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Sydney sends life-saving supplies to Zambia

Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues is a journalist for The Catholic Weekly. She also writes at marilynrodrigues.com. Email her at [email protected]
Dr Mark Hanley prepares to consign medical supplies to the school. Photo: Supplied
Dr Mark Hanley prepares to consign medical supplies to the school. Photo: Supplied

What does love look like? At St Kevin’s parish in Eastwood it’s 6.7 tons of hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, textbooks, and surgical and medical equipment delivered to the red dirt driveway of a new medical school in Zambia that desperately needs it.

Local GP and senior lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Sydney, Dr Mark Hanley, is co-ordinating the mission of mercy.

Dr Hanley is passionate about helping the St Joseph Lumezi Nursing College and Provincial Hospital to get established and grow in the Archdiocese of Chipata, the East African country’s poorest province with only 36 doctors for a population of more than 1.5 million.

As reported in The Catholic Weekly last September, he was overwhelmed by support and donations from UNDA, Calvary Aged Care Ryde, the Cardoner Project, the Australian Catholic Medical Association, his northwest Sydney parish and other sources.

A shipping container full of life-saving equipment was blessed by parish administrator Fr Pawel Kopczynski CSMA, left Port Botany on New Year’s Day, and arrived in Chipata in April—just as a second container was being planned.

The supplies were hauled more than 1050km by land across Tanzania, northern Malawi and into Zambia, overcoming a few last-minute hurdles, including one worrisome delay at a border crossing that threatened penalty fees of $USD150 a day.

Parishioners have already raised more than $3000 to send the next lot of supplies which will include ECG machines from St Vincent’s Hospital and audio-visual lecture theatre equipment from UNDA.

“Fr Pawel has become a strong supporter of the Catholic Church’s work in East Africa and kindly agreed to bless our second container and its life-saving equipment before departure,” said Dr Hanley.

“Zambia is really quite safe and stable compared to similarly impoverished countries, and therefore has the potential to provide great returns for human development if an opportunity arises.

Students at the St Joseph Lumezi Nursing College welcome a donation of medical supplies and textbooks from Sydney supporters, led by Dr Mark Hanley. Photo: Supplied
Students at the St Joseph Lumezi Nursing College welcome a donation of medical supplies and textbooks from Sydney supporters, led by Dr Mark Hanley. Photo: Supplied

“We can look at the tragedies unfolding in Sudan and Ethiopia and ask what’s the best thing we can do?

“Well, for very little money we can help build a hospital that will train doctors who live on the continent and, if needed, cross the border to help their neighbours faster and cheaper than anyone else can get them there. That’s a benefit that will affect whole lives and generations.”

The partnership between the university and the Archdiocese of Chipata began when Dr Hanley met Fr Jacob Zulu, its director of Catholic health services in Sydney in 2018.

His bishop had a vision for a Catholic tertiary institution offering training in nursing, midwifery, public health, and eventually medicine.

With encouragement from his Sydney friends, Bishop George Lungu opened the college in 2019 with its first 100 students.

“If you fast-forward 50 years from now you will have a flagship hospital in that will be able to serve hundreds of thousands of people because this part of the country is growing quickly,” Dr Hanley said.

“There are so many young people there, they’re enthusiastic, they’re switched on, and they move fast. They got together and unloaded the first container in a day, they’ve put in a concrete slab, built a library and they’ve got the beds assembled.

“Those beds mean that this bush hospital is now eligible to match the best hospital in the whole country, which is an ICU hospital in the capital city.

“And you just sort of think, ‘They’re gonna do it, whether I help them or not.’”

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