That was great 1-on-1 time but took up A LOT of our time and while malaria has become my focus I still have 5 other projects with more always piling up that I’ve got my hands in. Last month The OVC (Orphans & Vulnerable Children Association) that I’m working with decided to have mobilizations and educate by sub location. And I have to say I will never want to attend another meeting for the rest of my life if it is not modeled after these. Let me walk you through a typical malaria mobilization.
We arrive to the meeting and get this… everyone is already there! I know my PC friends understand this and what a big deal it is. It’s not unusual to wait hours for members to arrive before the meeting starts. The 5-minute rule where you can leave if people don’t show doesn’t exist here. Not only are they there waiting they usher you in to the house and feed you lunch. Always way more than you want and of course it was just lunch time and you have already eaten. (Hence the 18 lbs I’m packing that I wasn’t when I arrived, but I’m not complaining.) When you finish lunch you go join the community members, of course they have special seats for you, in the front of the church where you are meeting or outside in the shade. Oh and when you enter the church or walk down the path if the meeting is outside everyone is singing and dancing for you. (Where can I work where that happens every time I walk in the door?!)
Then you do greetings and introductions for the next 10 minutes and everyone cheers for you because you can greet them in the local language. It’s crazy all I said was Hey, How are you? in Kisamia. They also love when I introduce myself using my village name, Nahulu, which I was given meaning someone of value. It was explained to me that it means you are valuable and strong like when the sand is wet from the waves of the ocean and cannot be moved. Ok, so then we dive into the bit about malaria and the importance of using a net and how it saves lives.
Then I say a few words about how children in the States raised money for nets for them and how much money a family and community could save on hospital fees, medicine, and transportation costs etc. if they slept under nets every night. We sing and dance some more. Nets are distributed. Pictures are taken. And then many times I am given a chicken. I really should build a coop for all these chickens I’m acquiring. But for now I take them to a friend’s house and she keeps them until they are ready to eat and we enjoy a good meal.
Meet my latest chicken. I named him Dinner.
I learned the hard way by not sleeping under a net while on vacation and I got malaria (AND I am taking malaria pills everyday.) I’m not saying that I’m glad I got malaria but it has made this project even more personal for me.
Oh and I almost forgot, this was said to me in the meeting today: “Stand up and shake yourself.” Can we just agree to start every meeting that way.
I told the members at one meeting that my dance moves didn’t come out until dark. They laughed at me as they often do and it’s not because I’m funny. But really I just imitate their moves (poorly) and they love it. Yes, please cheer and laugh at me for my weak attempt at having any sort of rhythm or moves. I will take it.
Each meeting lasts about 3 hours but it never feels that long.
Showing up to all this at work is a great way to beat a bad case of the Mondays!
I’m already dreading mundane meetings back home when I have to be a grown up and have a job.
Thank you to all my peeps back home. I couldn’t
do what I do without you. And because of you, all these kids and sooooo many more are sleeping under nets tonight.