East Malvern – Maasai – Serengeti – PlasterHouse

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Sarah, oh Sarah how does the song go…..

Well nothing like what my 16-year-old daughter Maddie and her school friend Molly witnessed on our most recent visit to Africa, specifically Maasai country in northern Tanzania.

On our third trip back in four years – 24 hours via Doha and Nairobi – I stand here looking at what one woman has achieved in the face of great odds.

In ten years from a virgin piece of pastoral overlooked by the substantial Mt Meru, with Mt Kilimanjaro backgrounding that; Australian Sarah Rejman has forged a major rehabilitation hospital, a major outreach service and a major community gamechanger (The PlasterHouse); that sees young African of Maasai, Chagga, Muslim, Christian backgrounds with disabilities such as burns, cleft palates, bow legs (due to water), club feet and more, much more – found, surgically fixed and returned to their community in better shape, life changed forever – full stop.

Sarah’s story is one of incredible mental toughness – the kind you may have witnessed at an Olympic Games, or a Super Bowl or a major final.

It is also a story of incredible bravery – not the same, but perhaps not unlike what an Everest climber exhibits or one that is at war or …………..

And her story is one of determination over a sustained period of time, where a forty year old (three young kids and husband Jack) from East , has completely reshaped how disabled children are viewed on the plains of the Serengeti.

Yes we’ve all heard recent opinions on Africa and Africans and if you’ve bothered to go there before passing judgment, then you will begin to understand the complexities of a migration from Black to White culture – but you may also begin to feel that unless you’re in the footsteps of those you judge, you can never truly understand just how hard life can be.

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Disabled children in northern Tanzania have another level of harshness extra to that, added onto their routines of poverty, changing (even disappearing) cultures and the uncompromising law of the jungle.

Many disabled children don’t become disabled adults – while that will have a level of shock, as you work your way through that outcome – it also doesn’t have to be like this. Sarah has shown many in Tanzania, in the US and in Australia just that.

These children – when found by Sarah and her team (almost all local Tanzanians), when operated on, when rehabilitated at The PlasterHouse and when returned to their community, within a matter of a few days, weeks or months depending on surgery availability and recoveries – will begin to lead normal African lives.

Why PlasterHouse, why Sarah Rejman?

Hey, have you seen an intensive care unit in Africa – for a very few in the occasional big city it would be like walking into the Alfred – but for the vast majority, many in the outlying areas; an intensive care operating room, looks a lot like an admin office, down the back of the tram depot and has about as many resources.

Hey, do you know how it would feel to walk your entire childhood on your ankles, with your feet turned backwards or to have fallen asleep into a cooking fire, in a moment of carelessness and be in pain for the rest for your life (when you didn’t have to be). Nope few of us do in Australia.

In Africa things are different and in some cases that’s a good thing; such as customs, culture, animals and people – why would Tanzanians want to have our levels of stress, lack of family bindings, time addictions and so on.

However in one case, not having what we have in Australia, is a bad thing – a good medical set up and improving views on fixable disabilities.

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So Sarah is a force, a Swahili speaking redhead:

a ginger nut in a sea of non blueys and yet all at the PlasterHouse rehabilitation hospital seem ok taking her directions. Staff are sent out on outreach, children are shepherded to the local hospitals for their repairs and those that remain under PlasterHouse post-operative care are checked and re-checked.

Sarah Rejman is a wonderful woman and yes there are a few wonderful Australian women in Africa (but you can count them on one hand, and Africa is a big place) – Sarah is making a huge difference to the lives of so many and yet so few – and it’s not political, it’s not religious – it’s purely medical.

Someone else will help – I don’t need to do anything.

That was the attitude I took with two people on an outreach visit I took with Sarah in 2016. Between that time and Jan 2018, I lost my way on those two people – they simply needed some funding for an eye complaint and a prosthetic. On my return a fortnight ago I found neither the eye problem was solved, nor the prosthetic acquired and yet the solution was simple. My point, unless you do it – in Africa the poverty is such, that nobody else will.

I haven’t made the same mistake this time around.

Sarah hasn’t made that mistake for over 10 years.

You too can help.

Twice every year, Sarah needs to raise $A50,000 to pay for hospital care for 90 to 100 children, who are operated on by American surgeons who fly in, fix and fly out (at no charge) to help these young children – not all Americans think poorly of Africa!

$A50,000 is hard to find and on top of the ongoing running costs Sarah has to raise for the care of around 500 children per year (on average every day 50 children medically under The PlasterHouse’s care).

If you could find within your heart to help Sarah, the East Malvern Australian (near saint) and qualified Occupational Therapist, then three things:

  • your donation is tax deductible and you only lose 7.5% in Aus admin costs before the balance is put directly into hospital fees.
  • you could actually go and see where your money goes, we are going back a fourth time in Jan 2019 and you’re welcome to come with us – our family and work has contributed significant amounts over 3 years AND
  • you will be making an incredible and permanent difference to another fellow human beings life. $500 to fix a foot, a face or a lip for each child or give in bulk – $A50,000 and help 100 surgeries. WOW.

Want to know more?

Sarah Rejman will be coming to Australia again mid year and is happy to meet and talk to groups and individuals about what she does and how you can help.

You can book her through our office (work hours) 03 9596 8822.

The website is www.plasterhouse.org

Contact me, Mal James – 0408 107 988 or speak to my daughter Maddie James or her school friend Molly Hill, both seen below with Issa, a local Maasai.

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