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Jess' Blog No.7 - Day3: Part 1

By Jessica Wilkes-Reading

Jess' Blog No.7 - Day3: Part 1

Part 1: The Children's Ward

Wesleyan's CR and Charity Coordinator Jessica Wilkes-Reading, and retired dentist and Wesleyan customer Jane Innes-Rees are in Ethiopia visiting various projects to see what support people from the UK are providing - and what more can be done.

Here, Jess writes about her day on the children's playroom at Ayder Referral Hospital, in the northern city of Mekelle.


It was an early start today as we headed off to Ayder Hospital to see its catheterisation laboratory (or cath lab for short) in action.

A cath lab is an examination room with diagnostic imaging equipment that that is used to view the arteries and chambers of the heart so doctors can treat any abnormalities that are found.

The lab has only been open a few years and is state of the art. This is a real example of what can be achieved with the right funding and the right people. The nurse we met had spent three months in India learning about the machine and how it works and explained how the day before, two lies had been saved because of it.

I also got to wear a set of scrubs, so at least I looked the part!

Decorating the ward

Our guide, Abebe, then took us up to the children's ward which, as you can imagine, was very emotional.

There were tiny babies and children crying out, with their families packed into tiny rooms. As someone used to seeing the wonderful facilities at Birmingham Children's Hospital, this was at completely the opposite end of the spectrum.

At the end of the corridor we found a storeroom filled with toys that had just been abandoned there and four huge blank white walls that were crying out for some colour. We may not have been able to give medical help to the children, but we could certainly help cheer them up!!

So, along with Cariad, who is a doctor specialising in virology and infectious diseases and chair of SHARE ('Sheffield Health Action Resource for Ethiopia', an international health link between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Mekelle), I went off on an adventure.

While the rest of the SHARE team worked on cleaning the toys and the room, we went to 'Hardware Street' to find paint and 'Plastic Street' for pots. Yes, that's right - the city has whole streets dedicated to specific trades. It's amazing!

Wesleyan funded the costs of the paint to completely decorate the room. It came to 1,160 Bir, which, at 26 Bir to the pound, is an absolutely bargain for amount of equipment we got.

Struggling under the weight of our paints and pots, we went back to the hospital and got to work creating a jungle theme. We also took some inspiration from the children's book Wesleyan produced for Birmingham Children's Hospital, 'The Unstoppable Maggie McGee'. On the largest wall in the playroom, thousands of miles from home, is a mural of the birds and the rainbow that feature in our book, as you can see in the pictures.

Suffice to say, I was an emotional wreck by the end of the day, but in a nice way, because we had done something very special to brighten up the lives of these sick children and their families.

Children on the ward had not been able to play with these toys for months, so to see the look of pure joy and excitement on their faces and being able to hold a teddy bear or a doll was absolutely amazing. One little boy even learnt how to ride a scooter. It was an incredible effort from the whole team.

In Part 2 of today's blog, Jess describes how she was invited to take part in a traditional coffee ceremony.

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