We have now done three days of medical clinics in the camps, accompanied by Doctor Nian. She is a young doctor, just past her residency, and has a great manner with the mostly women and children we are seeing. On Thursday evening, after seeing 60+ patients in about 2 hours, she gave us a tour of the newest hospital in Soran. It is only two years old and really amazing, especially coming from Tanzania; she also invited us to her dorm room-sized apartment at the hospital. Then yesterday, after spending almost three hours in a camp, she and her cousin cooked a dinner of Kurdish food for our entire team and another team that arrived Thursday night. All told, they fed 24 people! Somehow I completely forgot to take photos of dinner, but it was delicious, and I carried home a plate of layered dessert composed of--no joke--cookies, vanilla pudding, strawberry jello and banana slices...not a traditional Kurdish dish! Dr. Nian is fast becoming a friend, and is someone I feel honored to serve alongside.
At the camp we went to Friday morning, there were two pregnant women. One is only two or maybe three months along, but this beautiful woman is 8+ months with her fifth child. She very graciously allowed me to palpate her abdomen. I’m still learning how to tell the position of the baby this way, but it was really an honor to be allowed to touch her and interact with her in this way. After clinic was over, we drank tea with the older ladies and a few young ones who floated in and out, and Dr. Nian translated my questions about pregnancy and birth culture for Yezidi women. I learned that most of the children under age 12 were born in hospitals, but that they used to deliver all their children at home with a few designated older women. They said that sometimes mothers died during that time from post-partum hemorrhage or retained placenta. When they fled from Sinjar Mountain a year and half ago, several women in their community were pregnant and delivered at different points in the long journey from their home to the camp outside of Soran where they now live. They told me that as they were traveling, they saw a woman who was trying to reach Turkey deliver twin boys on the side of the road and she “left them by the sea.”
The elders at all of the camps have agreed for me to come and teach their women about maternal health next week, and perhaps I’ll also get to hear more individual stories from them. I hope to hear what they have experienced and share some of that with all of you. It can be healing to tell one’s story and have it matter to people, so if I can be a vehicle or vessel for some of that healing, it would be an honor.
Many of the families in the Akoyan camp that we visited yesterday are still living in U.N. tents, although the men have been doing construction work and were gifted with enough cement bricks to build a few houses. Winter is nearly here; soon there will be snow on the ground, and some of the tents are torn and falling apart. If you are moved by the experiences I’m sharing, please consider going to the World Orphans website to support the work they are doing with these refugees. You can give one-time gifts by clicking here, or you can click on the photo at right to sponsor the family of the woman who is expecting a new baby next month.
I’m just past the halfway mark of this trip, and feeling pretty strong. Thanks for your prayers and for following these stories.