Home visit. . .
I have been reading Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn’s recently published “Half the Sky” about the tragic plight of women throughout many countries in the world and some of their stories of overcoming oppression. It makes me think of so many of the amazing women I have met on my travels in Kashmir, East Timor, Tuvalu, Sierra Leone and now Burundi. (I also think of the men with whom I have worked who work hard for women’s rights too). I am only 21% of the way through the book (the Kindle notes the percentage read at the bottom of the “page”) and I am devouring it. Despite the tragic tales, it is very inspiring.
I was thrilled that they cited my friend Dara Cohen’s research. She and I met in Dili, East Timor in February 2008 and met again in the Dili airport as we were both departing on the day of the double assassination attempts on the President and Prime Minister. Dara is the person who told me about the West Africa Fistula Foundation too…the dots start connecting.
Today I accompanied Melino on a home visit to his mother (with multiple medical issues) at his childhood home farm. We were also delivering two elderly patients home. We drove down the rough road from Kigutu to the paved road, drove south on the paved road for about 15 minutes and then took another road back up into the mountains to Vyanda (the town I walked to three weeks ago with Tolstoy). As soon as we pulled into Vyanda’s town center, which had throngs of people out for the local markets and church services, the vehicle was mobbed with well wishers. Melino is obviously a well loved and respected member of this community.
The air was cool and the hills/mountains had a verdant hue. The eucalyptus trees were plentiful. I had to blink to realize I was in Burundi and not on the Tablelands of Far North Queensland.
Melino’s Mum, Candide, is a very hard working farm woman in her mid 70’s. She has had nine children and was widowed in 1994. Despite not reading or writing well herself, she has ensured that all her children have been educated. All are successful in their fields… a doctor, a professor, a civil engineer, business owners, all of them major contributors to Burundi’s positive future.
It is frustrating not to be able to speak Kirundi with her, as I know that her life must have incredible depth and that she has many stories. For example, Melino told me a little about her hiding from the rebels in the war. Meeting her was inspiring and humbling; her “simple” life as a mother in the mountains of Burundi has made a huge difference to this struggling country and its people. It was an honor to meet such an amazing woman.
Tomorrow we will begin a three day vaccination programme for under five year olds. I imagine that we will have a tsunami of patients.