Africa’s Bounty – Kindness of Strangers

Africa’s Bounty – Kindness of Strangers

We are often asked “how do your services start”?

We are most often contacted directly by health ministries asking for specialist service development, service provision or outreach services for hard to reach children or communities. We are sometimes asked by NHS Trusts, medical or mental health teams to assist with service development or clinical needs, and then we are sometimes surprised by the most simple and unexpected turn of events that can lead to positive change and clinical collaboration.

We offer an example.

Earlier this year we were unable to get internet access via any of the three (or four) providers offering services in South Africa. We were located in the area close to Cape Point. We were providing clinical services, online, at the time.

A woman who owned a shop and restaurant in Scarborough offered that we use her top floor for our online work for the day. The top floor was not in use at the time, and we were offered the setting we required for our work, including the privacy and security, to be able to continue with our online work for the day. She refused to take any payment for assisting us.

We asked this kind woman and also her staff whether there was something we could help them with after the morning’s work whilst having a meal at their restaurant. They directed us to one of the staff members who spoke to us of a local clinic needing doctors.

We visited the clinic the next day and spoke to the nurse in charge. She was interested in medical assistance. We liaised with colleagues in the Department of Health and relevant universities who we have liaised with previously, and who have consistently been most helpful. We were informed that a significant need exists and that medical or specialist input would be appreciated. We offered our availability to assist in any way we can. We currently have availability due to recently closed borders in target areas. We can possibly aim to be available once or twice a year to offer input if required. Further to receiving the word to proceed from relevant professionals, we will return to this clinic to offer our input. We currently have 5-10 volunteers who might be able to offer additional assistance.

This chain of events started with the kindness of a stranger at https://www.thevillagehub.co.za – we thank you.

We are grateful for the positive liaison we have had with professionals and staff we have known for years and with professionals and staff introduced to us this year.

The positive energy in South Africa, often observed and experienced, remains unmatched in many countries, and this is often the driving force to create positive change in challenging circumstances.

Our door remains open to you.

For anyone else concerned about children or communities:

We are always available to discuss service development for high risk and vulnerable children or communities. If you would like to discuss service development, provision or outreach services with us, please email us at admin@mentalhealthbus.co.uk to arrange a meeting with our directors.

We are currently waiting for borders to reopen in Latin America and the Pacific to continue with service development projects. Countries in Europe as well as a county in the UK have asked for assistance with service development or service reviews further to serious or critical incidents.

Mental health needs for children have increased markedly in the UK and Europe since the onset of the pandemic. There is currently no bed available for a child with serious mental health concerns in the UK (this has been the case for weeks and months).

Simple measures can however reduce or prevent serious morbidity and mortality in children (and reduce the need or prevent admission for many – which is the aim for most Child Psychiatrists). These measures are unfortunately not prioritised as part of global measures to protect children, families and communities in many countries, especially developed countries, during the pandemic. We have written extensively regarding this matter, corresponding with relevant authorities since March 2020, and will continue to do so. We thank the many professionals who share these concerns and who work tirelessly to ensure that no harm is caused or that risk of harm is reduced by ensuring that bio-psycho-social initiatives during the pandemic are evidence-based (based on longstanding good clinical evidence).

We are always interested to know about areas or countries with specific clinical need for children and we always aim to be available to assist in any way possible. We do however require a certain context during the pandemic, including that bio-psycho-social evidence-based guidelines are followed to prevent harm.

Consultation, supervision and training can create sustainable change, and although we prefer to be present in person, we also offer online assistance where appropriate.

We always aim to remain involved with previous projects, visiting once a year or when needed to ensure that goals of sustainability are achieved.

A world can change for children, communities and countries by simple acts such as kindness, offering assistance, gratitude, reciprocity, communication and collaborative work. It does take a village to achieve anything good in this world.

Let’s work together.

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