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“In Africa You Are Never Alone”

February 2009

After the workshop we got ready to visit the land where we will be building the birth house. The funding proposal we sent Seane Corn was approved by Off The Mat, so we are working with The Earth Rising Foundation to get things moving! There are no words to explain this day. First of all the land is smack in the middle of nowhere. The drive there was incredible….on what could be called roads, but more like using the power of the 4×4 to push through the dense bush. The plants and trees scraped their way along the sides of the vehicle. I kept joking with the sisters about the need for a birth house where there are no people and they assured me that they were there…”In africa, you are never alone” they said. We stopped at what is known as the town-trading centre, which was one run down shack and a small brick building with a few things for sale. The community here relies mostly on what they can grow themselves to survive and raising cattle – they grow as much as they need to survive and it pretty much ends there. In the town we stopped to pick up a few community leaders – exchanged greetings and then made our way towards the land. Along the way John emerged out of the bush – it was his land that the sisters bought which we are using to build the birth house – 228 acres.

He guided us towards the land and we all got out of the vehicle to greet his wife who emerged from her tiny mud hut. And then we walked and walked and walked. Over time what was red clay became light sand and the vegetation also began to change. We jumped over moving lines of safari ants (which, after being attacked by these little guys last week, I attempted to FLY over them!) Through swamp and cows and cow poo and then more land. John’s sister in law was with him – she was waiting to birth and had come to stay with his wife (her sister) to birth in their mud hut in the middle of nowhere. After our visit, he decided that he would sell one of his cows and bring her to Bishop Asili to birth. One of the TBAs in the community had just left on a motorcycle (along the most bumpy road you can imagine) with a mama who had complications – they were trying to make their way towards the closest clinic (there in nothing in this village – which is why they have requested our presence here). Usually the women die by the time they get to the closest clinic – we never did find out if this woman was ok.

We finally convinced John and Sam, who we were walking with, that we had a lifetime to walk the land and perhaps we should head back for our meeting with the community. My thoughts that there was nobody there were proven wrong and slowly by slowly over 115 community members began to emerge – literally out of nowhere!

The meeting was incredible – they put forth the problems in the village – high maternal + infant death rates, no schools so a large amount of youth with nothing to do were turning to drinking, increasing HIV rates – the list goes on. The women all sat on one side – at least every second woman had a baby on her hip or at the breast! – and the men on the other side. We met with the TBAs and scheduled another meeting with them on Saturday to further discuss their needs and how we can work together as we build the birth house. Many of the men were drunk (there really is nothing else for them to do) – it was devastating – the women put them in their place quite fast – it was an interesting process to watch. Most of the men present had cattle which is what they spend their time doing and the women have babies which is, for the most part, what they spend their time doing. We have our work cut out for us here, but although the challenges are high, this community truly needs, wants and is ready to take part in this project!

We were here for the rest of the day, the sun began to set and we discussed creating a letter, which would be taken by scooter to one of the village leaders who we want to be present on Saturday when adam comes and when we meet with the TBAs – apparently, the only way to request his presence is to deliver a hand written letter into the bush – and after todays meeting – I’m quite certain he will appear!

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