Catriona and Stephen Bennett Link Letter no. 14 February 2020

Dear friends,

Greetings from a drier Rwanda! For those for whom this is the first of our link letters you have read, Steve is a consultant general surgeon and Catriona is a consultant anaesthetist, both from the UK. We now work at Gahini Hospital in Eastern Rwanda where our mission is to provide a surgical and anaesthetic service, develop the hospital’s facilities and train local healthcare staff.

Gahini Hospital

So much has changed in the hospital in the last six months it has completely blown us away! When we first arrived here it was our aim to do ourselves out of a job within five years, hoping that we would be replaced by Rwandan staff. For so long this seemed completely unachievable, but in the last three months we have begun to see glimmers of hope.

In December Gahini appointed its first full-time Rwandan specialists, two orthopaedic surgeons. Gahini has long been a centre for physical rehabilitation and part of that work is corrective orthopaedic surgery. You may remember that in April last year a new rehabilitation centre was opened along with a brand new three theatre orthopaedic operating suite. This was to accommodate the part-time work of Dr Nsengiyumva, who specializes in paediatric orthopaedic surgery for conditions such as clubfoot. It was a vision for the future. Thus when Kibungo hospital did not have the theatre space or equipment for these two orthopaedic specialists, Gahini hospital was all set up ready to appoint them. Through their work we are now the referral hospital for orthopaedics for Eastern Rwanda!

Our new orthopaedic surgeons: Dr Thierry (left) and Dr Salvador (right).

With more surgeons we urgently needed more anaesthetists. So we have been fortunate to appoint two new non-physician anaesthetists. Both seem very keen to take on the busy schedule and many paediatric cases here, which has meant that, with a bit of extra training from Catriona, they have fitted in very well. The government has promised us a Rwandan anaesthesiologist (doctor anaesthetist) in the next round of specialist appointments, so we hope and pray this will come to fruition.

The refurbished general surgery ward.

In the meantime the University of Rwanda has appointed Steve as an Associate Dean. He is now responsible for the education of groups of four newly qualified doctors who are here for a month at a time to undertake a surgical placement to prepare them for general practice. These are the first medical doctors in training to come to Gahini and we pray that eventually we may also be able to take residents here.

Steve, now an associate dean, with colleagues at the University of Rwanda.

Recently we have been very blessed with some significant donations and a successful grant application, which is enabling us to refurbish our surgical wards. The general surgical ward is finished; a lighter, brighter and more open ward compared to its former self. Male and female patients now have their own areas and Steve is working on equipping a higher care area for patients who are immediately post-op. Similar work on the orthopaedic ward is due to start next week. Please give thanks to the Lord for all his provision.

The English speaking Service at the cathedral

Steve has now purchased a suitable projection screen which he is planning to either wall mount or have on a standing frame. Both options would be removable so that it is not in the way when people would like to see the full decor. He will meet with the bishop’s representative to finalise this soon.

Gahini’s schools have just come back after their long break to start the new academic year. Unfortunately, during this time the primary school has stopped offering boarding, in line with a government directive. This means the only people who will attend the service are the secondary pupils and they are much less reliable – the last two weeks the service was cancelled at the last minute after Steve had put in hours of preparation. We really ask for prayer for wisdom as to whether this service should continue in its current form.

Family news

Our children continue to thrive. Rachel is 10 months old, toddling everywhere and helping herself to everything she knows she is not allowed. Hannah is a kind big sister who adores Rachel but still definitely has her three-year-old moments. Double trouble is a good description of the chaos caused when they are in league with each other. Fortunately Kellen, our Rwandan nanny, has stepped up to the challenge of their care as Catriona is now working most weekday mornings.

The Bennett family.

The rains have been slow to leave this dry season. During an almighty storm last weekend, lightning struck the power cables to both our house and the hospital. The hospital lost three of their four internet distributors. However, we were extremely fortunate that while every surge protector had its fuse blown in our house, all of our appliances and devices were saved. New fuses are on their way out with the next visitor. We have never been so glad of our surge protectors. Please thank God for his protection.

Equipment maintenance is an ongoing need.

Finally, we would like to reiterate our grateful thanks to all those who support us in prayer and finance. 2020 marks the halfway point in our mission here in Rwanda and it would simply not be possible without all of you.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year,

Catriona, Stephen, Hannah and Rachel

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