Sunday, January 6, 2013

You Can Pee in the Shower

I'm sick in bed today so I thought I'd take this time to blog about my last few months at work.

I've never owned my own house. Well technically I had a house in the village in Zambia but I didn't have to deal with any of the modern world consciences like electricity and plumbing. But with my current job I'm quickly learning LOADS of new things about how to deal with and take care of an almost 50 year old building in India.

The story starts about 2 months ago when I kicked a whole through a wall. I only wear flip flops. We discovered water running down the outside of the pipes. We found a contractor to do the waterproofing work and thought that would be the end of it.

Until water kept leaking.

We took bricks off the front of the building and the pipes seemed fine. We started digging down into the ground and found the problem. The pipes weren't running into the chamber and had holes in them.

Then we had to investigate all of the chambers. Most of them were clogged. We paid for them to be unclogged but we were still having issues. We then found a plumber who was willing to fix all of our chamber issues. So for the last month I have been looking at everyone's business. I know where the nukes are and I know all the codes.

I also know for a fact that it doesn't matter if you pee in the shower. It all goes to the same place here.

We will hopefully be finished with the chambers and plumbing very soon. And cross your fingers that we don't find any other crazy issues!!!

We start an event tomorrow, the first of the year! And you can now follow us on twitter! @sangamwc

Friday, November 30, 2012

He should be 5 years old

Joy was 6 months old when we first met. He was absolutely beautiful, and interestingly enough, was one of the few babies who didn't burst into tears when seeing me. He had the most beautifully big eyes and when he looked at you, he wasn't just looking at you, he was studying you, staring into your soul. When you looked into his eyes, you could tell he was an old soul and knew more than you ever would.

Joy and I grew up together. In a family of 15, getting lost in the shuffle can be very easy. Joy and I were thrown together. Everyone had their jobs and mine quickly became taking care of him during the evenings. Having a job gave me a purpose, and more importantly helped with the massive culture shock I was trying to deal with.

One day, Joy crawled to my house while I was listening to the radio and washing my dishes. Joy crawled around making sure everything was ok and then crawled back home. A few minutes later, I heard him crying from the main house. But he kept crying. And crying. I decided to investigate since someone should have picked him up. I walked over and found Joy all by himself sitting in the middle of the yard with no one around. I picked him up and brought him back to my house. I gave him some biscuits and he fell asleep. I brought Joy with me that night when I came for dinner. Sonia saw me and a look of panic washed over her face. She looked at me and said, "Joy?" Everyone thought someone else had Joy, not thinking he would be with me.

Joy was a constant at my house, along with all the other kids who weren't old enough for school. Most of my Peace Corps friends wouldn't let the kids from their families into their houses, but I didn't mind. I had boxes of toys and boxes of colouring books and crayons. The only rule was that they had to pick up before going back home. They also had to ask in English for what they wanted. Hanging out with the kids was one of two reasons I knew (and still remember) any Chitonga. I taught them Uno, they taught me Chitonga.

Josh was at my house one weekend and had just gotten a package from home with cheese and crackers. He opened them up and started eating. Joy came over and sat down next to Josh and asked for one. Josh shared and I took pictures. I sent these pictures to Josh's mom who forwarded them to the church group who was putting together books for my school's new library. Josh got a lot of emails from random people asking about him feeding the poor and starving children of Africa.

When my parents and grandparents came to visit, they couldn't believe how comfortable Joy was with me. Whenever I had visitors, the other kids would keep their distance, still wary of these interesting foreigners that were friends of mine. But Joy never seemed to care. He would come over as he pleased and always made himself at home, because it was his home. I was cooking lunch for my parents and grandparents, Joy came over, crawled into my lap and went to sleep. I continued cooking.

I was gone from the village for two weeks once. I can't remember why I had left-sick, vacation, training-I don't remember. I do remember coming back home and Joy suddenly knew more Chitonga than me. This was a sad day for me. But I felt a bit better when he started teaching me Chitonga words; but then he started correcting my tenses.

I have a million stories from my time in the village, and almost all of them include Joy.

When I was leaving the village, I really did want to take him with me. I knew if I asked, the family would let me. But my friend Kim talked me out of it. She told me that I couldn't be stealing children from Africa. She also wisely told me this: Joy wouldn't like it in America. Who would he play with? Where could he run around in the bush? Who would let him start a fire to cook a snack? And what would he do in winter?

He died last year, right after his 4th birthday, from a curable disease.

He should be 5 years old. Instead he has become a statistic on reports. Just another one of the millions of children who don't make it to their 5th birthday.

I don't regret not taking him with me. I wouldn't be where I am today if I had. And Kim was right, he wouldn't have enjoyed America

Now I work for an organization that has partnerships with other international NGOs. We are all working together to try and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. And more importantly, show the UN that we should have a plan after 2015 when the MDGs are supposed to be achieved.

I don't think that people will stand up and make changes unless stories are shared that turn statistics into people. Joy will never be a statistic, he will always be stories. The millions of other children who also didn't make it to their 5th birthdays all have their own stories. And in sharing these stories, we can start making positive change and work towards achieving the MDGs.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A few things happen

I've discovered that a few things happen to me when I am in Africa.

1. My tan comes back.

I don't know when, but apparently I've been in the sun long enough for a bit of my tan to come back. The only reason I can tell is that I have a white band around my wrist from where my headbands are kept. But maybe I'm not scrubbing all the dirt off when I shower.

2. The calluses reappear on the top of my feet.

I sit on the floor in India. I sit on the floor everywhere actually. But for some reason, the calluses that I have on the tops of my feet have reappeared with a vengeance.  I'll have to go back to India and scrub them away quickly before I go to America.

3. My hair falls out so much that I get a bit worried about losing all of my hair.

I'm losing my hair at an alarming rate. This happened to me while I lived in Zambia and it has started again here in Ghana. I looked down at the floor around me and there is long pink hair EVERYWHERE!!! I'm the only one with long and pink hair here, so obviously it is mine.

But all in all, I'm having a pretty good time. Today we went out on a visit to STAR-Ghana that gives money to CBOs (Community Based Organizations) and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). We also visited an organization called Gender Centre that was started by a group of women lawyers and works on empowering women to stop the violence. They had 2 interns from Canada and a VSO volunteer there. The group is doing amazing work and really shared a lot about how they go about fund raising and applying for grant money with the participants in the event. I chatted really briefly with the 2 Canadian interns while everyone was getting on the bus. If only we had more time, I could have fully explained the Stop the Violence campaign!! I only had time to tell them to check out the website and give them my business card!!!!

 Here is a picture of me and Alice while waiting to go into STAR-Ghana. 

And everyone playing with my crazy hair!