Saturday, July 05, 2008

young mums are da bomb

back again....

it's always weird to come back to a place that has been home. you expect things to have remained unchanged, but instead to understand that life goes on without you, and you were only really a visitor.

so i am living on an old game reserve about 10 km from the nearest paved road. there are 15 or so international volunteers living there, who come from england, canada and all over the world, who are working with Hands at Work (www.handsatwork.org). life is pretty normal there, outside of the fact that there are electrical security fences and security guards and the threat of robbery. we had a robbery last sunday morning, right before i arrived, where they cleaned out the electronics in the apartments here.

i never know what to write on these blogs, but i know that it feels good to be able to journey with people into the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS. so welcome to masoyi....i am working in a rural black community about 50 kms from nelspruit. when i was here last, i worked as the project manager for a USAID-funded education initiative focused on keeping orphaned girls in school. now this project has been established, and the women i trained up when i was here last are sucessfully running the programme for over 2 years (which is one of the coolest feelings i have ever known). now i am here working on my dissertation research for my masters of international health, focusing on maternal health of orphaned girls.

pregnancy in south africa is a huge challenge.... 1 in 3 women are pregnant before they are 18 here. pregnancy is one of the leading factors which makes a woman vulnerable to HIV infection. and there are 9 women who are HIV positive for every 1 man in the 13 to 24 age groups. that's a lot of stats to say that it's really critical to understand these young women's lives, and to understand more fully what can be done to help them be protected from contracting HIV.

but what precisely am i doing? well, a lot of talking. and recording. and asking questions. hands at work is running support groups for young mums who are also orphaned children. my days here are filled with riding public transit taxis and walking on dusty dirt roads to sit with young women and talk to them about their lives. i ask them about their families, how they became orphaned, what it is like to be pregnant, what the community thinks of their pregnancy, and what challenges they face as young mothers.

their fearless leader is a gorgeous woman named thabisile (thabi). she is 19 years old, and has a laugh that starts deep in her before erupting into a loud sound of joy. if any of you guys know my laugh she sounds a lot like me. she speaks quickly and won;t meet your eyes until she trusts you. thabi is the head of a child-headed household, and lost her dad when she was 10 in a car accident. then her mom died when she was 15, so she went to live with her uncle, who then died early this spring. it is so humbling to sit beside someone so strong. people often feel sorry for the women i work with, but they have a strength of spirit that one only knows when they have suffered. she approaches life and friendship and love with a fierceness of one who know that all can be lost, and the next moment is the most important. thabi wants to be a social worker when she grows up so she can tell other women to continue to fight for hope in their lives. how cool is that? i used to want to be a lawyer when i grew up so i could make loads of money....i think she might be onto something!!!!

We are also doing some cool stuff with income generation programmes. i ran a workshop on friday afternoon, teaching the girls how to make hand-made paper beads so they can start to make earrings to sell in the local market.

and i have a load of pictures to upload, but the internet is too slow here. so i may modify it later on today. and i was super-sick earlier on this week, so if you guys could pray for my health here that would be great....much love to you all!!!!

4 Comments:

Blogger janna said...

meaghan! glad to hear all youve been up to :) youre always an inspiration

- janna

10:23 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Hey Maeghan!
Thanks for this little insight into what you are up to these days... I always enjoy and am inspired by your stories :)
Be well and safe...
Sara

12:46 PM  
Blogger Aiban said...

Maeg, lovely piece as usual.. its nice to see that you are back in the place where the difference you feel you are making is taking shape in front of your eyes. I wish you the best in your discussions and interviews with the strong young women of Africa. Im in London with my brother, helping him organize a fund-raising event for his initiative in Sri Lanka. Hugs. aibz

4:54 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Hi Maeghan,
So glad to read your post but sorry to hear you have been sick. I will print your post off and pass it around to grandm/grandpa the kids, Beth sends her love and was asking for you. Olivia loved her purple stone necklace. She especially loved the tiny purple stones in the fob too. Oh, and Dad loved your card & the Edinburgh Starbucks mug. What fun,
Love ya,
Carolyn

9:40 AM  

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