Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Volume 3 Issue No. 1

TVFP has received this correspondence from a small village in Uganda called Kinoni. Lindsay Hillcoat, working for an NGO involved in local economic development, has written to us describing a particularly harrowing 24 hrs in the life of a village family and her part in the attempt to avert a tragedy:

Today was a particularly difficult day. Juliet (the local woman I work with on the lending project) and I met today to go and visit the second round of loan recipients at their businesses and homes in a small community called Kinoni. We rescheduled this from the week before as Juliet has been getting very ill lately as she is battling HIV/AIDS. Today she was feeling well so we took off on a walk (about 15 minutes) to one of the loan recipient’s house and shop. 

When we arrived the woman told us that her daughter gave birth in the middle of the night but that she had only been 7 months into the pregnancy. We were told by the neighbor that helped deliver the baby that the mother was hemorrhaging before, during, and after the delivery. They had tried to go to the village health centre when she was in labour but there was nobody there and they had no money for transport to the hospital so they delivered the baby at home. The woman brought us into her small one room shop and behind the counter her daughter was lying in sheets on the floor with a small baby boy in a box with blankets. 

The baby was very tiny, had his eyes shut, was barely moving, but was able to breathe. The baby would not suckle and therefore had not been fed the first 20 hours of his life. I told the Jori (the grandmother and loan recipient) that both needed medical attention and we would cover their medical visit and transport costs. We called up four bodas (motorcycle taxis) to take Juliet, Jori, myself, mother and baby to the health clinic. It was open and I spoke with a nurse, but no doctor was due in and she recommended that we make the trip to Mbarara (approx. 40 mins). 

So I gave Jori some transport money and she went home for overnight supplies and Juliet, the mother and baby and I waited for transport to Mbarara. We could only find a minibus to get to Mbarara so he stuffed us into the van and off we went to get to the hospital. The conductor of the minibus saw me as a money opportunity and overcharged all of us for the ride. I got quite angry as we needed that money to be able to get the baby to the hospital and treated. He finally paid me back some of the money so that the other two women weren’t overcharged, but still kept mine at an inflated fare. 

Sometimes I get quite sick of the discrimination you get as a mzungu (white person) as everyone thinks you have tons of money and that they should be able to benefit from that (I don’t think they’d believe us if we told them we were all in debt from student loans). 

We finally arrived at the hospital, and because it was government-run, it was packed. We got directed building to building and finally arrived at an admissions room. There was a shortage of doctors and all the benches were full. We couldn’t get seen right away as there was a small child on the table of the admissions table that they were losing. 

There were actually a group of a few McMaster medical students that were clearly overwhelmed as it was only their second day there. After a few minutes they were able to do an initial assessment of the baby. His temperature was dropping, but he was still breathing. We ended up bringing the baby on to the same table as the one they were trying to revive. They gave him oxygen and a shot of dextrose (his first nutrients) and began to warm him up. When he was doing well they moved him into a ward with the other premature babies. 

We were told his blankets and sheets weren’t warm enough (they have no incubators, just a warm room) so I went to the market outside of the hospital grounds and bought him some new ones. In the meantime, the mother was being cared for by a doctor. When Jori (the grandmother) arrived and both baby and mom seemed on the mend, Juliet and I left them with some money for food for the evening. I presume they would join all of the other families out on the lawn for the night; most had mattresses or rugs, blankets and camped on the hospital property at night. 

Everyone seemed very grateful (the doctors, mother, grandmother, and Kinoni neighbours) that Juliet and I brought them in. I kept being told “you did a good thing, thank you”. Jori and her daughter, later told to me by Juliet, have decided that they will find a big fat hen or chicken and sacrifice it for me as thanks. I am just glad that today was the day that Juliet and I ended up meeting with Jori, as I know the baby would not have made it through tonight without medical care (and nourishment).
Although it was a rough day I was feeling better that mom and baby had medical care and that they were doing well. Unfortunately, as we left though, Jori came up to speak with Juliet and expressed her concern about her daughter’s HIV. I was unaware of this until then. The struggles this baby is already facing... If given proper care, the chance of mother to baby transmission is actually quite low. However, given that the mother was not on ARVs, had a home birth, and hemorrhaged the baby’s chances of contracting HIV increases up to 40%. 

Let’s hope this so-far-unnamed baby boy will be a lucky one. On our way out we came upon Juliet’s cousin in one of the wards who was being cared for after having a miscarriage from her 4 month pregnancy the night before. Arriving home from the day I had a lot to think about. I have witnessed poor access to medical care before, but today hit me pretty hard. It is difficult to watch just how tough a child can have it just hours into his life. 

Tomorrow morning I am going to go see how the baby (and family) are holding up. I hope tomorrow  is a good day for them (and that baby has made it through the night).

Update: I got a call this evening that they needed help to buy formula. The store that sold it was already closed, but Tara and I took the trip to the hospital anyways. When we arrived Jori and her daughter were quite hungry so we got them some food and water (they had already spent the money I gave them on other things for the baby). 

We had someone translate for us and they had another mother lend them formula until I could come back in the morning. I would also bring more blankets. The baby looked much warmer and had a steady strong breath. They were very thankful for the food and help and I told them I would see them at 9 am with the formula and blankets. They also asked me to name the baby. I told them I would think about a name.

This morning: I was up getting ready to go to the hospital and got a call saying the baby had died. They said the mother and daughter were waiting at the gates and I told them I’d be there soon to bring transport money. When I arrived they were waiting at the public transit stand, looking very upset, and holding the baby wrapped up in blankets to bring home. I was told he made it through the night and died this morning. 

All I could do was say how sorry I was (through my tears) and give them money (plus some extra) to get home. Through someone translating, they asked when I would visit. I told them in a few days. I am going to bring flowers. I am very sad that he did not make it, but am glad he was at least given a chance. Many children don’t get that chance. 

All I can think of is what if she gave birth at the hospital? What if she had prenatal care or seen a doctor during pregnancy? What if he got there sooner? He could have had a better shot-- But I know it is better that he died warm in the hospital with his family and many people fighting for him, rather than without the hope of medical care and in a box on the floor of his grandmothers shop.

For more information you can contact Ms. Hillcoat at:

TVFP likes: Jim Read (a whole lot). Mr. Read is a writer who lives in Parkdale. He has written to us to shamelessly promote (how could we say no) a new release of his short stories: Dispatches From The Belleisle And Other Stories:

Smashwords Interview with Jim Read

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

The first story I ever read was Spot Sees Jane. Spot was a dog and Jane was the pretty girl in the row next to me who had bright blue eyes and black bangs and knew the answers to everything.

When did you first start writing?

My last year of high school. I had an English teacher who got us to write a poem. I did. It had something to do with a beach and the tide.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I grew up there for awhile. I grew up a little more in Kirkland Lake in North Ontario, a gold mining town that had run out of gold. I was still growing when our family moved east. There was my wandering period that after a few years brought me back to the Maritimes. I'm living in Toronto now. 

Displacement, a sense of loss, yes there's that. A sense of place or a nostalgia for a place is very much a theme for much of what I write.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

There is a real opportunity with Indie publishing to strike a fair deal with my readership. I have these great stories. The pricing is affordable.

Describe your desk

It's a simple, uncluttered platform. Very small, but with room for my elbows. The chair is important. I have a good chair that I can elevate with some sort of a magical air device. The magic lasts for a day or so and then I have to pull on the magical lever. There's an incantation that came with the chair but I've lost it.

What are your five favorite books, and why?

A Farewell To Arms. It was the best thing Hemmingway wrote. It is a simple love story, told in plain language. The economy of the narrative nevertheless conveys a deep emotional impact. There's a Brazilian author, Jorge Amado. I've like everything he's written but particularly, Tieta. Amado is a smorgasbord, with robust characters and vivid descriptions. His plots are models of irony. I would recommend anything by Mordecai Richler, but particularly Joshua Then And Now. Richler's comedic sensibility is relentless. Two Pints, by Roddy Doyle. Doyle's dialogue is unbeatable, his flawed characters completely believable . Rounding up the top five how about a Curtain of Green, by Eudora Welty. Ms. Welty is a master of short fiction.

Who are your favorite authors?

I don't have favorite authors so much as favorite books; A Farewell To Arms, for instance. There are certain parts of books that I re-read, Molly Bloom's soliloquy, The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen. I've read just about everything by Elmore Leonard and Mordecai Richler. It's hard to put down a book by Roddy Doyle once you start. The Color Purple and As I Lay Dying are two books that moved me deeply as did the Diary of Anne Frank. It simply ends one day and it is as chilling a denouement as I've found in any book.

What do you read for pleasure?

Lately I've been reading cookbooks that create a vivid narrative of place and culture. Mourjou, by Peter Graham is just such a book. Mourjou is in the Auvergne region of France.

You can read the entire Interview here:

TVFP recommends you visit this website:

As well, once you're there you can follow a link to a story published and generously archived by The Antigonish Review, a highly regarded literary journal, published by St. Francis Xavier University. A Night Out With All OurCoins is an excellent introduction to Jim Read's writing.

You can also follow this link directly:

A Night Out With All Our Coins

TVFP likes:

Transformations in Toronto’s Parkdale Neighbourhood
UBC Press

Suburb provides an overview of the development of the Village of Parkdale against the background of the historical development of urban theory. However, it was of interest to us because of its usefulness for writers who live in Parkdale or who are interested in using Parkdale as a setting for a fictional work before wading into primary source stuff. It is also well written and of interest

TVFP has heard from our correspondent at large, HRH the Empress of India:

We do not often tell a joke. I told Albert a joke and he thought I wanted to redecorate the palace lavatories. Albert was a German and as a German he was very sensitive to that sort of thing. One of the few jokes I've told was to the French Ambassador. It was in private, for his ears only.

'A French fry walks into an establishment and says to the bartender, Sir, would you be so kind as to pour me a glass of your best claret. The bartender looks at the French fry and bows politely, as a gentlemen should. The Bartender says to the French fry, my dear Sir, I’m sorry, but we don’t serve food.'

Ha, ha. Ha, ha.

Lord Melbourne called on me the next day. He said, Ma’am, are you planning to invade France?

Fuck off. Stupid git.

TVFP presents: The Milky Way. This little lane way runs parallel to Queen Street, from Dufferin Street to Elm Grove Avenue.

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