The Mobile clinics form the ‘Humanitarian’ arm of the Tholulwazi Tholimpilo Network, and are the strong foundation on which much of the mission work has been built.
They are managed by Mr Johan Engelbrecht (Johnny), a local farmer in the Sulphur Springs area, and administered by Mrs Sigrid van Niekerk (Siggi) of Moolman Zending in the village of Moolman. The initiative was begun in 2010, when the Lutheran church operating in the Commondale area became extremely concerned about the rising prevalence of HIV and AIDS (which was manifesting itself in the number of deaths being recorded by farmers) and an increasing absenteeism from work due to chronic illness.
The mission committee of the Augsburg Lutheran church then got involved through a pastor from Germany, Markus Kalmbach, who rallied support from the NRW government in Germany. Together with the Health Department, they began the initiative with the first mobile clinic. This clinic operated in and around the Commondale area, and it was not long before the first mobile began to reveal the true picture in the area of ‘Primary Health Care’. The need was so great, that it was not long before the clinic attracted the attention of other major companies operating in the area. Mondi joined the battle, and together with TTN and the German partners, acquired the second mobile clinic which began to operate in the ‘Klein Vrystaat’ area along the Swaziland border.
Since then, with the support of our existing sponsors, as well as strong support from a wider range of supporters such as TWK and Vuka, two more mobiles have been added. TTN now records in excess of 60,000 site visits per year, with an operational area extending from the KZN border in the south, and reaching to Panbult (near Ermelo) in the north. The Swaziland border forms the eastern boundary, and the Pongola river forms the western border. Approximately 200 sites are visited each month on a strict schedule, and each mobile is staffed by two trained nurses supplied by the D.O.H. TTN provides a counsellor who promotes the testing for HIV Aids, and shares basic health issues and gives advice in each community. The clinics have become the ‘eyes’ of the Mission division, as well as being a source of information and support to the Governmental services and NGO’s working in this area of primary health care.
TTN also works with community 'Peer Educators'. These community members were employed by the Department of Health and worked with the clinics to help educate communities on being tested for HIV/AIDS. These Peer educators are the ‘information’ network of the Clinic division as well as the channel of communication between the communities and the TTN Clinic team. Their salaried programme was sadly suspended last year by Government, but many of the Peer Educators continue to work with the TTN Mobile Clinics as volunteers.
The Mobile Clinics have become far more than just a health service. Backed by a strong prayer initiative and a ‘caring’ approach inspired by the Love of God, they are making a difference in the overall atmosphere in many villages. Children are brought for immunisation and basic medicines are prescribed.
TTN was the first partner with the Department of Health (DOH) that was allowed to distribute ARV’s directly to the patients from the mobile clinics. Once the patient has been enrolled in the system and treatment has begun, the Mobiles are then given the ARV’s to distribute to patients living in the extreme rural areas. These patients would have to pay up to R80 per month to come to the local hospital in Piet Retief to collect their pills. The Mobiles are fitted with GPS tracking, and can find contract harvesters who move from plantation to plantation as their work schedule demands. We also have a reporting system that allows for information to be captured and submitted from the actual site by means of Cell phones.
Mrs Irma Lammerding has recently joined the ‘team’, and she will be replicating Siggi’s work in the western region of the operation, where the new Mobile 4 has been introduced.