Molly in Africa

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nkhupulika Yayi

     Yesterday morning, a woman came to my house looking for me, looking for help, looking for money.  This woman looked similar to so many that I have met over the past four months.  The creases on her face are physical marks of the fatigue she feels from her daily responsibilities.  The chitenje wrapped around her waist is tattered and dirty because she probably can't afford to buy a new one and washing it only keeps it clean for a moment when you live in a grass-thatched hut with mud floors.

     She sat on our veranda (her sign of respect to me) and greeted me in Nkhonde.  I greeted her back and she began to tell me what was wrong.  I responded with, "Nkhupulika yayi" (I don't understand).  In this particular moment, I simply meant, "I don't understand what you're saying because I don't really know Nkhonde."  But I could have meant, "I don't understand how to help you back on your feet." Or it could have meant, "I don't understand how there can be so many people facing these similar problems." Or it even could have meant, "I don't understand why these women are coming me, a young 22 year old with little knowledge of their experiences, for help."

     I walked inside and asked Vicki, one of our cooks, if she would be willing to help translate for me.  With her help, I learned that this woman is caring for her orphaned grandchildren after her daughter passed away.  She was looking for some money to start business and so I explained (through Vicki) about our Women's Empowerment Program and how it works.  It was clear she was unhappy that she couldn't receive help now and I tried to explain that I recognized that she was in a challenging position but all the women (over 150 groups) on our waiting list are also in that challenging position and it wouldn't be fair to help her first.

    Wouldn't be fair.  What about this situation IS fair?  Is it fair that because this woman's daughter died, she now has to go begging help of other people in order to find means to adequately provide for her family's needs?  Is it fair that I live in a huge house that clearly has the amenities I need (AND want) and she is simply asking for help with her NEEDS?  Is it fair that I stay within the "system" that exists here in order to help instead of acknowledging that I personally could afford to give her the little sugar she asked for at the end of her visit with me?

     Nkhupulika yayi. 

5 Comments:

At 5:26 AM, December 17, 2008, Anonymous Mom said...

Oh, Molly, what an amazing glimpse into the life you're in. Thanks for sharing this. Love, Mum

 
At 2:55 PM, December 17, 2008, Blogger JanetPG said...

I don't understand either, Molly. This hurts. Oh, dear, you and the women you serve are in our prayers.
Janet

 
At 7:27 PM, December 25, 2008, Blogger JanetPG said...

Merry Christmas from the Gayes Family, Molly!

 
At 10:21 PM, December 27, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love you, Molly, and your questions remind us all how strange, humbling, and difficult it is to live our comfortable lives knowing that so much of the human experience truly is not fair. makes one wonder how it all works out in the big picture, doesn't it?

I am holding you in a special place this Christmas season. Just got home from MN where we celebrated in very tender ways due to the 3 elders not with us for the first time this Christmas, and yet in roucous ways with all the fun young adults together. and I thought of you often, and hold you in my heart! Love Sally

 
At 9:02 AM, January 09, 2009, Blogger Eivind said...

Hi Molly! Nice to see you're in Africa again. It's not fair, and we should all have done more about it. I remember some situations quite similar to the one you describe. I acted the same way as you, but it does not feel right. On the other hand, if rumours are spread that you give money or opportunities to the ones begging at your doorstep, you will not have time and energy to do your job helping people, which I guess is done more efficiently through organizations than on your doorstep. But it still feels (and is) unfair.

I am going back to Kenya and Uganda with my girlfriend in July/August, and I am really not sure how it will be. I have had time to reflect on different issues since the last time, reflections that my brain didn't have room for back in 06/07, as the impressions were som many and so strong. But i am really looking forward to it.

Hope you are doing fine while you are doing good!

 

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