Tag Archives: disease

Kate Copstick is de-worming in Kenya

Continuing (in this case) some very shortened excerpts from Kate Copstick’s diary in Kenya, where she is working for her Mama Biashara charity…

Kate Copstick (left) supervises a de-worming session in Kahuho as part of her Mama Biashara work

TUESDAY 3rd MARCH

My bowels are generally getting much better.

On my way from the car to the warehousey place a bloke in a lorry tells me I look sexy and asks if I would like to have sex with him. My wrinkly old heart soars. My day is made. I tell him I am sorry but I am too busy. But thank him for the offer.

We are meeting with Felista in the evening. I have some stuff for her, including some of the Eastleigh panties, some of the FABULOUS range of bras we have had donated and a load of Poundland earphones for her to sell in the cyber cafe.

She is keen to take the whole lot of bras for the girls at DECIP, but the underwired loveliness of the multicoloured, sexy, lacy boobie hammocks we have had given to us is entirely unsuited to the pubescent schoolgirl. Especially the crazy Luo girls she is having so much trouble with.

WEDNESDAY

I awake feeling positively brimming with health. And poo, unfortunately. But no pains, headaches, dizziness, sweats. I feel, in the words of James Brown, GOOD.

We head to a slum village called Kahoho. It is built in a dam. Apparently it floods every time the rain comes. The houses have brick lips on the doors to try and stop the water coming in but to no real avail. We de-worm about a 150 children, treat some ringworm, see a young man COVERED in the stuff and do a few bits and bobs. A young boy has what looks like fungal keritosis in both eyes. He should be going to hospital but the doctors are still on strike.

David and I hand out the medicine. It is fairly obvious the kids would swallow anything if they got to wash it down with a cup of water. They are parched. Loads of them – and their mamas – have ash crosses on their foreheads. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if their faith could help them with water and their worms instead of giving them The Power of The Dirty Mark On Your Forehead for a day?

Doris tells me about the hate mail she was receiving online. She posted on WhatsApp about our little de-worming/ringworm etc clinics and was horribly trolled by a group of DOCTORS warning that ‘small time’ efforts like ours do nothing to help.

Ah, tell that to a village of ladies who, yesterday, were hunched and moaning and today, thanks to some diclofenac gel, some Ibuprofen and a few stretching suggestions, are positively gymnastic. They have sent their thanks. Ditto scabby, rashy, pussy people. And the horde of ladies with ‘ulsas’ cured overnight with a handful of antacids and some advice about not eating a Kilimanjaro sized portion of ugali before bed are ecstatic.

Curing cancer never really was on my To Do list.

But then it seems, dear doctors, it is not on your list either… 88 days on strike and counting.

THURSDAY

Back to Nairobi and our afternoon medical. Or not. Doris calls to say that the whole area we were visiting has been called to attend a meeting with Kabogo (local governor heading towards re-election). For which read that everyone has been given 300 bob to attend the meeting and make it look like Kabogo has a huge amount of support. They will get another 300 bob for their actual vote come election day. As all we have are de-wormers and scab cream, we are gazumped.

David and I pass by Garden City Shopping Mall. One of the biggest in East Africa. High end shops, huge restaurants, leisure facilities, you name it, it has it. And the high end shoppers of Nairobi would like to thank you, the British People, because the mall was built with about £12 million’s worth (might be more) of the UK’s Aid money. I take a couple of photos inside but then am followed by security guards, so I split.

We have requests for more cholera leaflets, plus our Why Lightening Your Skin With Household Bleach Is A Bad Thing info, my special What Is This Pus? A Commercial Sex Worker’s Guide To STDs and, sadly, for the Mijikenda (indigenous people along the coast) an explanation (with helpful suggestions) of rickets, scurvy and the sickness they call ‘kwashiokor’, which is malnutrition and the whole big belly horror. The drought is hitting them very hard and they are a poor people anyway. Info will go, in their languages, plus HTC’s marvellous calcium gummies for kids and anything else we can think of but the problem is massive and Mama Biashara (as the striking doctors point out) is very small. Still no reason not to try.

Good news from the coast is that the original group of ladies I helped with their devastated skin problems (20 years of scrubbing with household bleach twice a day… light skin is what the customer wants and the customer is always right) are doing great business with henna decorations and other stuff. The group now numbers 60 and growing. And it seems that with love, shade and a LOT of cream (Johnson and Johnson’s baby cream, Nivea and Ingram’s have all played their part), the skin can recover. At least enough for normal life. It will never regain its youthful bloom …

FRIDAY

We are held up in one queue at the roundabout into Haile Selassie Avenue. As we eventually clear it we see a small, doughnut-shaped police lady is the one directing the non flow of traffic.

David eyes her balefully. “That is why I hate all fat ladies” he says “I HATE them. They think very slowly.”

I let it pass.

Rain has stopped the massage workshop this evening. It will now be done tomorrow afternoon after a medical day. Starting with de-worming and, where necessary, de-jiggering.

Julius seems less than impressed with our Education Campaign posters and flyers. Even in Luhya.

But he goes home with a bunch. And I sleep

SATURDAY

We de-worm with a will. A large drunk man has come to get help with his feet. His toes look like black cauliflower. I see this very well because he refuses to sit with them in the basin of disinfectant and keeps waving them in my face.

Some of the shoshos take him to task and he leaves. Everyone seems to be covered with some sort of pustule or vesicle. One young boy has whole areas of his body crusted with clusters of tiny plooky nastiness. The place is a dermatologist’s playground. Some things are much less frightening than they look – the old scabby leg here can look quite monstrous.

There is a fair old amount of malaria, a lot of vomiting, a large knot of constipation and the usual heartburn, headaches and generally sore bodies.

The sore bodies are instructed to come back tomorrow when there will be a team of highly trained massage people to ease their bits. I lose count of the times I miraculously heal a headache and dizziness with a big mug of water. There are a few REALLY sick kids who are being very brave. It starts to rain again and we scurry to Julius’ new shelter. Unfortunately the roof is not finished and there are no walls. But it is better than the alternative. We continue the medical with many coughs and much congestion.

And then a mildly manic bloke appears, smelling pungently of home brew, but happily so.

He grabs me and shouts: “You healed me!! You healed me!!”

He raises a raggedy trouser leg to reveal a skinny calf with a tiny scar on it. “You healed me!” He repeats. Pointing at the scar.

And I remember. He was drunk then too. In November.

He had a fairly ghastly wound on his leg he said was caused by a njembe. I cleaned it up and made my own larger-sized steristrips and closed it as far as I could then lathered it with antiseptic and antibiotic powder and cream, bandaged it and gave him cod liver oil.

He shows everyone the scar. The scar is TINY. He is extremely happy. Mildly annoying, but happy.

We gather an audience of kids and continue till everyone is seen to. Then I go inside Julius’ house, where it is pitch dark – it is a traditional mud house so no electricity and he doesn’t seem to have a lamp.

We get the new foam mattress on the floor and, starting with my four students in chairs, I teach the very basics of neck and shoulder massage, loosening arms, hand massage and then we get down on the bed and work from neck to foot.

Very general stuff. But I demonstrate with some force, how so much of the problem experienced by all the women comes from the same place. And when I hit their gluteus maximus… well.

The entire thing is watched over by an amused hen who is sitting in a basin in the corner hatching chicks. There are bloody loads of them. At least a dozen. It makes a nice soundtrack to the massaging.

It is getting dark and everyone needs to go home.

More rain will come and you really want to be inside when that happens.


Copstick’s full diary entries are posted on her Facebook page.

Mama Biashara’s slogan is “Giving a  hand up. Not a hand out.” 

No-one takes any salary from Mama Biashara and Kate Copstick covers 100% of her own expenses herself. She takes no money from the charity nor from any donations to the charity. 100% of all money donated is spent on the charity’s projects.

Donations to the charity can be made HERE.

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Filed under Africa, Charity, Medical, Poverty

What UK comedy critic Kate Copstick did when she wore a burka last week

Kate Copstick in Kenya last week

Kate Copstick at work in Kenya last week

The annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards have been given since 2007 and will run until at least 2017. As usual, there will be a Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The show is free which, in Edinburgh, means audience members can donate money when they leave the venue if they want to.

Once again this year, 100% of all donations will go to the Mama Biashara charity run by Kate Copstick, doyenne of British comedy critics.

Copstick (as she likes to be known) is currently in Kenya.

Mama Biashara helps poor people in Kenya (mostly women) set up their own small businesses by giving small grants – sometimes as little as £5.00 – to individuals to set up businesses which will give them a life – Copstick looks on it as a hand up not just a hand out.

No-one involved with Mama Biashara (including Copstick) receives any salary. No-one receives any travel, accommodation or any other reimbursement of costs. 100% of all money raised goes to the people for whom it can do most.

As well as giving small start-up grants to small businesses, Mama Biashara holds local medical clinics. The extract below from Copstick’s diary describes one such clinic she held last week and perhaps puts the self-obsessions of British comedians struggling to build their careers into a wider context…

______________________________________________________

Doris calls to say we have a venue and a crowd of illnesses. She tells us to drive past the posho mill and she will find us. We do. She does. And announces another change of plan.

The local Mosque, late but to great effect, have, along with the call to noon prayers, broadcast a call to the sick to come to the Mosque to be healed. So we are diverted into the Mosque. As luck would have it, I have my new Sudese with me and am able to burka-up. Wouldn’t want a fatwa.

We are shown into a sort of side storage room and ‘bang!’ the doctor is in. We have a list of thirty. And a crowd of about fifty. At odds with the written list, the boss man outside seems to be sending in the men first. As the sounds of screaming babies rises, I poke my head out and query this. The men have to go work, he says. I suggest in the nicest possible way that our medical workshops are really focussed on women and children who are really sick. He nods and smiles. And ushers in yet another of Allah’s more ancient male followers.

This gentleman is 110 years old, he tells us. He has some aches and pains and has a little difficulty going to the loo. He is followed by a relative youngster (82). He is obviously unwell. He is shaking and is suffering pains that suggest he has a urinary tract infection that has reached his kidneys. I ask if he is having trouble going to the loo. “I have a pipe” he says. Five minutes later I am in the toilet with the old man and he is fumbling with his nether garments. I am expecting to be shown a catheter in his penis and steel myself for a wrinkly old willy.

Imagine my shock when he exposes a lower abdomen with a plastic tube sticking out of it, like an overflow pipe in a wall. As the inside of his undies does not exactly smell of roses, it is no stretch of anyone’s imagination as to how he might have got this infection. I need to see him again and talk to the doctor who did this. Meanwhile he is improving on antibiotic bombs and a strict regime of disinfecting the end of the pipe.

We manage to smuggle in a girl from another workshop who is HIV+ with a CD4 count of 4. We will see what the marvellous multivitamins and cod liver oil provided by HTC can do for her. This could be their best advert yet !!

She is followed by a child with hideous eruptions on her arms. The eruptions do go all over her body and come and go for no discernible reason. Big scabby lumps which in some cases are extruding pink pus (presumably because it has blood in it). I get Doris to add her to the Hospital list. There are wheezes and swellings and the usual pains in the usual places.

There is also a younger man who also has waterwork trouble. He passes water all the time. And confides (amazingly for an African man) that he suffers from premature ejaculation. Adding that his wife is not happy. Then there is a beautiful girl with two sick children – one of whom sounds like the proverbial old cab horse – who, once they have been attended to, says she has problems with ulcers in her vagina. I ask what they look like and she obligingly (with the kids out of the room and Doris guarding the door) whips off her nether garments and shows me.

I realise that it is probably wholly inappropriate to notice things like this but, small ulcers aside, she has a truly beautiful vagina. It is like a dusky rose.

We don’t leave until well after seven and notice, as we do, that the waiting crowd is bigger than it was when we started. ‘Tis ever so. We agree to come back the following week. I shall have to rinse through the burka. It is amazing how you get used to living in something between a small tent and a big onesie, but it is a fairly sweaty business.

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Kenya, Medical

Comedian Charlie Chuck gets a sexual disease and is attacked in Germany

(This was also published by the Huffington Post)

Last night, Charlie Chuck performed at Vivienne and Martin Soan’s monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in Herne Hill. Afterwards, he and his lady friend stayed at my friend’s flat in Greenwich.

This morning, I was chatting to him over tea and toast.

I was partly brought up in Aberdeen; my friend was brought up in various places including Lossiemouth in Scotland and in Germany.

A lot happened to Charlie Chuck when he was 19. He has memories of being in Aberdeen, Lossiemouth and Germany that year. This is what he told me over tea and toast:

______

I was performing at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen when I discovered I had the crabs.

I felt a tightness against my groin and I didn’t know what it was. I were on the beach and I had me trunks on.

I looked down and there were these little brown things and I counted 43. I didn’t know what they were. I thought Blimey! and I scraped one off, which drew blood. I put the thing on me fingernail and it started moving and then I realised it were a crab.

I scraped all 43 of them off me and cracked them all on me fingernail like you did with nits – well, I did – but also, at the same time, my dick were starting to grow… it were getting redder and redder and were swelling up and I remembered sleeping on a settee with a girl from Birmingham in a derelict house about a fortnight previous.

I was playing in a band at the time. When I went to the doctor’s, the first thing he said to me was: “Are you seeing anybody else?”

I had met somebody else called Violet from Elgin so he told me: “Stay well away from Violet from Elgin.”

He gave me an injection and some stuff to put on, but I had to shave everything down there. All me pubes. He gave me tablets and he said, “When you get back down to Leeds Infirmary, get straight to the VD Clinic.”

Well I shaved myself and got rid of everything – my pubic hair and underpants and the crabs, which I’d kept – and I put them all in a briefcase and, when I was driving along a country road near Lossiemouth, I threw the briefcase out of the window.

Two weeks later, me dad in Leeds got a letter from the Lossiemouth police to say they had found something belonging to me because, when I threw my briefcase away, I’d left my National Insurance stamping card in it.

The police asked me dad: “What do you want us to do with what we’ve found?”

I remember my dad asking me on the phone: “What do they mean? You’d better go claim your stuff, hadn’t you?”

I said, “No, it were just rubbish.”

He kept insisting: “Send for it. There might be something else in there.”

I said, “No, there’s nowt else in there.”

I eventually got my National Insurance card back.

A lot happened to me that year.

I got attacked in Germany.

I were with an Irish girl called Kate from Cloughmills, County Antrim. She used to like a drink and, this particular night, I were carrying her back from the pub because she used to like a pint of whisky and orange – it were a quarter full of whisky topped up with orange – and, every month or so she used to go off her head.

So I were carrying her like a fireman’s lift across me shoulder and these two black American GIs came towards me and one of them just swung at me – they were sending the GIs to Vietnam through Germany at that time. He swung at me and he hit me on my left shoulder. He just missed Kate. It hurt and I didn’t know what it were but blood were coming from my shoulder.

He’d stabbed me.

There were some Military Police on main gates about half a mile up the road and I told ‘em I’d been stabbed. It turned out the two GIs had already stabbed a sergeant and they got about four years for assaulting an Englishman on German soil, so they were put in a German jail, not an American jail. But at least they didn’t have to go to Vietnam.

About a year before that, I’d also got attacked. I’d just done an audition for someone and I were in Bramley, in Leeds, and I were stood at this bus stop in a really colourful outfit with a boater on me head and a man come round in a car – I were only 19; he were about 35 – and he pulled up and said: “Do you want a lift?”

I’d been stood there for about half an hour, so I got in and he shot off really quick and straight away round the corner came his friend in another car. They started taking me to Bramley Canal and I were getting dead worried. I had a suitcase and in that I had my ice blue jeans and my hobnail boots and a lock-knife because I were a dustbin man at the time and I’d just gone from work to do this audition. But I was wearing all this Flower Power stuff for the audition – furry slippers and all that kind of stuff – so I looked a bit feminine.

As we started to get near the Canal, it were dark – it were 11 o’clock at night – and, as the driver slowed down to go into the fields, I jumped out. We were doing about 25mph, but I knew these guys meant business.

I ran like mad and got to a graveyard wall. I threw my suitcase over and clambered up this wall – I were fit at that time – I were really fit – and I ran into this massive big cemetery and I got behind a gravestone.

The two guys – big blokes – came looking for me and my heart were pounding like chuff. I were scared stiff. But they didn’t see me, so they went away.

I then got changed into me ice blue jeans, me steel toe-capped hobnail boots and got my knife.

I stayed in the graveyard for an hour.

There were derelict houses all around and, when I got back on the road, I started to make my way back to my sister’s place – she was renting a dentist’s surgery at the time – but I heard the two cars coming again. They were looking for me; they were after me. So I lay down on an island in the middle of this little road among a load of daffodils.

I could hear the cars coming and they stopped. I heard one of the men say to the other: “He’s around here somewhere,” but they left it at that and got in their cars again.

When they both disappeared round a corner, I ran like mad but I heard the cars coming again so I got in a doorway in an alleyway and they went round the corner again and I decided to go for it again and I were running like mad.

But it turned out what they’d done was they’d gone round the corner and doubled back so they were coming towards me. I could hear my boots running on the road and I had me knife in me hand and the first guy pulled up in his car ahead of me and got out and I threw my suitcase at him with full force. It knocked him sideways and the other guy pulled up and were ready for me, but I were going at such speed and I’d got this knife and I shouted out, “I’ll stab you, ya bastard!” and he moved to one side.

But they still both gave chase.

I got to me sister’s door and, just as I did, there were a car that came and I started booting on the front door really loud with me hobnail boots and they ran off. They took my suitcase and off they went.

My sister let me in and the police were called, but I didn’t drive then, so I couldn’t tell them what type of cars the men had used.

They found my suitcase in the canal about a week later.

I was always streetwise anyway but, ever since then, I’ve always looked behind my back. I started doing karate to protect myself. Whenever I played any pubs or clubs after that, I was always aware. Still am.

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, Germany, Scotland, Sex