former gaia nursing



former gaia nursing
Gathered in a small meeting room
at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital
(QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi, eight nursing
scholars spoke to GAIA staff and members
of Trinity Church, Princeton this summer
about their lives growing up in Malawi and
of their path to becoming nurses.
After losing her mother, aunt, and older
brother, Sakina became the primary
caretaker for her younger siblings. It was
only due to the GAIA Nursing scholarship
that she was able to stay in school. Sakina
used her monthly stipend to support her
orphaned siblings.
Stella, another GAIA scholar, had a different path. “I never thought I would be a
nurse,” she said, “even though my father,
who died when I was 7, always wanted that
for me.” Stella initially rebelled against
her father’s wishes and decided to study
education. However, after two years, she
realized that her true calling was to be a
nurse though she lacked the finances to do
so. Fortunately, she too received a GAIA
scholarship and enrolled at the Kamuzu
College of Nursing (KCN), from which she
has now graduated.
Sakina and Stella, along with two other
GAIA nursing scholars who spoke at this
GAIA Nursing Scholars, hospital faculty and staff, GAIA staff and GAIA trustee Joy Mistele (pictured right) gathered at
Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
Sakina (left) and Stella (right) are both graduates of the
GAIA Nursing Scholarship Program and now work
at QECH in Malawi.
gathering, have all graduated from nursing
school and now work at QECH. As part of
the scholarship agreement, GAIA nursing
scholars must work in Malawian health
facilities for a period equal to the term of
their scholarship.
The hospital where the nurses work is one
of the busiest in the country. With 64%
of the 550 nursing posts at the hospital
vacant, nurses like Stella, 23, and Sakina,
25, struggle to manage patient care for
1,300 beds, though you would never know
it when talking to them or seeing their
smiling faces. Like so many nurses across
Malawi, they are self-proclaimed “generalists” in internal medicine, general surgery,
obstetrics and gynecology, anesthesia or
pediatrics, working wherever demand is
the greatest.
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This July, GAIA’s nursing scholarship program funded by GAIA donors and USAID
was highlighted at the 19th International
AIDS Conference in Washington, DC.
GAIA’s abstract was among the top selected
for presentation from 12,433 entries. The
GAIA presentation appeared as part of a
poster session dedicated to the pivotal role
that strengthening the health care workforce
in developing countries plays in defeating
the epidemic. Scientific sessions, workshops, and meetings with friends old and
new filled the week for the 20,000 attendees,
which included GAIA Board members Dr.
Michael Gottlieb and Dr. Etta Eskridge,
CEO Todd Schafer, and International Programs Director Ellen Schell.
Hillary Clinton expressed the sentiments of
many when she spoke to a packed session
in the vast Washington DC convention
center: “Let me say 5 words we have not
been able to say for too long, ‘Welcome to
the United States!’” The administration’s
lifting of the ban on travel to the US by
HIV+ people allowed for the return of the
conference to American soil for the first
time in 22 years.
“Treatment is Prevention”
This conference marked a defining moment in the epidemic. The dramatic effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral treatment
in reducing an HIV-positive person’s risk
of infecting others led to a slogan Ellen
and Todd heard again and again during the
week: “Treatment is Prevention.” Scientists and activists alike emphasized that
now is the time to redouble our efforts. “It
would be an extraordinary failure of global
International Programs Director Ellen Schell, Medical
Advisor Dr. Michael Gottleib, CEO Todd Schafer, and
Board Member Dr. Etta Eskridge (not pictured) attended
the 2012 International AIDS Conference.
will and conscience if financial constraints
truncated our ability to begin to end AIDS
just when the science has shown us that
this goal is achievable,” stated Diane
Havlir, M.D. of the UCSF AIDS Research
Institute. Ellen and Todd left the conference inspired, energized and proud of the
part GAIA is playing in this struggle.
We report with great sadness the death of
Henry Beni, lead clinician on one of the
GAIA Mobile Health Clinics. On August 3,
2012, 42-year old Henry suffered a severe
Henri Beni was lead clinician on one of the GAIA Mobile Health
Clinics and was one of the first employees of the Project.
He is remembered as a dedicated and compassionate leader
and will be greatly missed.
asthma attack in the middle of the night.
After obtaining permission from an administrator, GAIA staff used the clinic vehicle
to drive Henry to the closest rural hospital.
He died later that morning leaving behind
a wife and four children between the ages
of 4 and 20 years.
Henry was one of the first employees of
the GAIA Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Mobile Clinics Project. He headed a
GAIA clinic team comprised of a nurse,
nurse aide, and a driver. Alice Bvumbwe,
GAIA Projects Officer, provides these
words about her colleague: “Henry will
be remembered as a good team leader
who was ready to work with any cadre of
employee; he will be missed for his good
leadership, compassionate kindness, and
dedication to his work.”
To pay tribute to Henry, the rural villagers
he served on the Mobile Health Clinic will
build a new structure to provide a safe and
sheltered waiting area for the large numbers
coming to one of his clinic stops. They will
name it after him.
Henry did his best to provide care to those
most in need in a country that struggles to
serve its citizens. The health expenditure
per capita in Malawi was $65 in 2009 (Malawi ranked 165th of 181 ranked nations.
The U.S. health expenditure per capita, the
world’s highest, was $7,960). This was the total
amount spent by public and private health organizations on the provision of health services,
family planning activities, nutrition activities
and emergency aid designated for heath.
Henry’s contributions and admirers were
many, and he will be sorely missed.
In July 2012, Julie and two other travelers from Trinity Church in Princeton, NJ, visited Malawi. Below is an excerpt from her travel blog.
I will forever remember singing and dancing with grandmother Beatrice Mpoka
in Nkunguza, Trinity Church’s adopted
You cannot imagine what it was like to arrive and be greeted by 50 women and about
65 children singing, cheering and dancing
to welcome us. We saw women chopping
cassava, shelling pigeon peas, stacking
bowls of sweet potatoes, and pounding
ground nuts. We saw resident pigs and
goats, chickens and roosters, sugar cane,
and bee balm. We saw a woman with a
large adobe brick oven making scones, and
chile peppers spread out on a cloth drying.
We were greeted by women and children
singing and dancing.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the
difference between poverty and misery. The
people in Nkunguza have very little. But
they sing. And they dance. And they survive,
even in their need.
Ruth [fellow traveler] talks about the
extraordinary contrasts. She’s right. You see
abject poverty and then you look beyond
and see magnificent landscapes of tea
plantations and Mount Mulanje – hard to
reconcile the two.
We brought pencils and soccer balls;
they gave us unspeakable joy.
Guardian of an orphan thanking GAIA
for help with the elderly, widows, and
orphans in Nkunguza village.
Today we got a two-for-one deal! A huge
gift! We give them pencils and soccer
balls, they give us unspeakable joy.
We loved being in Nkunguza village and
we are loving Malawi.
Julie Denny
A beautiful family proudly displaying their goats for
the photographer.
Mary is a seventeen year old girl living in rural Malawi. After her father died ten years ago,
Mary’s mother single-handedly supported the family by farming a small plot of land to grow
their food. Mother and daughter struggle to make ends meet.
Mary missed school due to a lack of uniforms, soap and even food to sustain her throughout
the day. She recalls that during the last year of primary school she missed almost half the
term, a time she describes as the hardest in her life. She says she used to cry herself to sleep
almost on a daily basis, wishing her father were still alive and believing that things would be
different if he were. She envied her classmates because they were able to go to school and
live normal teenage lives.
In 2010 the GAIA Villages intervention came to her village. She and other vulnerable
children are supported by GAIA Community Caregivers with school supplies, uniforms and
items for basic needs, like soap.
Mary is most grateful for GAIA’s help with her school fees. In Malawi, primary school is free
but high school requires fees. Her perspective on life has changed; she now has goals and
a vision for a better future. Mary feels education is the key to change; if she is educated she
can get a good job and take care of her family.
Mary has just completed high school and plans to one day become an accountant.
Mary used to regularly miss school; she is now a
high school graduate.
The Presidio of San Francisco
PO Box 29110
San Francisco, CA 94129-0110
Telephone: (415) 461-7196 • Fax: (415) 785-7389
[email protected] •
GAIA Board of Trustees
U.S. Trustees
Malawi Trustees
Marty Arscott, Board Chair
Benard Chavula
Eva Banda
Flora Chithila
Susan Brodesser
Jones Laviwa
Haile Debas, Emeritus
Julita Manda
Etta M. Eskridge
Barnabas Salaka, Board Chair
David Gilmour
Ellen Schell
Agnes Grohs
David-Alexandre Gros
Holly Lewis Hudley
Virginia Joffe
Gordon Keen
Jennifer Kepner
Daniel King
Carrie LeRoy
Michael Lockhart
Robert McCaskill
Joy Mistele
Andy Pflaum, Vice Chair
Michael Gottlieb, Medical Advisor
William Rankin, Co-Founder & President Emeritus
Ivan Weinberg, General Counsel
Charles B. Wilson, Co-Founder & Chair Emeritus
Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA) provides basic health services, targeting prevention, care, and support in communities affected by HIV, AIDS, TB and malaria in Africa.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
11:00am - 12:30pm
Travis Auditorium, Fuller Theological Seminary
135 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101
Michael S. Gottlieb, M.D., Panel Moderator
Physician and Immunologist. In 1981, Dr. Gottlieb authored the first report identifying AIDS as a new disease.
“Retrospective: 31 Years of AIDS”
Thomas J. Coates, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Global AIDS Research and Director of the Center for World Health, David Geffen School of
Medicine, UCLA
“Global Progress and New Challenges in HIV Prevention”
Eric G. Walsh, M.D., MPH
Director of the Pasadena Public Health Department and former member of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
“AIDS in America”
John A. Zaia, M.D.
Professor and Chairman, Department of Virology, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope
“Overview of Current Research and Vaccine Prospects”
Free and open to the public. Sponsored by Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance.
RSVP Encouraged. Seating is limited. RSVP to [email protected] or (424) 248-5799.

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