Needs vary, so the team has to be prepared for a range of complaints.
“We see a ton of coughs and colds,” she says. “I was surprised how many kids were wheezing. We see a lot of skin diseases like fungal infections or other infections because they’ve scraped themselves and the wound hasn’t been kept clean.”
One almost ubiquitous problem: intestinal worms. The lack of clean drinking water makes this an all too common cause for stomach pain. Dr. Fox and her team treated these illnesses and provided preventive care for all kids that came to the clinic.
Typically, during their 12 days staffing the clinic, the team sees upwards of 350 children. Their arrival is greeted with much excitement, says Dr. Fox, and the days are mix of medical treatment and breaks for games like soccer and jump rope, also supplied by donations from the United States. Simply being present also proved to be important.
“What impressed me was how happy and thankful these children are [for the work we’re doing],” says Dr. Fox. “But also starving for love. You walk in and you’ll have everybody around you, giving you hugs and wanting to hold your hand. They’re starving for attention and love too.”
With so many of the children orphans who lack a steady adult presence in their lives, the work of the group goes beyond medical care. Volunteers throw birthday parties at the CarePoint, creating special moments to come together and celebrate. Donations help to purchase uniforms for school, a requirement to attend, so kids are learning as well as gaining access to another regular meal every day at school. Families in the U.S. send handwritten notes and photos, fostering lasting connections.
Local volunteers also cook for children in the community, a group of Swazi women Dr. Fox characterizes as the driving force behind the CarePoint. Standing outside over huge iron pots, cooking a rice or corn-based meal for thousands of children for hours at a time, day after day, they’re helping a generation of children to grow up strong and healthy.
“At 4 p.m., all of the kids stop everything,” says Dr. Fox. “They line up. They have little bowls, containers of some sort that they keep with them. It gets filled to the brim with whatever they’ve cooked that day.”
With kids getting more regular meals, Dr. Fox and her team wanted to track their growth in a more systematic way. In this, they found a partner in PCC. After two years of recording height and weight on handwritten charts, two computers and electronic medical record software donated by PCC made keeping track of children’s growth easier and less prone to human error. Dr. Fox is now in the process of transferring all of the data they’ve collected the first two years over to the computer system.
“When you look at them compared to U.S. kids, these kids are all small,” says Dr. Fox. “It’s malnourishment. Now that these kids are being fed every day at the CarePoint, we are going to see if their growth improves.”