5 January 2012
So, more about Nate Whittaker
We leave our houses at 8h30.
We get to Afrika Tikkun at
We volunteer until 13h00.
We have class at 15h00.
We leave class at 17h00.
We have Talking Circles at
It's not bad. It's just
intense after coming from the mountains with no regiment or regard for
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
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)