BY JILLIAN AUSTIN
Article taken from the Brandon Sun News (Manitoba) January 16,2017
In a country where countless parents were killed during the AIDS epidemic, one Brandon nurse is helping young women learn to care for their aging grandparents.
Evelyn Franklin is on a mission in Uganda, where she will teach a 10-week course to 14 girls and women between the ages of 16 to 25.
“These 14 girls are ones that probably lost their parents several years ago when AIDS went through. Grandma looked after them, now they’re looking after Grandma,” Franklin said.
Franklin is on her fourth mission/humanitarian effort with Women Together, an international organization based in Ontario.
Franklin, 69, nursed for many years in Manitoba, with a focus on labour and delivery. She taught for 17 years at the School of Nursing in Brandon before retiring “on paper.” She still works casually, often six or eight shifts a month in neonatal intensive care and postpartum.
Franklin’s longtime friend, Margaret Gibb, a former Brandonite, founded Women Together in 2011. When she was first asked to join the mission, Franklin declined. But the idea stayed in the back of her mind, and the next time she was asked she was ready to go.
“Something was saying to me in my heart, ‘you’ve been blessed in your career’… go and help some of these other people who haven’t got anything,” Franklin said. “And I just love them.”
Gibb worked at Brandon’s Senior or Seniors for nearly 10 years before she took the position as president of a large organization called Women Alive. She led the organization for a decade, which took her to conferences across Canada every year. During that time, Gibb was inspired to start Women Together.
“In all my travels across Canada, nurses, teachers, all kinds of professionals were coming to me … saying ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire,’” she said. “They kept saying ‘there has to be something more, I just don’t know what it is.’”
Gibb believed that the experience, talent, passion to help and heart to serve should not be put to waste. This was the start of Women Together, which is now in six countries: Ukraine, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil, India and the Philippines.
The goal of the organization is to “equip, encourage and empower women to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.” The group sends teams consisting of nurses and women with expertise in leadership training.
This is the first time the 10-week course on “home-based care” will be taught. Franklin devised the pilot project, which will done in partnership with Reach One Touch One Ministries.
The course will take the students through practical lessons to provide better care for their grandmothers. Franklin said the hope is that it may open up the doors for the women to earn a living by helping others.
“We hope that it catches on, and even maybe one or two of the 14 girls will get ahold of it, and go on to do further education,” Franklin said.
One lesson will be focused on foot care. Many Ugandan people don’t wear shoes, and as a result a multitude of health problems can form.
“Worms and stuff like that go up into the lymphatic system, causing disease,” Franklin said. “It can get so bad that they can’t walk, and they’re ostracized by their own people.”
Franklin will teach the young women about soaking feet in potassium permanganate and smoother in vaseline. She will provide flip-flops for each student, and to make it fun, will bring some nail polish for the lesson. She teaches about birth control, as well as postpartum hemorrhage, which sadly kills many mothers in childbirth. Franklin shows women ways to deal with the problem that may help save lives.
Franklin is solo for the first part of the mission, and will be joined by Gibb and other Women Together representatives in March. They will be going to Kenya to continue their work.
One thing that stands out for Franklin is the grateful nature of the people she encounters.
“The one characteristic is that they are incredibly happy. They always meet you with a smile,” she said. “It shows us a lot in the fact that we have everything and we bellyache. They have nothing … but they’re happy.”