World AIDS Day, a day set aside to remember the devastation caused worldwide by this pandemic and to educate, inspire and provide hope for the future.
Unfortunately in our western mind set, we look for instant gratification and results. We want to see cures in our lifetime though there has never been a cure for a virus like HIV or even the common cold. As a result, within just a few short years the focus has shifted from mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS on the masses to preventing malaria by providing mosquito nets or providing clean, safe water through drilling wells. Don’t get me wrong – mosquito nets do prevent malaria and so saves lives; safe water is a major issue around the world and so wells also do save lives and prevent disease. But in our effort to feel like we are doing something tangible, many of those infected or affected by HIV or AIDS are left without any hope. They still need our help. You see, in Africa, everyone is impacted by AIDS. Everyone knows someone who has died, and almost every family has been touched in some fashion.
Many have left it up to the medical personnel to provide ARTs (antiretroviral therapy) and medical care. While much progress has been made in providing ARTs to the infected, the majority are still without any hope of ever receiving ARTs. Yet, much of what is needed is beyond the scope of medicine – a kind word, a loving touch, providing food to the bedfast and their children, and providing a future for the orphans left behind. This future may be an orphan home like a House of Promise, it might be a drop in day care and nursery school like at Kondanani, or it might be a skills-training facility for the teenage orphans like at Songani. While international funding has significantly decreased, the work and need continue.
There is no quick solution to the AIDS pandemic. Providing long-term sustainable solutions takes time but it does reap results. Thanks to our partners, this has begun in Kondanani and Songani. One way is through goats. Yes, goats. While in southern Malawi in October, we purchased four female goats. Two went to elderly grandmothers with no source of income who are taking care of several orphaned grandchildren, and the other two went to two HIV positive single mothers who could not provide proper nutrition for their babies. Before the goats, all these children and babies were severely malnourished. Now they have goat milk and the babies and children are starting to thrive. However, it doesn’t stop with these four. When these goats have babies, a female one will be given back to the center so that other grandmothers and HIV positive mothers will also be able to provide nutrition. Plus, the additional kids these goats have can be raised by these recipients and used to pay for school fees or other necessities. This is changing these communities one “baa” at a time.
This World AIDS Day don’t just think about the AIDS on a worldwide level, think on how you can make an impact on a local level…and change a life.
Due to a severe currency crisis in the country, Zimbabwe has recently added six new official currencies to the already two official currencies operating in the country. In addition to using the South African rands and the US dollars, Zimbabwe now accepts as legal tender the Australian dollar, the British pound sterling, the Euro, the Indian rupee, the Japanese yen, and the latest addition, the Chinese yuang. However, in spite of all this money, there is no change!
So when one goes to a store, instead of receiving change back, you often receive a slip of paper with that store’s name and details, and the amount of change that is owed you by that store only. So one has to keep all the papers separated, and then when you go back to purchase more items, you take in those “receipts” for that particular store and turn them towards your next purchase. Some time back, in an effort to alleviate the paper-receipts as change, stores began offering to give you something – one aspirin, a lollypop, and so forth – instead of change or the receipt for change owed you. It doesn’t matter if you are owed 98 cents (in US dollars) or 10 cents, you get the same “gift.”
A few weeks ago we were traveling to western Zimbabwe, and we stopped for lunch at a Nandos Restaurant – a Portuguese style grilled chicken establishment. Again, they had no coin change, so instead on my husband’s plate was one slice of cheese for change. The question becomes, “How would you like your change?”
Recently my husband and I went away for our anniversary to a country inn for the night. This inn was touted as being the best country getaway in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, and it was famous for its outstanding cuisine. So in great anticipation for a lovely evening, we made our reservation.
In spite of the torrential rain, we were looking forward to our evening. However, when we arrived at the “best country inn” Zimbabwe has to offer, our first clue that something was amiss is when a man from the reception came to greet us with a lantern…because of no electricity. We climbed the rock-hewn stairs up to the inn getting ourselves and our luggage completely soaked. Upon checking in, we were informed that because we were the only guests for the night, there would not be a generator used. They hoped that the fault causing the power outage would soon be fixed.
So we had a candle-light dinner (not by choice) with the only other light in the dining room coming from three other candles lit on other tables. Our food tasted like it was cooked over the open fire. When you are camping, that is what you expect, but when your mouth has been eagerly waiting for that delicious cuisine then it turns out to be barely edible, it is very disappointing.
After our dinner, we were shown to our room by again walking through more torrential rain. From what we could see by the one lantern and the one candle, the room looked charming. However, we did not have any hot water, again because of no generator or electricity. To make a long story short, when we checked out the following day at around noon, we still did not have any electricity.
I wish I could say that this is an exception, but unfortunately, in much of Africa, this has become the norm. For those in the rural areas and in the villages, they never have electricity. For those in the cities, they used to have electricity, but now due to increased consumption and crumbling infrastructure there is less power to go around. Almost daily at home we may go for six to 14 hours without electricity. Thankfully, we do have a generator that works, but it does wear out appliances like refrigerators much sooner…and, you cannot have the water heater on without electricity nor can you use the washer or dryer.
Our anniversary getaway reinforced to me how blessed we are in America to have electricity all the time (except maybe during a major storm). Having electricity is not a right, it is a privilege, a blessing…and not to be taken for granted. There are millions here who have never had electricity for even one day. So next time you have a “romantic candlelight dinner” remember that for many this is their only option. For us who have been spoiled, I mean blessed, lights please!
CATEGORIES: News, Rhonda
This year I will be writing about some of the facets of everyday life as an American living in Africa. While my American friends tend to think of me as being “African” due to being born and raised in East Africa, my African friends see me as being “American” due to the influence of America since my university days. So bear with me the next few months as I take you on a journey.
Today life returned to normal as much as it can in Africa. You see, in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries, life dramatically changes during the holiday season. From the middle of December to the middle of January, all industry ceases manufacturing. To add to that, once Christmas is over, all stores except for grocery stores close for at least two weeks. This means you cannot purchase items like paint, hardware, fabric or anything else for home or office. Why? Because everyone goes on holiday!
And woe to the person who has a medical emergency…because all the doctors are also on their month long vacation. A friend of mine in South Africa was critically ill over Christmas and needed emergency surgery, but there was only one surgeon for the entire capital city of Pretoria available to do her surgery.
For those living here, this holiday season is wonderful as everyone can plan their vacations away without having to worry about seniority or first-come-first-served basis. Christmas, known as festive season here, means extended time with family. To an American, though, this appears to be crazy. Think of all the money that is lost during this time? Once the industrial sector opens up, it takes another two weeks before the factories are up to speed and orders are being filled and shipped.
There are times I think the African way is better until I need something minor like a light bulb and have to wait for the stores to reopen. Today the stores reopened, schools began their new school year (yes, it begins in January here not August like the USA), and the industry is coming alive again…just in time to restock my pantry!
CATEGORIES: News, Rhonda
There are many sounds in Africa — goats bleating, horns honking, touts yelling, and generators chugging. However, there are a few sounds that are distinctly African that I love. The first sound is what wakes me up every morning — the symphony of birds right outside our bedroom window. It doesn’t seem to matter which country our bedroom is in, right around sunrise the chorus begins and then swells as more birds join in. Then during hot season, or Europe’s winter, thousands more birds migrate to eastern and southern Africa to escape the cold. They add to the morning serenade making it a grand concert that brings such a delight when welcoming the new day.
Another sound is that of people singing. Malawians are famous for singing in four-part harmony in their churches. This isn’t limited to just formal gatherings though. Just Saturday evening, while driving into the country, we passed two open-bed trucks full of passengers and both sounded like choirs singing. This is common in Malawi. They love to sing, and they are not ashamed of singing out.
The third sound is that of African drum beats. Having heard this as a child every Saturday night when the village across the way had their dances, now hearing the syncopated drum beat makes me feel at home. Emphasizing the off-beat or counter-beat, the drummers make the homemade drums and bongos seemingly come alive. The rhythm can get very complicated yet seems to vibrate through your bones.
There is no other place quite like Africa with sounds that capture your heart and imagination.
TAGS: Africa, birds, drums, singing, sounds CATEGORIES: Rhonda
This blog posted by Debbie Mussey, Executive Director.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Africa?”
Fifteen years ago my response was the typical safari scene — desert with elephants, giraffes, and cheetahs running after prey at an unfathomable speed. In the distance would be the stereotypical painted and almost naked African with a loincloth and spear — you know, the ones you see in old National Geographic magazines.
The first time I set my feet on African soil, my preconceived notions were immediately dispelled! Nairobi was a big city and pretty modern considering this was a third world country. Office buildings, traffic, street vendors, beggars — much of what we see in our cities here in America.
In looking through the photos from this first adventure in Africa, I realized that it only took a few days before this place and its people would capture a piece of my heart and never give it back! The people in the villages that we worked alongside with were friendly, warm, humble, and sacrificial. The women worked equally as hard as the men. They not only carried and moved stacks of heavy, wet lumber, they prepared our meals in a makeshift kitchen outdoors over an open flame in the heat. They always had a genuine smile on their faces which I believe reflected a true happiness inside.
They wanted everything to be perfect for the Americans which on one occasion even meant butchering and cooking one of their lambs. They welcomed us into their homes with open arms and open hearts. They had so little yet were so willing to give it all to us. I came away simply overwhelmed by their generosity. It impacted me!
It was this trip that started my own determination that I would do as much as I possibly could to help in whatever way I could. That determination led to several more trips to different parts of Africa — each one stealing another piece of my heart! Each one different and unique and impactful in its own way.
I did get to experience the safari scene! You know, the one with elephants, giraffes, and cheetahs running after prey. There were even Maasai warriors to be seen…
TAGS: Africa, humility, sacrifice, safari CATEGORIES: Rhonda
Fingerprints Across Africa invites you to make a difference in someone’s life. We adhere to the saying, “Once someone touches your life the fingerprints last forever,” and we invite you to join us in leaving your fingerprints on the lives of others — specifically in Africa. Sometimes, though, making a difference in someone else’s life happens in seemingly small ways. Let me provide one example.
We had a medical team come to the village of Dubai on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi. As usual, each morning about 4 a.m. the villagers began to line up even though the team would not arrive until after 8 a.m. This team consisted of dentists, opticians, pharmacy techs, a couple of doctors, and some nurses along with non-medical personnel. In many parts of Africa, quality medical care is very limited with people often having to travel long distances to find a “real” doctor. In addition, the doctors from America would explain what the problem was and how to treat it — unusual to those who are normally not told what is wrong with them.
On this particular day, we were seeing the normal maladies for this area. Then an emaciated 13-year old boy slowly navigated his way through the crowd with a grandparent on each side propping him up. Due to his physical appearance and poor health, this young man was led to the front of the line as he did not have the strength to wait long. He soon confirmed our suspicions…this young man was dying of AIDS. He did not come that day for a cure — he knew there wasn’t one. He also did not come for ARV’s (anti-retrovirals that were not available at that time in the country) that may prolong his life. He came for aspirin. You see, neither this boy nor his grandparents had any money for any kind of pain medication to ease his suffering. While the medical team could not add years to his life, they could make his remaining time more comfortable.
The medical team not only touched his short life by providing pain medication, they also provided spiritual hope for him and his grandparents. While the boy only lived a few more weeks, he was able to spend his last days more comfortable because a team from America had come to his village and gave him over-the-counter pain medications. When you touch someone’s life, they touch you back. Hundreds of people were treated that week by the team, but this 13 year-old boy touched all our hearts and made a lasting impression on us.
This October we are taking a medical team to Malawi. If you are interested in partnering with us (by going or by giving), please contact us or visit fpaaf.org. You will be amazed at how much you can touch and impact another’s life.
TAGS: Africa, AIDS, aspirin, Malawi, medical team CATEGORIES: Rhonda
The elderly grey-haired gentleman slowly walked to the front of the line led by his grandson and using his cane. His problem? He could not see. In fact, he hadn’t been able to see for about 10 years. This man was too poor to afford an eye exam fee plus the cost of new glasses. This day, though, life was about to dramatically change for him. A team of volunteer medical personnel from America had come to his African village. This team consisted of some nurses, some doctors, a medical assistant or two, a couple of dentists, and an optician. This grandfather got his eye exam…and a new pair of glasses. Although his perscription called for a high strength of lenses, the so-called “pop bottle lenses” that are difficult to find, someone had donated a pair of glasses that exact strength to this medical team. For the first time in 10 years, this gentleman walked away being able to see again. And now, he carried his cane under his arm, and he led his grandson home.
What are the chances that someone by “accident” donated the exact high-strength prescription glasses this man needed? While statistics show the improbability, I believe this was no accident but of divine design. Stories like this can be repeated each time a volunteer medical team makes a trip to Africa. When you cannot afford basic medical care or if there are no doctors or clinics within walking distance, you learn to live with the medical problem. Many times, it is just a simple remedy requiring just a supply of antibiotics, a splint, an abcessed tooth removed, or a pair of glasses. Yet even these simple remedies are not available. Often, people wait in line all day just to receive an aspirin.
If you are interested in making a difference like this team, please contact us. We are putting together a medical team to go to Malawi, Africa, this coming October. We will be providing medical check-ups and care for orphans, elderly grandmothers, and the community. We also have some room for non-medical personnel to go with us. Maybe you cannot go this year but you still want to help — we are taking donations for the medical supplies we need to take with us. Get involved…and change a life.
TAGS: Africa, elderly, medical teams CATEGORIES: Rhonda
It has been said that children are our future and greatest treasure. Tragically, many children are disappearing in Africa. How does this happen? Due to the breakdown of family structure, children, many of whom are orphans, are at risk of neglect, abuse, and trafficking. There are several underlying factors for this.
First, many children are born without documentation or birth certificates. This makes it easy for a person to claim a child as his own with false papers and passports. Second, there are an unprecedented number of orphans due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. While extended family tries to take care of these orphans, sometimes there are too many orphans and not enough relatives to care for them. This leaves many in childheaded households. Poverty and lack of education also contribute to the problem. Thousands of young widows, without education or job skills, try to survive and provide for their families on less than $1 a day. All of these are factors.
Some family members, in a desperate effort to provide for their families and relatives, believe the lies that a “well wisher” gives that he or she has a good job and an education that can be provided for that orphan in another country. Sometimes this person will even pay a little bit of money to the community as a “thank you gift” for taking care of the orphans and the expenses incurred. What the community does not understand is that they have just “sold” that child into trafficking. In other countries, there are so many orphans that it is relatively easy to take several with you as you cross the border into another country. Recent news articles document the numbers of children being trafficked out of countries like Zimbabwe (see links on fpaaf.org). Just last week, a man was arrested for trafficking 16 children at one time out of Zimbabwe into South Africa. Sadly, this is not a rare occurrence but happens almost daily.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing industry in the world, and it brings revenues of over $800 billion annually. Soon it will pass illegal drugs as a drug can be sold and used one time; a human can be sold and used over and over and over again. Even more tragic is that the younger the victim the higher the price received.
Thousands of African children have been found in brothels in Europe and Asia. They are now also being found in the U.S.A. While it is vital to rescue those being trafficked, it is better to prevent the trafficking in the first place. Organizations, like Fingerprints Across Africa, are already on the ground in Africa working in partnerships with local communities and churches providing safe alternatives. These alternatives include providing day care centers, schools, skills training facilities, meals, and long-term foster homes. Each of these solutions have caring adult oversight ensuring accountability and safety for the children.
Become aware, get involved, and in the process save Africa’s greatest treasure — her beautiful children.
TAGS: Africa, children, trafficking, treasure CATEGORIES: Rhonda