There is a new looking compound set incongruously in Goma’s ruins. In Cambodia, such villas are built by pimps. I wondered what kind of people could afford such a palace in one of the poorest countries on Earth. I was grateful to learn it was, in fact, my next destination and was dressed with a UNICEF badge. It is a medical clinic that specializes in genital reconstruction for raped women. Yeah. You read that right. Heal Africa, a sad, brave place.
Women squat at the facility hoping for services someday (they are that busy). Some with whom I visited with have lived there for years. They were squatting in the courtyard, washing their clothes or the children. They were sitting blankly on beds. All looked unbelievably traumatized and dark. Most clutched babies and a few were pregnant by their rapists. One was disfigured from having been burnt, her otherwise night black skin raw and pink. How was she burnt? I thought of a friend I made in Cambodia, an HIV+ sex worker, whose rapists had his faces mauled by a dog during the rapes.
A clutch of women in a doorway, mute and scared, stared at me when I wished them a good afternoon and said good bye, and thanked them for letting me visit.
Their web site is: http://healafrica.org/cms/ I do not mean to take away from it, but they make it look a lot prettier than it really is. The work is as good as described, it’s just not pretty there at all. Maybe the photos on the web site are from before the volcano erupted.
The U.S., through U.S.A.I.D., is spending 2-3 million dollar for rape victim help, mostly trying to help victims connect with services. It is a drop in the ocean…a good drop, but a tiny drop. I met the USAID person in charge of this, a great young woman from Kentucky. I am very proud of her.
Passing back into Rwanda was simple. No mysterious delays. No attempts at extortion or graft. On the DRC side a menacing figure approached the car, demanding our documents when he knew good and well they were already inside; one simply does not encounter such intimidating acts in Rwanda.
The breeze off the lake began to blow freshly again and the leaf cover from beautiful old trees provided shade. On a grassy lawn a wedding was in progress with a magnificent view of the mountains. At the hotel, I sat near hibusicus and plumbago to write this diary; my friend from the gift shop brought me ceremonial ankle bracelets with bells for traditional dancing.
Rwanda feels hopeful. The DRC is a s***hole. I dread spending the next week there, cannot imagine why my friend Theresa took the post there (from Cameroon) and thank God I was not born there. Our programs are fantastic, but they are a tiny help in the face of vast problems. In fact, we are about to run out of long lasting insecticide treated nets. Run out. As in, no more, finished, over, basta, done, forget about it.
Our staff has the will to execute the mission with integrity. My host today is the first girl in her family to go to school and has worked in development her whole adult life. She has 4 children, 3 of school age, and they attend. With the income she earns at PSI, she pays for their school fees plus employs in her household two women. She said her parents are so proud of her.
We need funding to hire more women like her, which has an awesome series of positive effects on the employee, her family, her society….and we need money for the supplies of birth control, nets, safe water solution, and hiv/aids testing and counseling.
When asked what the Congolese have to be proud of, the director of the maternal health clinic said, “We have so much potential.”
Day one — arrival
Day two — genocide memorial
Day three — the countryside
Day three — the PSI.org offices
Day three — malaria nets
Day four — you go, global girl
Day four — water purification
Day five — world malaria day
Day six — Women for Women International
Day six — Democratic Republic of Congo
Day six — heal Africa
Day seven — Sonrise
Day seven — Dushishoze
Day seven — reflections