Today, half of the HFH team traveled just outside of Lilongwe to the Dzaleka Refugee Camp where about 80 people had signed up to get their hearing tested. The Dzaleka Refugee Camp is home to over 16,000 refugees from many different African countries. We partnered with the “There is Hope” organization to test people of all ages from babies to adults. For most of the patients we needed another interpreter because they spoke languages other than Chichewa, which is native to Malawi.
This was an eye opening experience for all of us. Not only did we all learn new skills and concepts about audiology, but we got a glimpse into a culture unlike any we’ve ever seen. Many of us were shocked by the calm nature of the children being tested. They were very well behaved and you could tell they wanted to follow directions that we gave them. The funniest thing that we encountered was a baby who was scared of white people – so scared she peed on one of our team members (Jacey) who was holding her!
We saw things in ears that we’d never seen before: perforated ear drums, fungus, and of course lots of wax! We heard stories we’ve never heard before: a man said he was once itching his ear with a stick when his friend ran up and pushed it in, perforating his entire eardrum… What a nice man to still call him a friend! We saw very severe conductive hearing losses that we’ve never seen before because they can be medically managed in the US.
After the day of testing was completed, one of the organizers from There is Hope took us on a short tour of the actual Dzaleka camp. We were interested to find that there was a jail, market, bars, and churches in the camp. While we were walking down the street in the market, some men came by with a herd of cattle that were close enough to touch… Running with the bulls, Malawi style? We got to see some of the houses that the refugees live in. These houses looked to be about the size of an average bedroom in the US, but housed 15 people in each! When you see some of the conditions people live in here, it’s hard to fathom how we can find so much to complain about at home.