Friday, May 16, 2008

May 12, 2008

Inram lives in an enormous house with hot, running water, a fridge and two ceiling fans. This is paradise compared to my Molepolole homestay life of bucket baths and cockroaches.

In the evenings the village kids come over to do their homework in Inram’s kitchen. Their homes do not have electricity and, since many of their parents were never formally educated, they beat them for doing school work at home. Inram spends time checking math equations, correcting spelling and showing praise on these kids to enhance their fragile sense of self worth.

One child told Inram she wanted to buy a backpack and agreed to sell cookies around her village to raise the money herself. Inram funded the biscuits and then took the profits from this little girl to buy her backpack in Francistown. For kids who have never seen their parents sober or working, experiencing this type of simple entrepreneurship is incredibly empowering.

Inram arrived in Olibukom 25 months ago as a CBC (Community Based Care) volunteer slotted to work with orphans and vulnerable children. In two years Inram has made a number of significant contributions to the health and resources of this community. For one, she has learned the language fluently and thereby gained the trust and respect of her counterpart, colleagues and community (very tough shoes to fill—sorry for the volunteer from my group who will replace her!)

Once the community had accepted her, Inram was able to run a number of successful campaigns and workshops, start an annual orphan camp and obtain computers and resources for the local school and NGOs.

With the help of her counterpart from the Social welfare and Community Development Department (and heaps of village bureaucracy above her) Inram was able to coordinate weekend workshops on Gender Equality and HIV/AIDS as well as a very successful Alcohol Abuse campaign. These educational events have sets the groundwork for developing a progressive dialogue and sustainable behavior changes around the health issues that plague this village.

When we walk through the village people stop Inram and embrace her. They beg her not to leave (she closes her service on June 7th) and they tell me stories and praises about her work in their community. Inram blushes and they ramble off Setswana for several minutes while I watch awed and envious.

Last week Inram cleaned out her house and made a heap of paperwork she could not take back to the States. With no garbage system most Motswana must burn their rubbish.

Inram sits at her kitchen table and tells us how she watched two years of her notes, grants and reports turn to ash. I am quiet as her eyes fill with water.

“I just watched all of that work go up in flames—and it was a horrible feeling. But after a few minutes the neighborhood kids showed up and started dancing around the fire and giggled and pulled me in with them. And then it was okay.”

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