5 January 2012
So, more about Nate Whittaker Boot Camp.
We leave our houses at 8h30.
We get to Afrika Tikkun at 9h00.
We volunteer until 13h00.
We have class at 15h00.
We leave class at 17h00.
We have Talking Circles at 20h00.
It's not bad. It's just intense after coming from the mountains with no regiment or regard for time.
So, Afrika Tikkun. What an absolutely phenomenal place! We work with Anthea, who is similar to Aggie, the housemother at Isithembiso. It appears that she and Liz, along with Michaela, are the inspirational glue that holds this place together. Obviously, I'm sure there are others, but these are just the ladies we are working specifically with.
On our first day there, we did some orientation and got familiar with some of their programs. They have computer and art rooms for kids. They have women that work in the kitchen and make one hot meal for anyone within the township. For free. They also have a social work system. They deliver meals. They do house visits and set up family plans. Everything they do leaves me speechless. Today, on our first real day of service at Afrika Tikkun, Anthea told us that they needed help with the garden. Now, I'm not a real rough and tumble, dirt under my nails kinda gal, but I've been to an indigenous farming conference, so I get the idea.
The Bean and I headed off in one direction and just started pulling weeds. As I was pulling out these evasive plants, I was just noticing the amazing root structures that they had. Between the ball of thorns and snails that I had to encounter, I really started enjoying myself. I'll admit it; I think that having an actual garden someday could be more than just a fantasy.
While the weeding was physically taxing (I was getting sun blisters), it was nothing compared to the emotionally taxing second part of our morning. We left the safe space of Afrika Tikkun and headed to Delft Community Health Centre. There we had a tour guide, who everyone has taken to calling "The Sister That Showed Us Around." She was such an inspiring woman! She has three children and works 13 hour days, 7 days a week. Her phone is always on, at church, while she's asleep, I'm sure even in the bath. She doesn't do it for the pay, or the benefits (if there are any), she does it out of her passion for the people. She was telling us stories of the youth with STI's that she sees; they don't come in until there are warts covering their genitals, until it is literally the worst that it can get.
Her stories tug at your heartstrings, each and every one of us touched by the words of this angel among us.
She then brought us on a tour. We saw everything: the resuscitation room (the er, essentially), the HIV care sector, the TB hall, the ante-natal care, the pediatrics...but most of all, we got to see the people. As we walked the crowded corridors, it was hard to look people in the face. It was hard; who were we to have the gift of opportunity to be able to walk these halls and see the reality behind the statistics? I don't deserve to see the line of babies that need vaccinations to be able to grow into healthy adults, or the adults that are sitting and waiting for their 12 minutes to pass after they've taken the HIV test to find the results. Why do I get to see this?
Why was I the one who was fortunate enough to be the only one in the ER on New Year's Eve? I was so humbled by this experience. There are no words to describe to look in people's eyes at the health centre. Although some are sitting in queues longer than I have ever had to wait in the hospital or clinic, these people still manage to be the most beautiful assortment of people I have ever seen. This is their reality. They have to wait in these queues and lay on mattresses on the floor. This is hard for us Americans to cope with, but life in the townships isn't all doom and gloom. Life happens there. Beautiful, happy, vibrant life. Passion for life and exuberance I first experienced when I visited my friend Zianda in the Red District of PE.
While visiting the Delft Community Health Centre may have been emotionally difficult, it is also uplifting. The fact that anyone in Delft can hop in a taxi and head down to the clinic and receive care for free is amazing. South Africa is doing many things right that the US is missing and health care is one of them. In fact, this morning, Rick Santorum said "People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don't go to the emergency room or they don't go to the doctor when they need to," he said. "And it's not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit. Mr. Santorum, how would you expect unemployed people without health care to go to the emergency room? And who do you expect to pay for that.
America, we've got some lessons to learn.
(Here is the link to the article written about Rick Santorum and his beliefs on health care: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/santorum-no-one-has-ever-died-because-they-didnt-have-health-care/politics/2011/12/06/31304)