A Stop at the Lupote Clinic, Hwange, Zimbabwe

Visiting the Lupote Women’s Clinic near Hwange National Park (above)

Driving away from our tent quarters near the Hwange National Park and driven by the advice of Dr. Phil Mitchell, the ZSA ZSA Team stopped by the small Lupote Women’s Clinic for a brief visit. The clinic does much-needed work caring for women of all ages, but most especially young mothers and expectant mothers in this rural area of South Africa. Important work is being done in the clinic in relation to breast and cervical cancer, pregnancy protocols, pre-natal care, safe birthing, breast feeding, AIDS transmission, the spread of HPV (human papilloma virus) and other critical issues. The young doctor who guided us around his small clinic said that he sees 20 or more young women every day.

A Visit to Hwange National Park

Enthusiastically embracing the proverb of “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” the ZSA ZSA Team last week toured the grassy woodlands of Hwange National Park, the largest game reserve in Zimbabwe. Within minutes of entering the park, sharp-eyed incoming RCK president Sandy Martin spotted an elusive leopard (Panthera pardus), which only briefly showed its dark eyes and tawny coat spotted with black rosettes before darting into obscurity. Our soft-spoken guide Zebedee (named for the father of James and John, disciples of Jesus) reversed course in search of the leopard, alas, to no avail.

But through the three-hour tour (reference to Gilligan not intended), the ZSA ZSA team did encounter elephants, kudu antelopes, impalas, hippos and the wonderfully strutting group of giraffes pictured above.

Uplifting Visit to ZimKids in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

ZSA ZSA Team members tour the ZimKids library (above)

In Pumula North, one of Bulawayo’s poorest neighborhoods, two teenage boys are welding a new section of fence, one teaching the other how to use a grinding tool. Another young man is in the computer lab, getting prepared for the afternoon computer classes. The lab is powered by solar panels, installed by students. Three other young people are in a 30-meter-long, drip-irrigated greenhouse harvesting tomatoes and broccoli for lunch, while eighteen three- and four-year olds are singing songs in a nearby classroom, a structure built by former students of the school. Indeed, most everything in this remarkable complex — the buildings, surrounding walls, walkways, furniture, benches — were built by “the elders,” 16 – 18 year-old orphans who had attended the school.

Welcome to ZimKids: “Built by Orphans, Run by Orphans, For Orphans”

ZimKids was founded in 2008 by American sculptor Dennis Gaboury and Zimbabwean Tinashe Basa. When Dennis moved to Zimbabwe in 2005, he developed a creative toy- and doll-building competition for orphan children (it is estimated that 20% of all Zimbabwean children are orphans of parents who died of AIDS or violence). More than 250 orphan children submitted toys and dolls, many of which were put on show in the National Gallery. Word spread. The toys and dolls appealed to both Zimbabweans and foreigners, including dozens of Dennis’ friends and family back in New York who made donations.  The Zimkids Orphan Trust was established.

For four years ZimKids operated out of a neighborhood primary school. During that time, Dennis and Tinashe were joined by Bulawayo native/Baltimore resident Adrian Suskin, who over the years contributed funds for school fees, housing, and food; together they reached out to industry, corporations and institutions and raised money to build their own complex.

In 2012, the Adrian Suskin Center opened.  The center’s construction crew was made up of six members of the Council of Elders, trained on the job by Dennis. The center now includes an educational resource center with a kitchen, clinic, and library; a computer training room, a market garden complete with drip irrigation, a sewing training center, and sports fields. It sparkles with creativity inside and out.

Members of the Rotary Club of Knoxville recently collaborated with the Books for Africa Foundation, gathered and sent over dozens of boxes of books for the Adrian Suskin Center. When the ZSA ZSA Team toured the center last week, the books were being data based and put on the shelves of the library, which, of course, had been built by the elders of ZimKids.

Visit to Breached Earth Dam in Kezi, Zimbabwe

KEZI Earth DamZSA ZSA Team and local community members tour a breached earthen dam south of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Above, Rotarian Piet explains what it will require to repair the dam.

Several days ago, the ZSA ZSA Team visited a breached earth dam two hours southwest of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, near the Matobo National Park, to see if Rotary Club might help with its repair. The dam provided irrigation water to families and farmers on communal (tribal) land — about 75 small farms (and 200 families) depended on that water to raise crops like maize and sorghum. Torrential rains last year overtopped the dam and tore a 20-foot-wide breach in its side, allowing all the water behind the dam to run out.

We were guided by “Rotarian Piet” (above), a Dutch landscape architect (and Rotary Club of Bulawayo member) who moved to South Africa 35 years ago and has repaired some 200 such dams. He has built a data base of 2,000 similar dams across four South African countries. With Piet and a group of community members, the ZSA ZSA Team walked the dam, examined the breach, then followed Piet to a proposed irrigation area where water from the repaired dam would be used to hydrate crops. Under the shade of an acacia tree next to a non-functioning, hand-pumped well, we gathered to talk with the small community group to understand how the loss of the dam water had affected their lives. We discussed possible strategies for fixing the dam (e.g. remove all the rocks on the inside of the dam, widen its base, repair the breach with tamped earth and stone, add another meter of earth to the top of the dam, and replace the stones on the inside of the dam). We also cautioned that there were no guarantees that the dam repair project would be approved for funding by Rotary.

On our way back to the Bulawayo, we stopped by the Matobo National Park in the Matobo Hills (a Unesco World Heritage Site) where Cecil Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) and the famous (or infamous) DeBeers mining company, is buried.



Dedication of Nurse Training Center, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Slide2Dr. Phil Mitchell (right), Townes Osborn (left) past president of the Rotary Club of Knoxville and current Rotary Foundation committee chairwoman, and Jean Whiley (middle), past president of RC Bulawayo, this week at the dedication of the Nursing Training Centre at the Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. 

The dedication of the Nurse Training Centre held this week in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, followed a two-week Advanced Trauma Care course for 32 nurses and 16 doctors in Bulawayo. A team of nine doctors and nurses from the UT Medical Center   — headed by Dr. Mitchell and trauma nurse Niki Rasnake of the University of Tennessee Medical Center — provided the training.

Dr. Phillip Mitchell, MBBS, MD, board certified in Anesthesiology,  and Critical Care Medicine, is a native of Zimbabwe and a long- time resident of Knoxville. He and Ms. Osborn collaborated on the idea of establishing the training facility in Bulawayo and initiating the advanced trauma training. With Osborn guiding the grant writing and the development of support from Rotary Club of Knoxville, the Rotary Foundation, area businesses and the Rotary Club of Bulawayo, and Mitchell driving the cooperation of the
Knoxville medical community and the shipment of critical medical equipment and provisions to Bulawayo, the effort “mushroomed into $500,000 worth of supplies and materials,” to support this critically important training facility, said Osborn.


So monumental were the efforts of Townes Osborn on behalf of the training center, the hospital named its medical library after her.

At the dedication, which was attended by nurses, doctors, administrators of the Mater Dei Hospital, members of the RC of Bulawayo, the ZSA ZSA Team and many others, Mitchell also cited the amazing new fiber-optics video conferencing system which was installed at the hospital allowing high-quality, medical instruction to be beamed into the training facility from anywhere in the world.

Townes and Sandy

Townes Osborn and RC Bulawayo past president Sandy Whitehead, now Foundation Chairwoman for the Rotary Club of Bulawayo, who, like Jean Whiley, works tirelessly on behalf of the local club.

Zimbabwe Trauma Training Update from President Roy King

ZIM TRAUMA TRAINING SESSIONAdvanced trauma training classes begin in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. 

Dear Fellow Rotarians:

The first days of trauma training have been completed with resounding success! The classes were fully subscribed and all participants were engaged and learning new skills. 
The quality of candidates was very high with a high pass rate in both the physicians’ and nurses’ sections. This success will allow the nurses who have passed to do further training to become instructors themselves (in the training next week). 

Plans are also underway to train physicians to be come instructors. A big thank you to the four South African physicians Liesel Baker, Andrew Baker, Ian Stead and George Oosthuizen who helped oversee the program and will hopefully become regional partners to ensure the survival and expansion of this program. 

Also many thanks to Sandy Whitehead for supplying the Rotary banner and welcoming the students.

Yours in Rotary,

Roy King

ZIM TRAUMA CENTER TRAININGNurses and doctors doing hands-on trauma instruction 

ZIM TRAUMA TRAINING TEAMThe advanced trauma training class of nurses, doctors and instructors

SA PHYSICIANS LEAD TRAUMA TRAININGSouth African physicians Liesel Baker, Andrew Baker, Ian Stead and George Oosthuizen helped oversee the training sessions

Team Heads to Zimbabwe to Provide Trauma Training

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 4.23.43 PM

Dr. Blaine L. Enderson, right, Deb Tuggle, Teresa Day,  Dr. Phillip Mitchell, and Niki Rasnick, from UT Medical Center, depart for Africa from McGhee Tyson Airport. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Knoxville, they are headed out to Zimbabwe  to provide trauma training for doctors and nurses.  Photo by Wade Payne/Special to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

UT medical team bringing trauma care training to Zimbabwe

Mike Blackerby

5:15 PM, Jan 31, 2015

A collaborative dream more than a year in the making took another step toward fruition on Saturday as a local medical team of nine doctors and nurses departed McGhee Tyson Airport on a mission of mercy to Zimbabwe to provide trauma training in that country.

The team — headed by Dr. Phil Mitchell and trauma nurse Niki Rasnake of the University of Tennessee Medical Center — will provide Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses training in the African country.

“This will be the first time ever that the nursing trauma component has been taught in Africa,” said Rasnake, who is the trauma program manager at UT Medical Center.

Also, for just the third time ever in Africa, the team will conduct Advanced Trauma Life Support training to doctors in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Mitchell said that 32 nurses and 16 doctors in Zimbabwe will receive the training, with nine of the nurses qualifying to be instructors.

The country — whose three leading causes of death are HIV, infant and maternal mortality, and trauma — is overrun with orphans.

“They have doctors and nurses over there, but what they are really short on is any type of education,” Rasnake said.

“We’ll be teaching mostly about trauma. We’ll teach them how to take care of them (patients) in the first hour. That’s key. It’s the golden hour for survival.”

Rasnake said that procedures such as inserting chest tubes and the proper techniques for clearing airways will be taught at the now state-of-the-art training facility, which previously had served as a convent since the 1950s.

The idea for the mission and the establishment of a medical training facility in Zimbabwe sprang from a conversation more than a year ago between Mitchell and Townes Osborn, past president and Rotary Foundation committee chairwoman.

“She was the spark — nothing like this happens without someone like her,” said Mitchell, who was born in Zimbabwe.

The Rotary Club of Knoxville got the ball rolling by securing a $52,500 Rotary Foundation Global grant.

After Mitchell helped locate the convent as a future training center, the focus was turned on buying medical equipment, supplies and infrastructure.

Osborn said the outpouring of support, mostly from the Knoxville medical community and area businesses, was phenomenal.

“It mushroomed into $500,000 worth of supplies and materials,” said Osborn, who has worked closely on the project with the Bulawayo Rotary Club in Zimbabwe.

Mitchell said that perhaps the gem of the new facility is the procurement of a fiber-optics video conferencing system that will allow medical instruction to be beamed in from anywhere in the world.

He said that Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecommunications in London and an ambassador for technological development in Africa, made the fiber optics system a reality.

“We grew up and played rugby together,” said Mitchell.

While many factions have come together to make the new nurse training center in Zimbabwe possible, Mitchell pointed to his team just before they embarked on the nearly 9,000 mile trip on Saturday.

“None of this would have happened without this volunteer crew,” said Mitchell.

“The best part is we’ve got really good people who are available to teach.”