Meanwhile, in the heart of deepest Herefordshire…

herd of sheep being driven down country lane

Screenshot of Peter and Patricia Wyard

Patricia and Peter Wyard describe how technology is helping them continue their mission in DRC from a temporary base in the English countryside

The phone rang via WhatsApp.

“Bonjour docteur, comment ça va, est-ce-que vous pouvez voir une malade avec moi s’il vous plait?” (Hello doctor, how are you, could you see a patient with me?)

This was our dear friend Venerable Madhira, an intelligent, qualified nurse, dean of the cathedral, as well as one of Peter’s licence students.

This was an amazing experience for me, Patricia, to see a patient on live camera. Fortunately, WhatsApp is encrypted. We managed together to tease out this lady’s problems and I am pleased to say that her pain got sorted out satisfactorily. This was telemedicine taken to a new level!

Our bishop has given Peter the green light to deliver his course to his students. How? you may ask. He will be emailing the fully written-out French language course (which every teacher is expected to make available) and he is making video summaries, each lasting about eight minutes.

Peter with their homemade video set-up

“Making a short video” sounds like nothing very much. But it is a very time-consuming challenge. Firstly, the language: doing a summary in French is harder than in English. Next recording yourself in the right light, height etc. Then this video needs editing, inserting a few slides to make the presentation visually attractive and reducing its size, so it is easily downloadable and transferable on a memory stick.

We are glad we had some training by CMS. It becomes clear that even while away, there are many ways of communicating with our teams which are maybe also ways we can use in the future, after we ‘finish’ our three-year mission with CMS.

The trial video was well received by our friend the aforementioned Venerable Madhira, and not only by him, but also by our dear cook, Clementine!

Anguyi – Patricia’s palliative medicine nurse colleague who gets the hospital’s morphine supplies from Arua

Why Clementine? She and Robert are still employed by us and they make our home a real “internet café” where Patricia’s team and Peter’s students get a welcome cup of tea/coffee and sugar and milk. Before we left, we arranged that we would keep paying for internet access to our house so that these people would be able to enjoy using the internet for free.

Well, “enjoy” is maybe not quite the right word. A mast transmitting the Vodacom signal had been destroyed by rebels “up the road” from Aru and that has worsened the quality of the signal.

We have been in deepest Herefordshire since the end of April, thanks to our very kind friends Sandra and Andrew. We love the cycle rides, the walks, seeing Offa’s Dyke, the Malverns and the South Wales hills. We are so grateful to so many of you who sent us kind messages, who have helped us practically in this Covid-19 pandemic. Our children who we finally saw over two occasions have been really wonderful, and their lives have been significantly affected, like so many. Thankfully none of us have become ill.

What about Covid-19 in DRC and Aru in particular? The Congolese government took a very strict attitude of social distancing very early on (well before the UK!) and closed Kinshasa where the pandemic had taken hold (although not on the same scale of Europe). The rest of the country is largely spared. How and when we can return remains unclear. We do want to go back!

Kende malamu! (“Go well” in Lingala)

Published 1 July 2020

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