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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Overwhelmed

I'm feeling completely overwhelmed today. The realitites of serving a poor, primative village are starting to set in. I'm not exactly sure what role I'm supposed to play. There is an incredible amount of need in the Village. I as a simple Mzungo (white person) am seen as a meal ticket, but I'm not sure how I can best meet the needs of this population.

Simply walking through the village and interacting with the children at school, I find I develop a huge pit in my stomach. Many of the villagers live in traditional Massaai mud huts and have no running water or electricity. There is little to no food in the area. Most people (including us), simply eat bananas, ugali (similar to mashed potatoes, but with a thicker consistancy, less taste, and no nutritional value), stew with beef fat, rice, and chipate (similar to crepes). The primary beverage of choice is tea.

Many days the kids go home from school hungry as there wasn't any food available to them for lunch. The children arrive at school whenever they want and typically wearing the same outfit they wore the day before. Their outfits are the countrywide uniform accompanied by heavly used t-shirts, tanktops, and ratty sweatshirts. Some arrive without any shoes on and many simply wear flip-flops.

It's obvious that some are not healthy-- they have constant runny noses, deep chest coughs, and are tired. One child has tested positive for HIV, but with an estimated 50% adult HIV rate in the village, there are bound to be more children who are HIV+. I have spotted a few children running around with mouth sores and lesions on their tounge, both signs of end stage AIDS.

The schooling here is poor. The village teachers come and teach whenever they want. One simply chose not to teach today. There is no formal outline as to what the children are going to be taught and their teachers have no background in education. The teacher today asked me what she should teach her students because she has no idea how to teach. I couldn't tell her what to teach since I have only briefly met the kids, so I offerred to assist her in whatever she thought was best for today. The supplies that are available are extremely primative and of little use. There is a room of donations, but they're not typically used (which I haven't figured out yet).

The biggest issue the Village is facing is HIV/AIDS. In this village, according to the villagers, HIV/AIDS does not exist. People just die. There is no prevention happening here. You simply do not talk about the disease. Adults are ot tested. Men have multiple wives. Men and women cheat on each other. Prostitution is a way of life. If you are found to have HIV/AIDS, you're completely ostracized. Although the children have been tested once, two more rounds of testing are needed. The results, however, are only useful to the volunteers. No child will receive any treatment as this would signify that they are HIV+ and thus kick them out of the community.

What then is my role? How can I appropriately make a difference in this community? It's something I'm going to have to mull over. I have a few ideas... paying for the final HIV tests, assessing all of the kid's English skills and creating developmental lesson plans for the teachers to use, etc. Unfortunately, I'm not 100% positive I can make a difference here. I feel like a small band-aid on a gaping wound. I'm not going to give up, but it's certainly going to be difficult.

Shout outs:
* Jessica--- Keep those kids in line at Poco. You would die if you saw the kids here.
* Bob--- I wish you could mail Megan and I a salad, actually.
* Mitch--- Come save us when Magnus leaves.

Funny moment:
I wasn't sure where I should brush my teeth, so last night I brushed it in the "choo" (bathroom= hole in the ground surrounded by a wooden shack). My Masaai mom said to Megan while I was in there, "Is Michelle brushing the teeth? This not America. She needs to be free and brush the teeth out here."

1 comments:

Mom said...

Michelle, Please be careful in regards to contact with any open wounds and sores of the adults and children you come in contact with. Universal precautions! I know your Big Heart, do not overwhelm yourself, do what you know best. Perhaps teaching the teachers how to teach would be the most helpful. If they knew how then perhaps they would show more interest in showing up everyday which may encourage the children. learn from the teachers what they feel would be of the most use for the children to learn. Basic skills of reading, numbers, caring for themselves, basic hygene. Know we love you and are very proud of you. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and give you a big kiss!
Love ya MOM