Friday, October 19, 2007

A Sad Ending

Posted on behalf of Erin Fitzgerald

As gratifying as our work is at Children International, at times it can be emotionally wearing. For me, last week was especially heartbreaking. I was shocked to learn that Monica Mvula, a stone crusher we featured in the Winter 2007 issue of Journeys magazine, passed away. Some of you may recall that Monica hammered rocks into gravel to sell for construction work in Lusaka, Zambia.

Each and every day she, her husband and seven children struggled. Rarely was there enough nutritious food, but at least sponsorship was easing the burden by providing essentials like basic health care and educational support.

Still, Monica worried about the future of her children. “The biggest challenge in my life is the children who depend solely on me,” she once said. “I sometimes imagine if I were in no position to provide for them how their lives would become....”

Then the unthinkable occurred. Monica was diagnosed with tuberculosis and advised to no longer crush stones. Just when it seemed life couldn’t get any worse, a generous donor stepped in to help Monica start a small business. At last, the sense of security she had been grasping at for decades suddenly seemed within her reach.

Although I never met Monica, I felt like I knew her. I read quotes from her describing her life, looked through dozens of photos of her and her family, and watched video footage of her smiling and laughing. Like so many others, she was just a mom trying to support her kids – and give them the best life possible.

The news of her death hit me hard. I immediately emailed Clementina, our communications coordinator in Lusaka, Zambia, for an update. Here’s what she had to say:

“I visited the home of the late Monica Mvula. I found the widower in bed and very sick. He has a very bad cough. I had a short discussion with him because he could not stand for too long. He is not working because he is too weak to do so. He is not receiving any medical attention because he has no money.

"Monica's health had improved greatly after the first course of the TB [tuberculosis] treatment but soon after she started the second course of the TB treatment she had a stroke and her condition worsened. She was then admitted in the intensive care unit of the University Teaching Hospital until her death.

"Her children Ronica, James and Brenda who are on the program have been taken to another town…to live with their aunt because their father is too sick to look after them. Lemmy and Shadreck [both sponsored] together with their elder brother are the ones looking after their sick father....”

Clementina’s update was worse than I had feared. I wonder how Monica’s last days were spent and how she felt knowing she was leaving behind her children and a husband who couldn’t support them. Monica dedicated her life to her kids. I can’t imagine what she must have gone through.

Now poverty and sickness have torn the family apart. Fortunately, Ronica, James and Brenda have their aunt to look after them.

But I worry about Lemmy and Shadreck. What will become of them? I’m comforted by the fact that they will continue receiving the benefits of sponsorship.

Monica worked so hard, yet had nothing to show for it. Like countless other Zambians with little education and few resources, she battled for survival. Despite the support of Children International and a special donation, a better life was still out of reach for Monica. I’m hopeful that it won’t be for her children.

1 comment:

Hilde said...

I wonder how the family is doing now? Has the father received medical attention?