Jenny asked Anne and me to be at the “yatima”, the new orphanage kindergarten building by 8:00AM this morning. All the HIV/Aids positive Moms and two Dads were coming for their babies milk powder. The milk powder and lishe order had all been carefully put into bags before we got there. Rows and rows of moms and babes sat patiently waiting for us. Some had walked over to 24 kilometres for the precious health giving formula. All eyes in the room were trained on Jenny as she explained in Swahili how to keep your baby well. Once again we had to fill out information, struggling with tattered cards and almost illegible forms. Each Mom clung to her precious Tanzanian growth chart form that recorded each baby’s weight gain. When the baby reached green on the colored graph it was cause for great rejoicing. Green is equated with a healthy weight and good progress. Data records Mom’s CD4 count, how she is doing as well as health concerns for the baby. Home visits are planned for those that seem to be struggling or if the babe is not thriving or if there are signs of “tell-tale” malnutrition causing an orange fuzzy fringe to cover a little babe’s head. Some babies are referred to the CTC to be tested for the virus. Scabies are common. Last year there were 28 moms, today 51 mothers came. Aids has not been conquered here. Minute sparkling black eyes peered out from colorful kanga carriers strapped to mom’s backs. Sitting on knees, held in arms, these wee humans are flourishing because of Jenny’s milk programme. I found myself thinking thank goodness for all of you that came and supported our summer corn roast!! The last mom left at noon and we trudged back to the volunteer house thinking sober thoughts and marveling at Jenny’s strength.
After Upendo’s delicious soup and laden down with school supplies we lurch off through the village to pick up Yusto. He and Anne continue on to Mwefu to their play practice after dropping me off at Luhunga Secondary school. Last Friday only 5 students were there! That was a day of blues and soul searching for me. Yet all this week students have come three quarters of an hour early and worked with astounding commitment . Maybe in all cultures adolescents have the power to confound! I believe story telling and human hearts are intertwined so our “constructing” of the novel continues. Binty, the protagonist and yes, each student knows that “high English” word now, has taken us from her role in the radio play home to her father’s coffin shop. These coffins promise to deliver you to Heaven faster than the competition. AND……the highest priced ones, decorated with hand painted with bright red carmine bee-eater birds guarantee that you will soar over the clouds on your way. Binty was constructed with cardboard and she stands alone. Students viewed this coming into being with wonder. Their dexterity with scissors and rulers and glue continues to be challenging yet intriguing. The completed Binty was perched casually on tables and on top of dictionaries etc. for all to admire while secret smiles betrayed the pleasure of accomplishment. Tomorrow we will add two dresses, one for church, one for taping scenes from the play and of course the ubiquitous school uniform. It is really just pedagogy from the old cut out dolls variety. It is however such a privilege to be entrusted with these exciting young minds. I can’t let the students know that sometimes my eyes brim over with the fullness of it all.
Love to all, Ruth
Obama WON!! The ululating has begun.!!!