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Behind me a pile of dirty linen suddenly moved. First Aid training relating to infant and child CPR, choking, allergies and other treatments is renewed annually. This is an opportunity for the parent to make requests or clarify any information that will make their flight more comfortable.

First published — Their correct name is the Little Company of Mary, but they are everywhere known as the Blue Nuns or simply as the Blues.

It has nothing to do with their temperament. Their foundress, Mother Mary Potter was simply bubbling over with humour. They became known as the Blues in popular parlance because they wear a blue veil, whereas most nuns wear a black one.

The next thing one would notice about them is that they are a young Order and they have all the fervour, ideals and enthusiasm of youth. They consecrate their lives to the maternal heart of Mary as she stands on Calvary and intercede with her for the sick and dying.

They do not neglect the role of prayer.

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  • The staff in all these places are mostly Irish and thanks to the spiritual training they get at Milford House and the medical training they get at St. Their mission in Wedza was opened last year; it is out in the bush over miles from Harare.

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    The father in charge there was a German with an Irish brogue. Apparently he had been a patient with the Blue Nuns one time and he picked up the accent during his sojourn in one of their hospitals. He did not dream at the time that one day he would have a community of Blue Nuns on his mission, but it looks as if there is a destiny which shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will. Wedza is an African Reserve. Reserves are big places, as big as an Irish county and sometimes bigger.

    No white men are allowed to live in a Reserve unless they happen to be missionaries and as a matter of fact a white man must get permission from the Local Commissioner before entering a Reserve. The land is mostly poor, consisting of sand and rocks, and a good many of the men have to go off to town to earn enough money to provide for their families; a good many of the men, but not the ngangas.

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  • It helps to break down superstition and to dispel ignorance which the ngangas thrive on. The Apostolate of the doctor and the nurse in Africa cannot be exaggerated and without Catholic hospitals, our schools would do very little good. The nuns in Wedza are also trained in maternity work and this too is a great gift to the people. Where there are no hospitals the infant mortality rate is alarmingly high, as most of the people know nothing about germs and less about disinfectants.

    Because of their tendency to live where we live, rats are an effective agent of disease transmission. Last year first lady Grace Mugabe was reported to have bought a R58m house in Harare. Since this was the hospital where all the difficult cases from around Zimbabwe were referred to, a very high number of babies were premature and needed medical intervention.

    There is a maternity block in the hospital at Wedza with cots attached to the beds, no baby sitters are necessary; the mother can shake the cot by simply moving it with her feet. This was one of the things that impressed me most during my visit to Wedza: However, the thing that surprised me most was the healthy complexions of the sisters there. Most nuns are supposed to look pale and delicate like a lily gown in a hothouse, but the nuns in Wedza looked like an advertisement for Palmolive soap.

    The local people are at a loss to understand this as most white women in Zimbabwe are dried up and bleached from the sun and they cease blushing as soon as they get out of the cradle. An African once told me that he reckoned the sisters had their own witchdoctors who supply them with the secret of perpetual youth.

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    At any rate there is about these a freshness and a vigour and a zeal and irrepressible gaiety that no African can resist, and many a hard-bitten missionary has steered his truck for Wedza when, after a week slogging around the bush, he found himself like Ruth, sick for home and the alien corn.

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