Apologies for the silence. It’s been months since I’ve written. Sometimes life takes over and you find yourself moving through the whirlwind hoping to come out the other side in one piece. Well, that whirlwind has been internal. The thoughts, the processing, the fears, all the pieces of what I’ve done and how to move forward. It’s amazing to learn how gripping fear can be. Only now that I reflect on the past months and begin to consider what’s next to I recognize all the fears. And now that I’m aware; it’s time to jump. To overcome whatever I may not feel ready or prepared for and take the risks.
I sat with a good friend a few weeks ago. Malawian. A nurse in the city and head of her department at only 28yrs. I was telling her how ‘stuck’ things were so she began to quiz what was happening, who was around me, where things were developing and so on. After a few hours together, she finally looks at me and says, “Christa, the challenge is you. Everyone else is ready. Just move.” The words to kick my butt forward.
Don’t get me wrong… I’ve been moving, just with great apprehension. Yet in light of her words, I took the first leap. Officially, I have registered as a non-profit here in Malawi. So today I introduce to you the new-found organization; Health in Motion. To clarify, In their Shoes is my covering in Canada. This is WHO I AM, but Health in Motion will be the organization building in Malawi to alleviate mobility limitations through education and awareness. For people in Malawi to understand and connect to the concept needed a name that resonates with the vision. Health in Motion does just that.
The next step is education. Educating a group of young people in the community who will become the rehabilitation team to educating and supporting the greater need. Right now, I am in the process of developing a training manual. The materials and program for a two-week course. This will give students a foundation of understanding to anatomy as well as assessing and supporting the prevention and care of mobility limitations. The focus is on spinal and disk compression’s or herniation’s due to ergonomics of daily life. My goal is eight students with a one-year commitment to the community.
In the process of this is developing a ‘movement training center.’ This is the building the chief (him and I in picture above) has given to me which will be turned into a training center for lifestyle skills awareness through ergonomics, as well as daily movement/stretch/strengthening classes for the community. Awareness to prevention of injury.
Now let me share with you what has been processing the past few months. The need. The needs of the people within Malawi comes down to a prevention of injury. An understanding of body movement and function through ergonomics. One example is the simple concept of bending your knees while lifting. The number of people injured due to low back issues is extremely high. Majority of those I visit or who request support are exactly this problem. You see, life is done from the ground. Washing clothes, sweeping, cooking and so on. Which means, bending is done from the waist without the function of our knees to bring you to this level. From what I see and assess; I believe if X-ray or CT scan were available, the number of people struggling with disk compression’s, herniation’s and so on, would be astronomical. On top of that, I have yet to enter a home where a woman over 30yrs of age is not complaining to me of knee pain. She sits in front of me on the ground with legs stretched in front of her body rubbing her knees while talking of the pain and limitation. It’s the broken record of my daily conversations. Arthritis is rising.
I sat with the chief of staff at our regional hospital just a few days discussing some of these things with him. What has come to my understanding is this; Malawi has changed; 20yrs ago the average life expectancy was 38yrs. Now it is 52yrs. With this comes a change in health issues as well. When you are passing at 38yrs, there is little time for some of these degenerative issues to set in. Now with a higher overall life expectancy, these issues are becoming a high effect on daily life. People are in pain but there is nothing to support. Now in my perspective this goes even bigger. If you continue to support the elderly and those with degenerative issues, the needs will continue to arise. Until there is some education of prevention at the core of the problem while people are still young, the issue will perpetuate. This has become my block. HOW? How do we address the issue, how do we increase the awareness and educate communities in prevention?
So in lies my great challenge and so where my friend has encouraged me to just “move!” People are ready. All I can do is begin offering the awareness and prevention methods. What do we always say back home; “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And here is my leap. My first jump to try one method.
One thing I have concluded over these past months is WHERE the starting point is. I’ve done education and training with all age groups. Elders, middle age and students. Elders were eager. They are in great pain and were ready to not just hear but implement any methods to decrease the pain. The challenge is many of them are so strongly affected, this is more of a pain management category. The middle age were willing to hear but not so willing to implement. They like to learn new things but not to be told what to do (as they perceive it). Here, change was small. Now the young people. Eager minds, eager hearts! We ran some training in one of the primary schools in the village and it was exciting to see how quick they were catching the concept.(pictured below with their new stand up brooms!) The understanding to prevent. That as they looked at their grandparents and recognized the struggles, they don’t want to end up on the same path.
Here sits my past few months. A process of trail and elimination. What works, what doesn’t work. What are the people willing to accept and not. So many methods but just one is necessary to begin going forward.
Now that the decision is made and the ball is rolling, I feel ready for the leap! I feel excited for the possibility and the hope of the outcome! Let’s see where it goes.