Tuesday, November 15, 2005

today


Greetings,


I am going to open with a poem that I like a lot:
(this is a shot of the sunsets here taken while I was climbing a local mountain, Legogote)

Today
I thought
I would like
To go to Africa
Yes, I will go to Kenya
And see if time
Has stood still
Where at least
The walk
Is on the ground
And all comes
To a sudden halt
At Dusk
And sounds
Come from the voice
And travel a mile or two
And strength comes from the family
Near to you
Yes, Today
I thought
I would like to go to Africa

Sallie Lanier, 1995

I enjoy that poem because you can almost hear the author patiently pondering her thoughts. Read it really slowly, and you will begin to feel Africa. The words illustrate life here. Life does come to a halt at dusk in the rural community, and strength and meaning is drawn from family, from those in relationship with you. People greet EVERYBODY. Not just your best friend who you happen to see on a subway. I was speaking with my good friend Gugu about life in Canada, and I told her that we don’t greet in Canada (this is a picture of Gugu and her son). Like I mentioned last time, you greet EVERYONE in Africa. Unless they are sketchy men who are trying to get you to marry them. It can take you 20 minutes to walk down the street, simply because you cannot pass a person with out saying hello, how are you? How is your family?, and waiting for the appropriate response. In Canada, you walk to work or class or car in silence, not making eye contact, untilyou get to your destination. When I shared this with Gugu, she sat there, mouth open, aghast. She said to me, don’t people get lonely in your country with no one to speak to them? Don’t they get sad? She makes me think…

So I have begun to work with the orphan programs here over the past little while. In South Africa alone, there are 1000 children orphaned every week by the AIDS virus. MHBC began to look at orphan care just 4 years ago, and since then, we have taken over the care of over 1700 children. How it works is when a patient becomes ill and near death, MHBC (Masoyi Home Based Care) speaks with them about where they would like their child to go when they pass away. The social workers begin to prepare the child for the death of their parent, and we take pictures of the family all together so the child can have a physical memory of their parents. After the parent passes away, the child is designated to a volunteer from the community who becomes like an auntie to the child. In Africa, there is a huge extended family structure, and part of that structure is aunties. These are women who are like mentors and big sisters and protectors to the kids. So each child has a volunteer who they know personally, who lives near their home, that checks in on them regularly and who they can go to in the case of physical abuse, poor living conditions, and such. For the most part, the orphaned children live with grannies or close family members, but if the child has no home to go to, MHBC also has little foster homes set up. These are houses with 6 kids and one auntie who cares for them, providing good food and parenting. We always keep children from the same parents together as much as possible…

I was able to visit the daycares run by MHBC and work with the kids for a few days. Many of the kids are touch-starved, meaning that they don’t get physical affection at home. There was this beautiful little girl, Specicio, which means gift from God, that I met at the daycare. I placed my hand on her head while the daycare instructor was telling the kids how to do the craft for the day. She slowly molded into my hand, starved of touch, and sat on my lap for over 2 hours that afternoon. I definitely fell in love with at least 5 children over this past week, one of them is pictured here. He was too young to ask his name, and I couldn’t figure out where his caregivers where, but I would guess he is about 2 or 3.

The daycares are run to give the grannies and caregivers a break for a few hours each day, because many grandmas are caring for as many as 7 to 12 kids. Which brings another concern for groups who are trying to help – many of these grandmothers are not healthy themselves, and the orphans face the chance of being orphaned again when they pass away.

A large part of what I have been dealing with is how to look at the social tidal waves that are left in the wake of AIDS…that poem spoke of how strength comes from the family. AIDS has taken away an entire generation of parents and aunties who are the people that teach these kids about life…how to farm, how to pick a good husband or wife…how to plait your hair or how to dance…whole cultures in Africa face an identity crisis as these kids are growing up.

My work is starting to take me away from the people side of things, and into the background, which I had anticipated. As a non-governmental organization (NGO) we receive funding to run programs from USAID, Visionledd, and other international groups. There is a lot of bookkeeping and logistical coordination that has to happen in order for the funds to be available…My days are now going to be divided between helping with the annual report preparations and the hands-on work in the community.

I wish that I knew how to share everything that I feel and see…I don’t want my postings to be negative but I want to be honest about what I see. Many of the situations I walk into make me uncomfortable, and they make me long for a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks and a good book to escape into. But I feel this incredible burden to bear witness to what is happening here – to tell of the endurance and the beauty of the human spirit. To tell of the faith and love and hope that I have seen and do see amongst the people of Africa who have been largely forgotten by CNN and by the Western world. To tell people that we have much to learn from this way of life, from the simplicity of value systems, from the value of tradition and family and relationships. But to communicate as well that this way of life is in danger…in many communities, it is in crisis. I pray that you don’t read my message and go away feeling guilty for your blessings, but rather go away wanting to learn more about what happens here. Maybe even come to visit me…but please keep reading. Keep journeying alongside me…

Grace and peace,
maeghan

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great pic Maegs! And I like the poem too. Love C.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Noel said...

It's honestly a priviledge to journey alongside of you!!

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Maehgan,
hahah...pumpkin spice latte! I love reading your descriptions; I think you are talented at describing what you see plainly and honestly, but also beautifully. Thanks for being you! I continue to pray for you and I thank God that I have the opportunity to read about your experiences...I pray for encouragement for you, and that you are able to find a balance between empathy and joy during your visits and your organisational duties.
lots of love,
erika
p.s. i wish i could send you a pumpkin spice latte in the mail...but it might get cold...i will keep my eyes peeled for a portable latte...don't laugh...ok laugh...but you're still getting a latte in the mail...

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Daddio said...

Hi Maeghan, love your descriptive language.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ". Eph 1:3

Have a great day/week knowing that you are blessed.

Love Dad

11:19 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Maeghan! It's Kate from last year's REV team...

What an amazing adventure you are on!! I wish you lots of luck and am keeping you in my thoughts an prayers!

3:39 PM  
Anonymous alexa k. said...

Dear beautiful Maeghan
As I read and re-read your postings, I try to imagine what you are doing right now- who you are encouraging with your comforting words and joyful smile.
And I pray that you will feel the love and power of our amazing Lord; His strength to protect you and empower you to be the most awesome Christian woman He has created you to be.
From looking at the other heartfelt comments, I see that you are very deeply respected and admired by so many people - not just your parents and my family.
Thank God for this blog; it makes the distance between us seem so much less.
Praying for you constantly and that you will soon post another journey entry.
Love,
Alexa k.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Ann Lynde said...

Mi bonita heremana en Cristo,

Megs, I will soon be joining you on this path of seeing the truth, unexposed to many unless he/she desires to know the truth. You and I both know that Jesus is the truth. He has given you this blessing, so that upon your return you will educate hundreds. Your story will be told over and over amongst family and friends and by God's grace it will change many hearts. I am continue to pray for your journey, and I ask you to pray for me in the Peace Corps. I will be serving the people of Honduras. Dios te bendiga!

7:12 PM  
Anonymous crys said...

"I am for you what you want me to be at the moment you look at me in a way you've never seen me before: at every instant. When I write, it's everything that we don't know we can be that is written out of me, without exclusions, without stipulation, and everything we will be calls us to the unflagging, intoxicating, unappeasable search for love. In one another we will never be lacking." ~Helen Cixous

mae,
your stories are inspiring and beautiful. i am so glad you are sharing them with so many people. i love to read and see what you've been up to, and who is in your life. i just want you to know that i love you, and you are in my prayers and thoughts now and always. keep loving, and pursuing, and learning, and living, and giving, and fighting, and praying. i know you will move mountains, and i know that you will have an such an impact on those you meet. i cannot wait to come and see what you have been doing in africa...

all my love,
crys<><

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear maeghan,
its janna from southA =) well i just wanted to remind you that you ARE such an inspiration to so many people, and this christmas, my friends and i have decided to maybe sponsor a child, or do something for the aids effort. we're not quite sure which organization just yet, but watching you and hearing you stories makes me believe that maybe i could make even a small difference in someones life.

take care always & may God watch over you.

janna

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. Prompt how to get acquainted with the girl it to me to like. But does not know about it
I have read through one history
Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.

People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.

A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:

". . . but the moment I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me . . .

"And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my school work to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent . . .

"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.

"I haven't worked on Cady's Life for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of 14 and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy.' So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write! Yours, Anne M. Frank

For those of you interested in reading some of Anne Frank's first stories and essays, including a version of Cady's Life, see Tales From the Secret Annex (Doubleday, 1996). Next: Reviewing and revising your writing

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