November 24, 2007

Off to Africa!

I am writing this blog a little early as I will be landing in Zimbabwe late Sunday night. This is my third visit, though I have not been since 2001. A lot has happened since then. Check out your news source and see the economic hardships facing the people of Zimbabwe. You can only imagine what has happened to hemophilia health care– it has collapsed.

Zimbabwe is a gorgeous country filled with incredibly warm, civil people. Back in 1997 I received a fax from a man named Norman Mubaiwe. He had hemophilia and was president of the Zimbabwe Hemophilia Association (ZHA). I was struck by his courage in contacting me for help, and later had the chance to meet this extraordinary man. He had many challenges to overcome, including poverty and an inhibitor. Moved by his perseverance, I pledged to always help Zimbabwe, and though my friend Norman died in 2001, on the operating table, lacking any clotting factor for inhibitors, I was determined to do something so he would not have died in vain.

We held our first camp in Zim in late 2001, and it was fabulous! About 40 children who had never been to camp, never had any real pleasures, attended. They had a safari, a trip to Victoria Falls (the longest in the world), good food and a medical check up. Plus, all the factor they needed, for the first time in their lives.

Since then, Zimbabwe has been largely ignored by the international hemophilia community. With so many needs all around the world, it’s hard to pay attention to a country where even the doctors are fleeing, where communication is sporadic, food lines are long, inflation is 10,000%… it seems overwhelming.

I am not sure what awaits me as I head off, but the ZHA and I are determined to have another camp next year. We will need volunteers: anyone interested? Stay tuned and I will write more as the trip goes on….

(Photos: Victoria Falls; Laurie at the first hemophilia camp)

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