Jet lagged and up since 2 AM, I finally gave up and walked out for an early quiet breakfast and reflection. While in Africa for over two weeks, I wore nothing but hiking shorts and wicking shirts because it was so very hot and humid, with a very intense sun. I wore the same on my way out this morning, and was met by a wall of chill that set me back to the reality that fall is here when you travel well north of the equator. While at breakfast (yes, still in the aforementioned shorts and t-shirt; and yes, met with the occasional raised eyebrows), I jotted down a few thoughts to sort of produce a journal summary of our Africa experience. There are so many events, thoughts and takeaways that I couldn’t synthesize it into a cohesive story. So, I ended up taking a “less is more” approach.
The Earth Kept Spinning
We’ve been an ocean away; and so many things have happened while we were gone.
– – The Cardinals made the post-season.
– – A polarized nation takes sides on impeachment proceedings.
– – The Blues season started, the Stanley Cup was unveiled, and the Cup even made an appearance at Alton’s “Fast Eddies Bon Air”.
– – A prominent presidential candidate suffered a heart attack.
– – Countless NFL touchdowns were scored and millions of manic fans cheered.
– – Other than the Cardinals, I wasn’t aware of any of this, and the earth kept spinning.
– – And for those living an ocean away in Africa, they aren’t aware either. It’s not out of indifference, but because other issues must be their focus.
Meanwhile, an ocean away:
– – In Uganda, a country of about 40 million people, half of the population is below the age of 15, and 1.5 million of those are street children.
– – When a former street child (now unrecognizable as such and fully assimilated back into society) was asked what he liked most about his school, his response (with a smile) was “I get my own bed”.
– – School children play futbol with a makeshift concoction of paper and twine because a futbol is not affordable. And, air pumps and needles are precious if you are lucky enough to get a futbol.
– – School teachers make $150 US a month, not enough to make ends meet, but continue in their occupation because of their passion, and belief in their children’s future.
– – People can’t brush their teeth with water out of a faucet or stream without risk of parasites. Water filters are slowly changing that.
– – Piglets and cows (living loans) are handed out to people in various villages. In one village, the piglets were handed off to a group of teenage mothers. The stresses of everyday life, accompanied by their recent burden of offspring, made these ladies look to be in their thirties.
– – A beautiful woven rug sells for $15 and takes a woman a month to weave. Any of us want to try living on $15 a month? Yes, goods and services are cheaper over there, but not close to that magnitude.
– – We are an ocean away and we aren’t aware. Is it a lack of caring? Comfortable ambivalence? How can we make more aware? How can we have more impact?
– – The earth will continue to spin either way, but it can do so more peacefully and equitably.
Many thanks for all the support from our Microfinancing Partners in Africa staff, board, and friends. And, many thanks to Mother Teresa for describing the situation so succinctly and clearly that “Freedom is not having the right to do what you want do, but rather, what you OUGHT to do”. Microfinancing Partners in Africa’s mission is what we ought to do.
– Tom P