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Never go back?

with 12 comments

Why not? If I hadn’t returned to the Valley of Desolation, location for my previous experience of NIMART mentoring, how would I have known that those nervous – some of them resistant – professional nurses were confidently managing hundreds of people living with HIV?

A great deal has changed in three years. I’ve compared it to seeing a friend’s children after a long interval: you notice and remark on how they’ve grown. So it’s been in Graaff-Reinet and the surrounding towns’ primary health clinics.

Nthabiseng and Marlene Road to Steytlerville (3)

Nthabiseng and Marlene, colleagues then and now; the road to Steytlerville.

When I blogged in September 2011 I cited trombonist Jonas Gwangwa who said of South Africa:

When you plant a seed, it decays a little bit before it grows. [] We achieved so much following the end of apartheid. Now we are going through some rot. It is this that bothers us: how long is it going to stay this way before we sprout?

Friday was South Africa’s Human Rights Day, a public holiday commemorating 1960’s Sharpeville Massacre, one of many rotten episodes in the apartheid era. On its first fifteen pages today’s Mail & Guardian documents today’s rot at the top. President Jacob Zuma’s licence to loot is exposed in the public protector’s report into massive inappropriate expenditure of public funds on his personal home. What must the struggle heroes be thinking? With a general election on 7th May, many South Africans crave an end to such rottenness. Even with its leader mired in controversy the ANC seems unassailable: how long many wonder before an end to post-1994 decay?

Returning to the Horseshoe, Kroonvale, Umasizakhe and other clinics where we planted seeds three years ago has been a delight. The tattiness of out of date posters on peeling paint has been replaced by light, bright modern-looking clinics that seem fit for purpose. I’ve been hugged and had my hand shaken by staff that I worked with before. And how some of those seeds have grown. As one nurse said in her interview, “once we were just issuing ART; now it’s comprehensive care”. Such is the progress they’ve closed Ithemba, the antiretroviral clinic at Midland Hospital, Graaff-Reinet. There’s more to do but seeds have sprouted.

Umasizakhe Clinic (3) 002

Umasizakhe Clinic  G-R Umasizakhe Clinic (8)

Sister Bosch in Umasizakhe Clinic; Nthabi, Vicky, Martin, Dolly – Vicky & Dolly unable to find suitable employment after completing assistant social worker training; Umasizakhe Clinic 2011 & 2014.

If I’d never driven back over the impressive Ravelskloof into Camdeboo I’d never have known. I’ve loved the familiar semi-desert that reveals its springbok, kudu, ostrich in a way that denser bush up north does not. It’s been a week of reunions with guesthouse owners and staff, former colleagues, people – friends – I met along the way; so different from the lonelier weeks living out of a suitcase and speaking to nobody outside working hours. As my Aa’Qtansisi host Ria welcomed me last Sunday, “you’re back home Martin”. I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to go back.


Written by martinjones183

March 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm

12 Responses

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  1. It must be so satisfying and encouraging for you to see such pogress since you were last there.


    March 22, 2014 at 2:48 pm

  2. Good to hear – you must be chuffed.
    No kudu horn?


    March 22, 2014 at 4:03 pm

  3. Have now caught up on your blogs What a contrast you’ve.experienced but how nice to be ‘Back Home’ and made to feel that. Keep the interesting reports coming.

    pam keen

    March 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm

  4. You are amazing Martin. Xxxxxxxx


    March 22, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    • So pleased to hear that you are “Back Home”. It must be very satisfying to see the progress that has been made

      Jill Merritt

      March 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm

  5. Thanks. Yes indeed, it’s been a singularly gratifying week. Seeing how the HIV programme is being successfully delivered elsewhere made me confident that ‘my’ former clinics would have grown. However there’s nothing like remembering how it was before and today seeing how our former mentees and their clinics are successfully delivering HIV care in their local communities.
    Late summer in the Karoo has warmed my skin and warmed my heart. But no kudu horn, Michael: the cricket season is over.


    March 23, 2014 at 4:44 am

  6. What a lovely welcome back personally and professionally………….one of the theories about happiness is that we need to have a purpose and sense of meaning in our lives.” Living a life that is big enough for our soul”. Spirit rather than Northern in this case….. Lindax


    March 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm

  7. How wonderful to have been able to see such progress, and feel that you have played a part in making such a real difference. Fantastic! x


    Sally Hemmings

    March 23, 2014 at 5:48 pm

  8. You deserve to feel proud of yourself and mentees Martin. Looking forward to seeing where you are off to next


    March 23, 2014 at 10:19 pm

  9. What a heart warming blog, Martin. It is wonderful that you share it all with us. Thank you!


    March 25, 2014 at 10:40 am

  10. Dear Martin , just caught up with your excellent blogs. Your work sounds amazing and how great for you to see the changes that you set in place , all actually improving care. It must be heart warming for you to know now that all your hard work is making such a difference. You seem very happy to be back in your ‘home territory’ again. Glad you’re getting some footy input, how about the gym?! Your newly decorated room awaits you, as do we all, love Jacqui

    Jacqui Whinney

    March 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

  11. Dear Martin, all so fabulous, really looking forward to your return. Sandy x x


    April 5, 2014 at 9:01 pm

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