Lift up your eyes, look around and see. Isaiah 49:18
Alistair and I, along with Bridget our office manager and Chris, one of our medical volunteers, were delighted to attend a function at the Hull Eye Hospital last week. The event, A Sight to Behold, was part of the Hull City of Culture and was the unveiling of a sculpture at the hospital. Part of the sculpture is a collection box for donated old/unused spectacles, aiming to create a legacy from the project. We had been invited to the event because the project will be donating these spectacles to Jacob’s Well Appeal, so that we can distribute them overseas. We were so grateful they had included us in this. These glasses are invaluable to those who can not otherwise afford them, giving them the gift of sight.
Bridget with the donated spectacles and the unveiling of the sculpture
We have just completed filling our first container to Somaliland. This is the northern region of Somalia which was once a British protectorate. We are working with a charity that was formed by British people with family members living in the region. This is a very poor area of the world with very limited medical facilities. Alistair and I are aware that we may have to visit before sending a further container, which will be quite an experience.
We are now looking forward to going to Burkina Faso next month. We are visiting our partners in Ouagadougou to work out how to help them with the hospital they are building and also to try to plan the setting up of an agricultural college. As we know nothing about agriculture we are going with two of our volunteers who were farmers, along with a school nurse and our main fund raiser. We will also be visiting the school we support in Bobo-dioulasso, Burkina’s second largest city, as well as several fruit tree projects. We are also hoping to co-ordinate a seed bank project. Please pray for the teams’ safety and success in our endeavours!
Every good tree bears good fruit – Matthew 7:17
We have had a difficult few months as Alistair’s father sadly passed away just after his 90th birthday. We thank everyone for their kind words and support. At the moment we are supporting Alistair’s mother so we have no trips abroad planned for the next few months. We are however, going to visit Burkina Faso in November and hopefully will return to Ghana in the New Year.
Despite having to stay at home, we have managed to sort out several fruit tree plantations.
Our partners in Ghana are planting orchards in three communities in the Upper East of Ghana. This is an area where there has been a lot of deforestation. The area has poor roads and is very cut off. We visited this area last year and stayed in one of the communities. They were very generous to host us and we really appreciated their hospitality. We did, however, struggle as there were no toilet facilities….
The community we stayed at in Upper East Ghana
We are also working with some pastors in Burkina Faso near Bobo-Dioulasso. We met them at the pastors conference last year and they are also farmers. They are each planting 100 trees in poor communities to provide food and hopefully some produce to sell in a few years time. The work is hard to start with though, as they have to water the trees daily for the first few years before any fruit can be picked. The fruit provides vitamin A that protects against blindness and the trees obviously benefit the environment, especially as Burkina Faso is a tropical desert area. We are also working with our partners in Ouagadougou to plant 6 orchards in poor communities. We have a contact who works for the government in agriculture and he will show the community representatives how to plant the trees. The contract we make ensures that each community gets at least 50% of the harvest, with the workers also getting a percentage. Many of the plantations are attached to schools, meaning that the school children will get regular fruit once the harvest comes.
And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water – Matthew 10:42
I am currently sat in the rather grand titled ‘International Projects Office’, which is actually a second storey portacabin. When I am in Beverley I spend a significant amount of time here whilst Alistair is sorting the medical aid in the warehouse. I help to organize the fruit tree planting and our overseas projects, as well as some financial work as treasurer of Jacob’s Well. We get regular emails from our partners abroad asking for assistance and help.
This week we received an email from our partner in Afghanistan. Dr Farid Homayoun is our JWA country representative and was asked to visit the main Public Heath Clinic in East Kabul in the district of Bagrami.
An outside view of Bagrami main MOPH clinic in East Kabul
This clinic serves the entire population of the Barami district and has hundreds of women and children attending daily. Dr Farid found that the clinic had a severe shortage of basic medical supplies and no clean water or waiting area.
In fact the running water and sewage system of the clinic had been out of order for several years.
Dr Beryl Beynon, the founder of Jacob’s Well has visited Afghanistan in the past and is acutely aware of the problems this country faces. The sewage and water system had completely collapsed.
The waiting area of the patients had no seats and the floor was unpaved, causing hardship in the rainy season.
The metal roof sheets were damaged causing water to leak through to the ceilings and eroding the walls.
Using a donation from JWA, Dr Farid has worked with volunteers to renovate the clinic. A new clean water well has been dug for the clinic, the waiting area has been renovated with paved flooring and benches, the clinic’s roof has been replaced and the sewage system repaired.
The patients are still offered very basic standards, which are far below what we have in this country, but at least they have clean water in the clinic, somewhere to sit whilst they are waiting and a new roof on the clinic.
Whoever receives one of these little children in My Name, receives Me. Mark 9:37
Hello from Jacob’s Well in Beverley. The sun is shining but it is not warm! We have just sent a container to Moldova, which we visited in March after Albania. Moldova is a small country of just under 4 million people lying between Ukraine and Romania.
We have a contact there, Veronica, who works with a charity, ORA International, delivering aid to help the needy in her country. She has opened several homes for the elderly as well as day care centres for children. She also has close links with the hospitals and clinics in the country. She was inspired by the work of Dr Beryl Beynon.
This photograph shows Alistair and I meeting a family with Veronica that she helps; stood at the back are two Swiss gentlemen who were delivering aid at the time of our visit. The houses are predominantly poor with a central stove which heats a double wall in the centre of the house – this is generally their only heating. The children attend the day centres when they are not at school and are provided with their meals and a warm safe place to play and do their homework. The charity also helps the families with clothing.
We visited several hospitals which were very poorly resourced, with patients lying on rusty beds and heavily stained mattresses. Everything was very old and worn and the people are generally very poor outside of the capital.
The picture left shows the patient lying in bed with her clothes on because there was no heating.The bed is rusty and the mattress appalling – I would not have slept in this bed, and all the mattresses were the same. The general condition of the hospitals outside of the capital was poor. We have been able to send some hospital beds that the NHS have given us – as they replace their mechanical beds with electrical ones. The countries we supply do not want electrical beds as their electrical supply is erratic and expensive. The beds we send will replace the rusty frames they are using and they will have clean modern mattresses to sleep on, all recycled from the NHS.
We also met two mothers who had recently lost their children to leukaemia. They were amazing ladies who were trying to help the children on the leukaemic ward have access to treatment and medical equipment. The ward was in need of medical beds as well as trolleys – the children have to be lifted by their parents back to their beds after painful procedures. The treatment trolleys would mean that they could be pushed back to their beds and not have to be moved.
This picture shows me with the mothers and their friend who was our interpreter outside of the leukaemic ward in the capital city, Chisinau.
The picture below is of a waiting room outside the dental clinic in one of the rural schools. The children can’t afford toothbrushes or toothpaste.
We also saw some very old dental equipment – thank goodness I did not have toothache whilst I was there!
Alistair and I are currently staying in the UK whilst our son is sitting his final exams in Newcastle and also because Alistair’s father is unwell. We are busy sorting out the aid that had arrived whilst we were away – the warehouse was almost completely full! We have had a terrific response to our recent request for volunteers and are now starting to get on top of it.
We are also doing talks to various groups around the area, so if you would like us to visit your group or church please let us know.
These things I command you, that you love one another. John 15:17
Well, the time flies past and its now Easter. I hope you all have a peaceful refreshing bank holiday.
We were in Albania about 4 weeks ago, staying with our partner Edi Demo. Albania was a communist country from 1944 until 1991, during which time it was isolated from the rest of the world. It has a population of over 3 million people and it’s capital is Tirana, which is where we stayed. Edi is visiting us just after Easter – do come and meet him at Christchurch, 2 Quay Road, Bridlington YO15 2SB on Wednesday, the 19th April at 7:30pm. He has a fantastic testimony and will be speaking about life in Albania during the communist era.
We were taken around hospitals and clinics as well as schools in the area.
An old VW ambulance serving the rural areas. If it’s anything like our campervan it will need the AA to get it to the patient!
Generally the hospitals in the capital were reasonably well equipped, but in the rural areas they were very basic with old rusty beds and no patient furniture. The clinics were the same – doctors are so poorly paid that they can not afford basic instruments such as auroscopes (to look in ears) or ophthalmoscopes (to look in eyes).
The schools appeared well made, but in every school we visited the children sat in outdoor coats at their desks, because the heating did not work. Fortunately the weather was mild whilst we were there – a balmy 8°C, though it can be freezing in the winter months. There were few computers (if any) and no science equipment. One school had a science lab with about 20 sinks in it – only none were plumbed in! They were also short of books in the school libraries, especially classic English books as English is now their foreign language of choice. Some schools were short of chairs, and pupils had to share with one standing for an hour whilst the other sat, and then swapping over. We hope to be able to send both computers and English books, as well as some plastic chairs.
It is a country of contrasts where some are driving in fancy new cars and others are still using donkeys and carts. Our partner is a church pastor and several members of his congregation need stoma supplies (bags etc after bowel or bladder surgery) which are very difficult to find in Albania and which they can’t afford anyway at a cost £4-£8 per day, which is impossible on their low wage of 160 to 300 Euros per month. Without these, they have to resort to using a plastic bag and an elastic band, which basically means they will be house-bound. Fortunately, due the generous donations of people across the UK, we will be able to help.
My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation Isaiah 32:18
We are now set to travel to Eastern Europe next week. We set off from Gatwick airport to Tirana in Albania for the first leg of our visit early next Tuesday morning. The airline is threatening to be on strike so we welcome your prayers for our travel arrangements. We are meeting with hospital doctors and administrators to discuss sending a container of aid, including stoma supplies. Currently it is sunny and warmer than here ….. unlike Moldova which is -1°C at the moment. Fortunately will we not arrive there until March, so there is time for some improvement.
Moldova is struggling with getting basic medical supplies – one of our contacts explained that children with leukemia are having their treatment delayed because they have not got enough giving sets (the plastic tubing that the drug travels through into the vein). We have already sent a container last year and plan to send further supplies soon, which is why it is important to visit and see how things are so we can match what we send with what they need.
We will also visit Athens, which is (sort of) on the way between Albania and Moldova to see our partners who are working hard with the Syrian refugees. Fortunately there is a Greek bank holiday on the Monday we are there, so we may be able to have a day off sight seeing before travelling onto Romania to see the work that Jacob’s Well Appeal has set up there, and then we plan to travel overland to Chisinau in Moldova. That journey has yet to be booked…..
With striking airlines and unrest in Romania we are praying for a peaceful visit and safe travelling. I am also praying they have a warm spell whilst we are there!
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is in the Lord. Jeremiah 18:17
Happy New Year!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you have now got into the habit of writing ‘2017’ – how time flies!
After visiting Ghana we travelled to Kenya, where we visited the ABC schools in Nairobi and also in Loitokitok near Kilimanjaro. These schools work with the children from the slums in Nairobi, rescuing kids who have no hope and giving them an education, clothes and food as well as self worth. It was harrowing to visit the slums and see how some people have to live, particularly as Nairobi is such a rich city with high buildings and shopping malls.
Unfortunately Jacob’s Well Appeal can’t send containers to Kenya due to bureaucracy – they even require the date of manufacture of the toys sent in shoe boxes! We can help however by sponsoring the children and sending teams to help. We also hope to be able to grow fruit trees near the schools to provide food for the children.
We also visited the Nasio Trust, which is a charity run by the family of Betty Luciola, one of our trustees. The trust runs schools and supports orphans and vulnerable children and also has a medical clinic and a nutritional program. The photo below is of a gentleman who received a wheelchair from Jacob’s Well Appeal in the last container we sent to Kenya. He had polio as a child and had been unable to get out of his house until he was given the wheelchair – it also enabled him to visit the local town and register (for the first time) for disability aid. He wanted to thank everyone that is part of Jacob’s Well Appeal as the donation had completely changed his life.
We are now focusing on 2017 after spending Christmas in the UK and we are looking forward to sending the Rotary funded boat to Kings Village in Ghana. The boat they currently use is very small and lets in water …. quite worrying when the river contains crocodiles!
We will hopefully be visiting Ghana again this year to see how the boat is functioning as well as visiting officials in Accra.
Our next overseas visit will be European – we are hoping to visit Moldova at the end of February as we sent a container of medical aid here last year. We have also been asked to help a hospital in Albania and, if possible, we will visit both countries to see what further help is required. The temperature in Moldova is currently -4*C (higher than -16*C last week) so we will have to wrap up well!
I will turn the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into springs Isaiah 41v18b
Alistair and I are now in Ghana. We travelled from Ouagadougou to Bobo to stay at the ABC school, built by our partner Pastor Hinrik. From one class he has now established a secondary school and even farms some land nearby to provide income.
We then travelled to The Kings Village in Ghana, which is a medical centre and school serving a very poor community. Due to a idea from David Murden, the Rotary Club in Hull have purchased a boat to help a community that live across the river from the King’s Village and Jacob Well Appeal will be shipping this across to Ghana early next year. We met with the local Rotary Club officials from Tamale who are supporting this project.
You are my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Is 49:3
We arrived in Burkina Faso on the evening of the 5th October. We had a wonderful greeting at the airport as Pastor Michel, who we are staying with, knew some one who worked there and she met us at passport control and took care of us.
We spent the next day looking around the projects, including the clinic and half built hospital in Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso has only a very limited health care system, covering some child birth and under 5s services. Apart from that there is only private health care, which most people can’t afford. 40% of the population earn less than $1.25 per day. The clinic gives care for a very nominal price (or free if this can not be paid) and the hospital will cover children and maternal health. The building started in 2010 but has run out of money….they need £20,000 to finish it….sounds like a job when we return!
They said that the secondhand spectacles we send are distributed within a few hours and they would love many more! They have quite a few patients who have had stoma surgery and require colostomy supplies which they can not
Pastor Michel, who has visited us in East Yorkshire, runs a village called the Village of Hope. He takes very poor children from village communities where they have no hope of an education and eat one or no meals a day and they board at the village where they go to school and get two meals a day.
He also runs a small agricultural area which he hopes to expand to raise funds and help feed the kids. It is very humbling to see what they manage with so little. Jacobs Well Appeal has sent medical, educational and agricultural aid to help this project. Thank you for anything you have contributed as it is very gratefully received.
Alistair and I are now almost ready for our next trip. We fly from Manchester at 8.45am to Ougadougou via Paris on Wednesday, 5th October.
We will be visiting our partners in Ougadougou, who are building a school and a hospital. We send them medical, educational and agricultural aid. We hope to meet representatives from the health ministry and also plan to discuss new agricultural projects. We have a generous donor that sources tractors for us to send abroad and hope to set up a seed bank, similar to the one we run in Ghana. We will also visit the ABC school in Bobo.
After this we travel to Ghana, visiting the projects which we have been co-ordinating. We will spend some time in Kings Village, a Christian village with a school and hospital where we are sending an ambulance boat, paid for by the Rotary Club, hopefully early next year.
We will then fly onto Kenya, where our partners run a school for street children in Nairobi and also visit a Christian project near Kisumu.
Please pray that God will be glorified in our work and that doors will be opened and lives saved.
The life that we live, we live to God. Romans 6:10
Hello! Alistair and I are now back at Jacob’s Well in Beverley after spending the last 3 months in Liverpool learning about Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. We learnt how to diagnose malaria using a microscope, how to test the quality of water and how to dig a latrine.
I can now recognize a tsetse fly and know how to treat sleeping sickness. Some of this, if not all, will come in useful over the next few years. We are now back home sorting out the medical supplies and organizing the planting of fruit trees. As one in four of the world’s children are malnourished, the fruit trees are a really important project.
The people of Liverpool were extremely friendly and helpful – the city is certainly worth a visit if you are over on the west side!
Our key worker in Ghana is currently back in the UK having medical treatment – please pray that she is soon well enough to return to her work. She is sorely missed. Also pray for Ruby and the team in Ghana who are filling in for the time being.
Whilst we have been away we have been approached to help supply medical aid to Syria. Please pray that this goes well and that those who really need this help receive it. We were overwhelmed by the response to the appeal for the refugees in Macedonia and would like to thank everyone who responded.
those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength Is 40:31
We arrived in Ghana via Lisbon and the airline took care of our suitcases all the way from Manchester to Accra – thank you TAP, who allowed us two cases each so we took two cases full of medical supplies. Unfortunately TAP left one in Lisbon….as Alistair and I had packed separate cases we could have been very stuck! After A LOT of red tape and photocopying of documents our taxi driver (thank you Danny) picked up the case after it arrived yesterday and put it on the bus to Tamale.
Meanwhile we took the overnight bus to Wa with Pastor Daniel and arrived semi-conscious the following day (they play the TV very loudly throughout the night and ladies get on the bus with warm bread to buy half way along the journey). Sandra, our hard working representative in Ghana, was waiting for us there.
We then travelled to a rural village of 2,000 people who live 1.5hrs along a (collapsing) dirt track with no telecommunications and two water pumps, neither working properly, severing the whole community. Hopefully we will be able to start a fruit tree plantation and a partner charity is building a sand-dam to improve the water supply.
On Monday we visited the district hospital in Wa who have received containers in the past. They had a long list of items they would like us to send them!
Today we visited Tamale hospital and we are probably on the local news TV as the deputy health minister was there as well as a lot of dignitaries. There was even a group playing the drums and dancing. It made NHS meetings seem very tame!
Happy New Year everyone and we hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Alistair and I are at Manchester airport as I type, setting off on our first trip for Jacob’s Well. We are spending just under 2 weeks in Ghana touring their hospitals and visiting the projects that Jacob’s Well is involved in, such as the fruit tree plantations. It is all very exciting, so exciting that Alistair left his rucksack behind at the hotel….. Fortunately we had caught the earlier transit bus so he was back in time for booking in! So much for leaving our bags unattended. We have so much luggage as we are taking items requested by the hospitals etc that we look like we are planning to be away for months.
We would like to thank everyone who is praying for us and for your generosity in giving to Jacob’s Well. Please be assured that all your donations go to help the poor as we are fully self funded. You are all part of our adventure and we want you to feel involved and keep in touch as we need your support. Please pray for safe travelling and protection and that we will make good contacts and that we will be aware in which areas God wants us to be working. Also for our families back home that they would have peace about our trips.
God bless you all, Margaret and Alistair.
We had our last official day at work yesterday, which was very difficult; we pray God blesses our colleagues and patients. We are very grateful for the very generous gifts and many cards we have received.
John Beynon has arrived safely in Burkina Faso – but we are not there! Unfortunately I was admitted with bacterial pneumonia and a fungal lung infection in October which means I am unable to travel for a while. We will still be starting in Beverley mid-November as there is plenty we can do for Jacob’s well in the UK and if anyone would like to volunteer to help -please do!
Fulfilling a life-long dream
At the end of October, two Bridlington GP’s are giving up their paid jobs to become aid workers with the local charity Jacob’s Well. Husband and wife team, Drs Alistair and Margaret Robertson have been doctors in Bridlington for over 25 years. Alistair is a senior partner at the Manor House surgery on Bridlington’s Promenade, whilst Margaret is a partner at “Practice 3” in the medical centre on Station Avenue. Both doctors are well-known figures in the local community. Alistair was involved in the local effort to try and prevent the down-grading of Bridlington’s hospital. He also fought to keep the local maternity ward open for delivering babies, and was one of the last GP’s to deliver babies in the town.
Both doctors have long wanted to work overseas in humanitarian work. As a young girl of 14, Margaret decided that she was called to go abroad as a missionary. When the couple were married in 1986, they agreed together that their life’s work would be overseas. As newly qualified doctors, they applied to Tearfund with a view to working somewhere in the third world. However, although they were offered various roles overseas, none of the jobs seemed to be right for them, requiring a lot more experience than they felt they had at that stage of their lives. Then their children came along, and so they settled down as local GP’s and tried to fulfil their calling to help others within their local community. Both doctors are strong Christian believers and active members of Christ Church, Bridlington. Alistair has led the young people’s work within the church, whilst Margaret has taught Sunday school, sung in the church music group and helped with the Bridlington Girls’ Choir.
“Working as a GP in Bridlington has been an amazing privilege”, says Margaret. “One of the best parts of the job is that you have the opportunity to be involved in the lives of so many families. I have known many of my patients for years. I have been there when they had babies and looked after those children as they grew up and then watched them have babies of their own. You get to know whole families and are involved in some of the important moments of their lives. It’s great when you can help someone get better, though sadly you can’t always do that. As a doctor, you are often the one that people call on when things go wrong. You often have the opportunity to walk with people through their most difficult times. I went into medicine because I wanted to help people, and being a Doctor has certainly given me plenty of opportunities to do that. Of course, like all jobs, there are downsides. There is a huge amount of paperwork these days, and you often find that your hands are tied by national treatment guide-lines that may not be relevant for the patient who is sat in front of you.”
Even though Alistair and Margaret have loved their work in Bridlington, the desire to go overseas has never left them. “It is definitely a calling from God”, says Alistair. “We both know that this is something that we have to do. Whilst we complain about the state of the NHS in England, over in Africa there are towns bigger than Bridlington that don’t even have one doctor. Many of the world’s poorest people still have no access to medical treatment. In many places it simply doesn’t exist. In other places, if any treatment is available, people have to pay for it, which they can’t afford. The end result is that poor people really suffer. Many children die before their fifth birthday. The average life expectancy is around 55 or even lower for some countries. If you lived in Africa and you or a family member fell ill or had a serious accident, there is probably nothing that you would be able to do about it. That is a terrible situation and I want to do something to change that”.
Alistair and Margaret first heard about Jacob’s Well last year when the Beverley based charity opened a new charity shop in Bridlington. Shortly afterwards, they spent a week’s holiday working with Jacob’s Well to see if this could be the opportunity that they had been waiting for. After that week they gave notice to their respective practices and started preparing for the new chapter that was about to unfold in their lives. Alistair and Margaret will finish work on Friday 30th October. The very next day they will get on a plane and fly out to West Africa! Their two week visit to Ghana and Burkina Faso will include visiting hospitals, running a simple clinic for children and parents in a local school, talking with village leaders about how they could improve health care in the villages and also visiting some of the different projects that Jacob’s Well run in the area. Jacob’s Well recently launched an appeal to plant 1 million fruit trees in West Africa. Alistair and Margaret will be visiting some of the first of these plantations and will also monitor the drilling of two new wells using a machine that Jacob’s Well recently purchased from the USA. In the longer term, they plan to divide their time between the third world and time back in the UK where they plan to work on increasing the medical aid that Jacob’s Well sends overseas. They also intend to work on getting funding from organisations like “Children in Need” and “Comic Relief” for the larger-scale development projects that they plan to be involved with.
Margaret and Alistair both want to say a big “thank you” to all their patients and colleagues for all the friendship and the support that they have experienced over the past 25 years. They would also like to thank the Rev. Jonathan Cooper and his wife Anne and the Christ Church family for their ongoing prayers and support.Margaret hopes to stay in touch with as many people as possible via a blog that she is going to write of her travels and of the different experiences that she will have as an aid worker. You can follow her blog on the Jacob’s Well’s web-site at www.jacobswellappeal.org or on the Jacob’s Well face-book page. For those who would like to wish Alistair and Margaret well as they embark on their new and exciting journey, a special “Commissioning Service” has been organized at Christ Church, Bridlington at 6pm on Sunday 25th October. All who know them are warmly invited to come along and hear something about their next chapter. John Beynon the director of Jacob’s Well will be the speaker.