Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Preparing to go to Liberia, we had to complete several precautions to ensure that we had a safe and worthwhile stay. We made sure we had the appropriate legal documents, emergency insurance, vaccinations, as well as medicines, a first aid kit, bug repellent, and of course, a malaria bed net. While we did not give a second thought to gathering these things before we traveled to Liberia, the importance of them was magnified throughout the weeks we worked and lived in Africa.
Most of Liberians do not have access or the ability to purchase these lifesaving materials. The typical greeting in Liberia is, "How's the body?" or "How was the night?" Signifying the impact of health upon their lives each day. When they become sick, they can only hope it will pass so that they can see another sunrise.
Not only is malaria a threat to their everyday health, it is also a threat to their hearing. Presently, there are no statistics available as to how many people are deaf or who have a hearing loss in Liberia. If audiologists are available in the country, many do not see them, so there are no statistics on the causes of deafness. But talking to the Principal of the Hope school, David Worlobah, and going through student information sheets, I found that most of the students became deaf after an illness or due to loud noises during the war. These illnesses consisted of malaria, typhoid, or Lassa fever. With these diseases, a high fever is likely, which can cause deafness. Deafness that could be preventable.
As you can see in the picture, our malaria net was put to good use; as was our bug repellent and stomach medicine. We were able to leave a few of our materials behind, but there are still many more that are needed. If you would like to provide a lifesaving malaria net or find out more information on the Nothing but Nets campaign, please take time to visit this site. Or go to Worldvision website to learn how to provide health care to families in need.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
One morning in Liberia, we saw one of our friends who is a pastor for the United Methodist church in Liberia. Our conversation, like a lot of our conversations, focused around the realities of living in a war-torn country. Today's topic, not for the first time, was hunger. She stated that that day, she ate a handful of peanuts for breakfast, and drank some water. She would not eat again until she ate a bowl of rice with her family that night. She was anxiously waiting for that night.
The realities are much more real when they are in your face, and not on the television screen.
The reality is that most Liberians eat one meal per day, if they can.
As guests and as Americans living in Liberia, we were expected to eat three or more times a day. We had food prepared for us each day. While we essentially paid for this luxury, it was hard for us to skip a meal without a caring friend noticing and encouraging us to eat. We are grateful for and amazed at their willingness to go hungry, while we filled our stomachs.
But the hardest thing to do was to go to the school each day, with a full stomach from eggs at breakfast, and face the students and staff who had none. It was even harder to leave the students at lunchtime knowing that I would go and fill my stomach again, while they didn't. And knowing too, that they were not ignorant of this fact. Being told, "I'm hungry," or asked, "Buy food?" was hard to stomach each day. It was no wonder that the students had a hard time concentrating in school, or even coming to school; choosing to work for food instead of receiving an education that they deserve.
Without the ability to feed every student, and without the ability to skip a meal to at least see how they feel, and show them we understand, Aaron and I pacified our frustration at the reality of hunger and privilege each day. It is this reality that has led me to choose to fast each Sunday for the month of October, so that I can feel at least a small part of the hunger that these students face each day. I know that fasting just one day in the week will not compare to the feeling of lifelong hunger, but I will at least experience the beginning. And more than anything, it will give me the opportunity to bring awareness to the reality that millions of people around the world face each day.
If you would like to share in this challenge, have questions, or would like to find out how you can help the students and staff at Hope eat each day, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.