Monday, May 25, 2009

Some sustainability

This past week I got to participate for the most part in two of the activities on the project that I think are the most sustainable, have the most impact and I excel the most at.

First was farming. The project has many plots at locations like the AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation) clinic, where Mama Florenz gives counselling and testing for villagers. We have made a garden for her so that she can share the vegetables we cultivate with people who come to see her.

Other farming projects include subsistence farming plots that we have created for families we visit on other projects like for Home Based Care. The Ezwenelisha Clinic also benefits from a farming plot we’ve made.

The most important component of the farming projects is the fencing, which we provide and install. Without fencing, most gardens that could be used to feed entire families are destroyed by wandering chickens or cows.

We do also provide seeds and fertilizer in the form of chicken poop. Last week I got to go to the chicken farm where we lugged huge bags of chicken poop (bought for R6, less than $1). Except when we got there the lady thought we wanted chickens, so she opened up a chicken coup with plenty of live, white chickens and one very dead chicken and asked us to pay R35 before we called a translator to request the fertilizer and a wheelbarrow to transport it down to the road to our farming plot.

An afternoon of farming holds plenty of surprises like this, many weird animals, lots of red ants, sunburns and blisters. But at the end of the day, I’ve seen how cultivating even a small plot here can provide a resource that many people struggle to acquire even on a daily basis.

Second is HIV Education at Ubuhlebemvelo Primary School. Although the adult education classes are no less important, I find that HIV education is much more positively received by groups of 13 and 14 year olds. Their questions, although sometimes shocking, provide a stepping stone for discussion and also offer reinforcement for how important the course is for younger South Africans.

In our ‘Secret Questions’ box last week were questions about rape, pregnancy and discrimination, among other things. Sometimes it’s hard to stand and preach abstinence, condom usage, and attempt to instil anti-discrimination in the students. Their blank stares often scare me into believing they don’t understand or take us seriously. But when the majority of the students pass the test at the end of the week, it does give me a sense of hope. At the end of the day it’s that feeling that even if I ensured that one student out of the twenty participants chooses to wear a condom next time he or she has sex, than I have achieved something that wouldn’t have been attained otherwise.

So there you have it. Those are two ways that I am feeling like I am really making a difference this time around. Maybe it’s small and some people might find it quite insignificant, but you wouldn’t if you saw the faces of babies with HIV, or those in the classroom at Ubuhlebemvelo.

I tell myself every little bit counts.

Until next time

Sometimes I wonder; Will God ever forgive us for what we’ve done to each other? Then I look around and I realize – God left this place a long time ago. –Danny Archer, Blood Diamond

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