May 12, 2020

Fighting breast cancer and tackling COVID-19

Hlokomela staff ready to screen for COVID19.
Hlokomela staff ready to screen for COVID19.

We gladly share with you, our reader and faithful supporters at GlobalGiving, what we have been up to during the last 3 months in the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic.

At the start of March, when COVID-19 started making its way into South Africa, life as we know it changed completely. In this report you will read a lot about what we have been doing to flatten the curve, educate, train and screen the larger community of Hoedspruit and surrounds in the rural area of Limpopo Province.

Risk reduction training for sex workers

During the last two months, the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic has been actively involved in outreach campaigns in conjunction with the Hlokomela Sex Worker Programme. We have gone out into taverns and villages to conduct Pap smear tests, teach about breast cancer awareness, breast self-examination as well as teaching and education on COVID-19. Special hand wash demonstrations were given to ensure that people understand the correct way of using hand sanitizer and how to wash hands effectively.

Patients on treatment

We currently have one patient on chemo. *Mrs Wilson (50 years old) came into the Women’s Clinic with a previously diagnosed (by her GP) abscess. She did not respond to antibiotic treatment and asked that we do a breast ultrasound on her just to make sure that there was not some underlying problem that may have been missed initially. After the ultrasound was done, a biopsy/fine needle aspiration was indicated and Dr Inez Allin, a volunteer from the Tshemba Foundation, performed the procedure. The cytology results came back as positive for breast cancer. Mrs Wilson has since started chemotherapy and is doing well.

*Mrs Moore, is a 60-year-old patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago. The mass was detected very early and she was in remission shortly after a round of chemo. Two months ago she felt a lump in her right breast and came to the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic for an ultrasound. Nothing suspicious was found in the right breast, but we did find a highly suspicious mass in the left breast. After a core biopsy, test results came back positive for breast cancer. She has since undergone a double mastectomy and she is recovering well.

*Mrs Nyati is a 50-year-old patient who felt a lump in her left breast while taking a shower one morning. She decided to have it checked and came for an ultrasound. The mass looked suspicious on ultrasound and a biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer. She underwent two rounds of chemo and is now cancer-free and in remission.

*These are pseudonyms used to protect the true identity of our patients.                  

Production of buffs and masks

To date, the Hlokomela Sewing Project has made over 7000 buffs and masks to protect farmworkers on their daily commute to work. The Sewing Project has also made masks for Hlokomela’s healthcare workers in the Women’s Clinic.

Outreach and awareness

From the beginning of March, we have reached more than 5000 people with demonstrations on the correct handwashing technique, social distancing measures, how to protect oneself from contracting the virus and personal hygiene. The Women’s Clinic staff played a vital role in these outreaches.

Preparing clinic for COVID-19

Our clinics have put in place measures on how to deal with COVID-19 cases who attend our clinics and are ready for receiving these patients and transferring them to the closest hospital for testing and treatment. We have implemented outdoor handwashing stations where all staff, clients and visitors wash hands before entering the clinic. Additional outdoor client waiting areas have also been implemented to adhere to social distancing standards. 

Distribution of food parcels

From 14 to 30 April 2020, Hlokomela distributed 700 food parcels containing food items such as mealie meal, beans, tinned fish and cooking oil with basic items such as candles and soap. These food parcels were distributed to farmworkers along with more than 30 tonnes of citrus fruit donated by local farms.

Hand wash demo by Hlokomela staff.
Hand wash demo by Hlokomela staff.
Teaching cough etiquette in local languages
Teaching cough etiquette in local languages

Links:

Feb 25, 2020

Let it grow

The team

As promised, the team is growing. We'll be welcoming our new seamstress early March 2020, Yeahhh! Very exciting to see the team growing, toward larger production and of course bigger impact. Our new lady will be trained and developed with the support of our master seamstresses Mama Irene and Mama Johanna.

Even though she's already a seamstress super star, the main priority for the coming months will be to get her up to speed with our quality standards. 

Partnership and training

Since our last report, we had the opportunity to develop new partnerships with local farms and other NGO's, with a view of expanding our distribution capacity. In fact we already started distribution of our pads directly to young female farmers and the feedbacks were encouraging and overwelming. 

Our main objective here is to increase our local footprint, partnering with organisations that could help us gain access and trust to specific key populations who need sanitary pads (school, orphenage).

Production and distribution

Our production is now up and going fully. We relocated our Sewing project to a larger space on the other side of our building. This will allow us to keep on growing the team, while providing a better and cleaner working environemt for our seamstresses.

Our next focus remains twofold:

- Streamline and increase our production capacity, with a focus on quality and confort.

- Develop new local distribution channels through partner organisations and projects fan (yes, we have fans now).

The future

Once again we would like to thank GlobalGiving, local and international donors, partners and everyone involved in the project to start with.

We are more motivated than ever to make this project a success and our motto remains: "It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela 

Jan 17, 2020

Teaching sex workers about women's health

Womens health workshop for sex workers
Womens health workshop for sex workers

We gladly share with our GlobalGiving family what we have been up to during the last 3 months in the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic.

We are now offering Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs) as a birth control method to our patients. We have purchased the correct instruments and the IUDs can now be inserted in the comfort of the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic and is just one more option for women to choose from. Providing choice empowers!

Risk Reduction Workshop

In December the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic staff teamed up with staff from our Sex Workers program to present a risk reduction workshop for 26 sex workers in Phalaborwa, a nearby town. The aim of the workshop was to educate and teach sex workers about safe sex, breast cancer, self-breast examination as well as cervical cancer and the Pap smear procedure. The women enjoyed the talks and it was a very interactive session with many questions. This was also a great learning opportunity for the staff to gain a better understanding of the lives and realities of sex workers.

Hlokomela Tours

The Hlokomela Tours have been doing very well in the last couple of months. It has been such a wonderful opportunity to tell people from all over the world what we do at the Women’s Clinic. It has created some meaningful networking opportunities and we have built up great connections for possible future endeavours. Because we often have international guests on our tours, GlobalGiving has been an easy and convenient way for our tour guests to donate to the cause.

Women's health outreach for farmworkers

On 29 October the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic hosted a workshop and outreach at Bavaria Fruit Estate, a local mango and citrus farm. We addressed 183 female farmworkers about breast cancer, cervical cancer, abuse against women and children, sexually transmitted infections, HIV and the menstrual cycle.

The presentation was very well received and a fruitful Q & A was held afterwards. As a result of this outreach, 7 women have attended the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic for consultations. 5 of the 7 women have never had a Pap smear procedure done before and are over 45. It is good to see how our outreaches are improving access to women’s health services!

Bravolution

The Bravolution is going strong and we are continuing to provide our patients with good quality bras. We are continuing to motivate and teach self-breast examination to each women entering the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic and we are looking forward to screening many more patients in 2020. We currently have 3 patients on chemotherapy and 3 in the process of diagnosis. 

Teaching farm workers about breast health
Teaching farm workers about breast health
Receiving a donation of bras for patients
Receiving a donation of bras for patients

Links:

 
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