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Feb3WedIn the heart of rural Zambia, The Salvation Army is providing crucial medical care. February 3, 2021 by Kathy Nguyen
As the resource media coordinator of The Salvation Army’s international development department (formerly world missions), I had been asked to participate in a resource trip to Zambia, which our department takes annually to collect photos, videos and stories for the Partners in Mission fundraising campaign. This year, I went with videographer Aaron Bowes, photographer Mark Yan, and our director, Lt-Colonel Brenda Murray.
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- Faith & Friends
The Pulse of Chikankata
As we ventured out of Lusaka, the nation’s capital, we were in for a long five-hour car ride of more than 100 kilometres into rocky and rural terrain. The farther away we drove from the capital, the closer we got to Chikankata, a land many refer to as “the heart of rural Zambia.”
The Salvation Army has been serving this community since 1945. When a local headman, Charlie Chikankata, heard of The Salvation Army’s meaningful work in Zimbabwe, he offered the organization a portion of his land, with the condition that it would be used to build an institution that provided education and health services for his people. In doing so, The Salvation Army Chikankata Mission was born.
The mission is one of The Salvation Army’s cornerstones in providing quality health and nursing care to those who need it most. It is home to the Chikankata Mission Hospital, the College of Nursing and Midwifery, and the College of Biomedical Sciences. Before these establishments were built, many had never known genuine medicine or surgery.
With the Zambian government only spending about five percent of its total gross domestic product on health care, the country continuously struggles with inadequate support, infrastructure and supplies. These challenges are intensified in rural areas, where resources are already scarce.
As a result, The Salvation Army Chikankata Mission has become the beating heart of this community.
Empowering the Youth
Upon arrival, our first stops were at the Chikankata College of Nursing and Midwifery and the Chikankata College of Biomedical Sciences, both Salvation Army schools situated just a few short kilometres away from each other.
As Zambia grapples with a shortage of health-care workers, the Army is making a difference by educating the youth and providing quality education to aspiring healthcare practitioners.
“These institutions are alleviating the shortage of human resources countrywide,” says Portipher Pilingana, principal of the College of Biomedical Sciences. “We have more than 200 students enrolled and have maintained a 100-percent graduation rate for the past three years.”
While meeting some of the hardworking and devoted students, it was clear that they all shared a passion for helping others and making an impact.
“I wanted to become a nurse so I could serve society,” says David Ngongolo, a fourth-year student at the College of Nursing and Midwifery. “Health care in Zambia needs to be more accessible; I want to give back to my country, and I plan on doing that by serving our hospitals.”
Nachoka Mangani, a third-year student at the College of Biomedical Sciences, told me, “I hope to become a microbiologist to help people. And because of the lessons I am learning through The Salvation Army, I am on the pathway to achieving this dream.”
Serving the Helpless
Upon graduation, many of the students find themselves working at The Salvation Army Chikankata Mission Hospital, another landmark in the community.
This 200-bed facility is the only hospital in the region and provides primary and curative health services, including maternal, infant and child health care, surgical operations, HIV-AIDS treatments, cancer screenings and physiotherapy.
Dr. Gamaliel Misago is one of four doctors working at this hospital and the acting head of clinical care. He’s been serving at this hospital for more than 19 years, which is rare for doctors in Zambia.
“A lot of doctors come and go,” he says. “They don’t stay in one hospital for long, and most would prefer to work in cities.”
But Dr. Gamaliel felt called to work in Chikankata Mission Hospital because he knows what it’s like to feel helpless and hopeless during the worst of times.
“I wanted to become a doctor after my sister died from measles,” he told me. “At the time, we were living in a remote area where there were no doctors to attend to her. I’ve been working in Chikankata for so long because I wanted to help those who have no one to turn to.”
These words embody the soul of The Salvation Army and the Chikankata Mission.
The Light of God
When I look back on my time in Zambia, the trip to Chikankata is one of my fondest memories. The Chikankata missions are a prime example of how The Salvation Army works to meet the greatest need in the most vulnerable communities, and this was evident when interacting with the students and health-care workers.
While there are significant cracks in Zambia’s health-care system, cracks always make room for light— and that light comes in the form of people like David, Nachoka and Dr. Gamaliel. Their work is rooted in compassion and faith, and it’s leaders such as them that embody the light of God in times of crisis.
To contribute to health-care initiatives overseas, please visit SalvationArmy.ca/giftsofhope.