt that Gogo can walk anymore.  The charts are held in a box in the center of the room, so there is nothing I can read to know her diagnosis or prognosis.
I say hello to Gogo.  It is hard to see her in this condition.  She looks so helpless, and yet there is nothing I can do to help either.  Gogo sees me, probably surprised that I visited.  All she says is “oh, intfombi yami” over and over.  My girl, my girl.”  This breaks my heart, but I am happy she still recognizes me and that hopefully, I brought a little light to her day.
When talking to Mom about my visit, she tells me that this ward-style hospital set-up is much like how American hospitals were set up in the past before it was known that having a whole bunch of sick people in one room didn’t promote health or diminish the transmission of communicable diseases very well.  This type of hospital is a relic of the past, much like cassette tapes, VCRs, $2 bills, and satellite dishes.  This hospital did have a private room section for the patients who could afford it.  The private rooms were probably more similar to the hospitals I am familiar with.  It is unfortunate though that the standard of my Gogo’s care is soley dependent on how much money she has.  If she had more money she could be in one of those private rooms instead of being immuno-compromised in a ward surrounded by a bunch of other sick people.  This isn’t just a problem unique to the third world, however, it’s just magnified here.  You know the whole -cut Medicare/Medicaid benefits because those people are lazy and we shouldn’t have to pay for them- debate.  Just because my Gogo is not wealthy doesn’t mean she should be put in a hospital room that will make her die faster.  The standard of her care should not be decided by money.  She is a person just like everyone else.
Time was ticking now.  I still had some things to do in ton before catching the afternoon bus home.  I say goodbye to Gogo and she reaches her hand out after me, “intfombi yami, intfombi yami.” “My girl, my girl.”  With a wave goodbye, I am off.  I reach the front door and ask for a toilet, I still have a long journey ahead of me.  Again I receive great hospitality.  A simple point down the hall is never sufficient.  The woman gets up from her post and walks me right to the door of the bathroom, offering to stay in case I can’t find my way back, but I politely tell her that I will figure it out.  I know you aren’t to concerned about my bladder, but this trip to the bathroom was significant to me because it was the worst part of the whole trip.  The room itself was clean enough, that wasn’t the problem.  The problem as that this bathroom had no toilet paper and no hand soap! Really!?!  This hospital is among the best health care facilities in the country and they have no soap! No soap dispenser, no soap residue on the back of the sink, no bar to hold a toilet paper roll, nothing!  And upon brief inspection of the men’s room (the door was open), the conditions were consistent, a condition I would expect at a public restroom at a state park or gas station, but not at a hospital in a country’s central city.  Great, even less attention paid to communicable disease.  Thankfully, I was leaving there.  My Gogo may not be so lucky.
The following poem, written by Delisile Simelane, a friend from my community seems to foreshadow my Gogo’s unfortunate situation.
When death comes around
He is the only one to boast
He brings rain
Rain rain rain
Rain down every one’s cheeks
Rain of sorrow, reign of despair.
When death comes around
everything comes to a halt.
Life stops, no more breathing.
laughing or crying.
Death is silence.
When death comes around
He leaves a very huge gap.
A hole of hopelessness,
A hole no one else could ever fill.
When death comes around
Peace dashes out through the window,
and immediately he enters through the door.
Death is a silence with no peace.
By:  Simelane Delisile
Delisile is 19 years old.  She dropped out of her senior year of high school when she fell pregnant.  A girl cannot remain in school while she is pregnant, and teachers even have the right to ask a girl to take a pregnancy test if they presume someone is pregnant. Anyways, Deli was at the top of her class when she was forced to drop out.  I met her about halfway through her pregnancy when she approached me to ask for money to pay for her exams even though she wasn’t finishing the classwork.  I had to let her down because I won’t help pay for anyone’s school fees or else I would be bankrupt in no time.  I told her I would help with her studying and English.  We have been friends ever since.  Now we teach an adult ed. class for people wanting to learn to read and speak English.  Deli teaches the siSwati sections and she is doing a great job.  I teach knitting/other hand crafts and supplement the English lessons.  
Deli lives on a homestead with only her father (who she calls ‘the old man’), her younger brother in Grade 4, and sister-in-law who also has a baby.  It is a small homestead by Swazi standards.  Deli’s mother is not around anymore.  I have not asked her directly, but taking this country’s statistics into consideration, HIV might have something to do with it. 
 Deli lives in a stick-and-mud hut with a grass thatched roof, no electricity, and no cell phone.  It is common for a person to have a cellphone even when they have nothing else.  Deli, however, is living with the bare essentials.  Her hut has a bed, a table for a candle, school books and Bible, and a box where she keeps her clothes, that’s it.  No crib, no toys or keepsakes from childhood, no posters on the wall that are typical of regular teenagers her age, nothing. 
I asked Deli about the father of her baby girl, Anale (means ‘enough’), 7 weeks old now.  She doesn’t have many good things to say about him.  When she told him she was pregnant, she said that he got in his car and sped off, literally leaving her in the dirt.  It hurts my heart to think about that image.  It also hurts my heart even worse that 7 weeks ago when she went to give birth, she had to travel three hours by herself on crowded public transport, while in labor, to the hospital where she was to give birth for the first time.  It was a different hospital than the one my Gogo is at, but in a smaller city, so who knows what those conditions are like.  Hopefully they had soap.  Luckily, giving birth there only cost E24 ($3USD).  I hope the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t apply here.
 Deli has become a close friend of mine.  She is looking forward to helping me with starting a GLOW Club in my community.  She will be a leader of the group and in January she will be taking part of week-long pre-camp training session to prepare for her role as a counselor at camp in April.  This is an awesome opportunity for Deli, a smart girl in an unfortunate situation.  She already shows promise of overcoming her obstacles and can you imagine how much confidence leading at Camp with 75 girls will give her!  Please help make this reality by donating to GLOW.
 I didn’t mean to make Deli’s story an advertisement for you to donate to GLOW, I promise!  She helps me in my teaching and will help me in my GLOW project while I help her with her writing.  She brings me her poems and compositions that she writes out of her own free will.  I told her I would publish some of her writing on my blog, so here is her writing along with a bit of her back story and coincidentally, an opportunity for you to help her out.
Delisile and Anale in my house.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Please Support Our Project!!!

GLOW (Girls Leading Our World)

I have been waiting for the right time to tell you all about one of the greatest projects I am working on here in Swaziland.  It is called Girls Leading Our World (GLOW).  GLOW Swaziland envisions a nation where women and girls lead safe, healthy, and happy lives and have no limitations on their dreams.  GLOW exists to encourage, support, and inspire gender equality and female empowerment in the Kingdom of Swaziland.  GLOW creates and supports environments where young Swazi women can obtain information and acquire skills that will enable them to improve their life experience and expand opportunities for a successful and satisfying life as an African woman.

Peace Corps Volunteers around the entire country are starting GLOW Clubs for girls in the rural communities to have access to information and to empower the girls to take the reins of their own life and become the next leaders in this country.  Our biggest initiative is a week-long GLOW Camp where girls are nominated from all over the country to come together for a leadership camp.  Camp GLOW’s purpose is to provide a safe and supportive environment for girls where they can receive information and training in the areas of leadership, female health issues, self-discovery and career planning.

As a youth in America I spent summers attending soccer camps, church mission trips, camping with my parents, and later working a Girl Scout Camp.  These experiences are huge character builders that Swazi girls are not usually fortunate to have.  We are creating Camp GLOW to give this experience to Swazi girls.

For those of you who have been wondering how you could help me in my service, this is your opportunity!  You can help give this opportunity to the girls of Swaziland.  WE are in need of donations and because the U.S. dollar goes a long way over here no donation is too small. Your contribution will go directly to making Camp GLOW a successful event.

Don’t miss your chance to help this amazing project!  Of all the projects I have worked on in Swaziland, this one will have the greatest and most lasting impact and therefore we really need your help.  Your support means a lot. A lot to me and a lot to the girls whose life you will be impacting!


Follow the link to  DONATE TO GLOW!!!
It is preferred to donate via the internet since there is no time delay.  However, if you want, I can make the (snail) mail version available to you.  Send me an e-mail and let me know if you would rather donate that way. My e-mail is
And if you need extra incentive, charitable contributions to the Peace Corps are tax-deductible under section 170(c)1 of the Internal Revenue Code! (Awesome, I know!)
Click to DONATE TO GLOW!!!
Come on! Now its really time to DONATE TO GLOW!!! If you ever thought of sending a care package, this is your opportunity to support me in my service.
HERE IS THE OFFICIAL LETTER (because I am a poor PCV and can't send it to all of you):

Kelly Tooley

Peace Corps Swaziland

P.O. Box 2797

Mbabane, H100

Swaziland, AFRICA

 Dear all of my family, friends and blog readers:

As you know I am currently serving with the Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Swaziland in Sub Sahara Africa. The purpose of this letter is to tell you about an exciting project that I am working on and to offer you an opportunity to help if you can.

 The project is a gender empowerment effort known as Project GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). This will be the second year of GLOW’s existence in Swaziland and its premier activity will be a five day leadership camp for teenage girls scheduled for the April school vacation. Through a Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) partial funds are available to support the camp, however it is the role of those of us who will design and lead the camp to obtain matching funds from friends and family back home.

Camp GLOW’s purpose is to provide a safe and supportive environment for girls where they can receive information and training in the areas of leadership, female health issues, self-discovery and career planning. The camp will nurture exploration of personalities, individual talents and will fortify the resolve of young woman to break out of stereotypes and behaviors that hinder their success and happiness. Girls that attend Camp GLOW will be expected to return to their schools and communities and initiate GLOW Clubs and to share the information and skills that they have acquired.

 Because the U.S. dollar goes a long way over here no donation is too small. Your contribution will go directly to Camp GLOW and will most likely be applied to providing meals for the campers and for providing transportation to and from the camp location. Follow the link to DONATE TO GLOW to find more information about the project. I may also have a list of in kind contribution items that would also help us a great deal (but I don't have that list ready yet).

On behalf of all of the GLOW girls, campers and volunteers, I thank you in advance for anything that you can do to help us empower females and improve the lives of all who live in this small, but incredibly special, nation of Swaziland.

Kelly and The GLOW Team

Click to DONATE TO GLOW!!! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Gogo is sick.

My Gogo (grandma) is well into her 80s, surpassing even America's life
expectancy. At one point not too long ago, life expectancy in
Swaziland was only 32.6 years (but now it hovers around the 48-49 year
range). Her years have more than doubled that 32 year bar and come
close to doubling the current rate, but those years have definitely
taken their toll on her health. When she stands her back is hunched
over as she grips her walking stick. It takes obvious effort for her
just to lift her head to say hello in the morning (in siSwati, of
course). Her walk is better described as a shuffle as she moves
around the homestead finding the next shady spot, hiding from the
relentless Swazi sun. Once I saw her fall when her shoe caught on a
rock. Her body is so fragile, she was lucky she didn't break any

Meanwhile, I am a 24 year old healthy American with a life expectancy
around 79 and I just finished a week-long visit to town for my
mid-service medical check-up. We get tested for everything in the
book, get a mental health evaluation, and a dentist check-up. The US
Government is really looking out for us volunteers, but the Swazis we
live among are not so lucky. If they get sick they just stay home and
sleep until they recover. There is no such thing as a check-up here
for a normal Swazi person and I have clinic right in my community so
it's not like they have to travel forever to get there. Mothers go
to the clinic to get immunizations for their babies and ARVs (HIV
meds) are distributed there, but access to healthcare here is not made
easy, especially for people who need it the most, the sick people.
Sick people are generally old and immobile or have waited so long to
get treatment that they are now too weak for traveling.

When I arrived home from my check-up, I found that my Gogo was sick
with some kind of respiratory infection. I can hear fluid in her
lungs, like asthma when she walks. She doesn't walk very well even
when she is healthy and now it is difficult for her to breathe. I can
go to the clinic like it's no big issue, and I actually crossed the
whole country to get to my appointments, but I am neither sick nor old
which makes that kind of traveling much much easier.
My Make (mom) decided to take Gogo to the hospital in the city rather
than our clinic here in the community. At the hospital Gogo can
receive more extensive care, the care that she probably needs.
However, getting to the hospital is no easy task. Make doesn't have
a car and for Gogo to use public transport at her age and condition is
simply out of the question. Make has to find someone with a car and
arrange to get Gogo to the hospital. But people are always busy with
their own lives. It took three days to arrange a ride and even the
morning of the arrangement, Make was unsure whether the man would
actually show up. When she called his phone in the morning, he was
busy fetching water from the river and who knows how long that could
take. He eventually did show up, just three hours late! They did
some tests, ran some blood, and then sent her home.

The next week, Gogo is still not any better. I can still hear
asthma-like sounds in her respiration. One of the days she became
confused and came to my door thinking it was her house. Make wants
to take her to the clinic again, not the one in the city, just the one
about 10km from here. Transport is an issue again, but so is the time
of year. It is planting season now, and Make is busy preparing the
fields for this year's maize crop. Sustenance farming is how people
survive here, so even though Gogo is sick and should probably see a
doctor, people are coming to help Make put in the maize seeds for the
I called a friend who is a teacher at the school next to the clinic.
She has a car, so I asked her if she could take Gogo and Make to the
clinic. To be honest, I took this woman's number and befriended her
specifically because she has a car and if I ever thought there was a
security risk or emergency she could get me somewhere safe. She is a
really nice person, and I am sure I would have been friends with her
without her car, but it did add incentive.

Anyways, this friend was able to take Gogo to the clinic. Gogo got
some more medicine, they checked the results of the previous tests,
they said she didn't need an x-ray, and they sent her home. I am not
quite sure how Make got Gogo back home in the middle of the day since
my teacher friend was still in school. All I know is what I saw.
Make and Gogo returned from the clinic as I was leaving to go teach a
class of my own. Gogo was in a wheel barrow as a neighbor pushed her
from the bus station back to home. A wheel barrow! I know I do my
fair share of complaining about living life in Swaziland, but life is
rough here, especially for elderly and sickly. I am glad I don't have
to be here when I am old. I don't want to have to wait for days to
get to the clinic, given medicines that don't work, and then pushed
home is a wheel barrow! Yet another reason I am happy to be American.
It is times like these I am extra happy to have won the birth lottery
by being born in America.

So its a week later and Gogo is still sick and getting weaker but she
is a tough woman. How else could she have lasted this long, right?

On a seperate note, I just wanted to take some time to thank you for your continued support in reading my blog updates.  Also don't forget to check out my fellow Swazi voluteer blogs with link on the right side of this page.  ---->