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Friday, May 6, 2011

Heads, Shoulders, Knees and tails...

Driving through the Fulani camp last night provided an unexpected performance...
Cindy and Audrey have taught the children two particular songs....

'My head, my shoulders, my knees, my toes... they all belong to Allah' (in Christian communities they sing 'Jesus', but our aim is to educate, not to change their culture or their beliefs - we are mindful not to jeopardise the trust relationship that is the basis upon which we successfully build Community Enablement).


'A lion. A lion has a tail, and a very large head and a very small waist.'

Both songs teach body parts and have actions - great songs to teach and learn with. HOWEVER...

In the twilight on the dusty road I suddenly see four little shoeless bags of fun hurtling out of the bush on a collission course for the car. Patricia, Michaela and Ben were with me. We all smiled at the ambush committee!

I slowed down and smiled out of the open drivers window. Looking at their faces and reading their eyes I could see that they wanted to use some of their new english language skills, so I greeted them with 'How are you?'

The immediate response from all of the beaming faces was 'fine thank you and you'. Followed by (with exaggeration of actions)

'A lion. A lion has a tail and a very large head, my shoulders my knees my toes, and a very small waist. A lion. A lion has a tail and a very large head, my shoulders my knees my toes, and a very small waist - ' this repeated in almost correct fashion, no concern for synchronisation, with some added ' My mouth my nose my ears my my my my ' accompanied by fingers pointing in all directions, generally the correct ones. The energy and the dancing and the smiles of excitement demonstrated a life force in the community that was new. A discovery of learning and being able to share, communication outside the confines of the wood and mud structures that are their homes.
Then, suddenly as if a choir master had caught their eyes, they all in unison sang 'all belong to Allah' then the giggles sat in, along with almost bow and courtesy movements as they acknowledged their accomplishments. What wonderful moment. A moment where we all clapped, and our smiles exceeded measurement. Our souls lit up with added love for these children and their needs.

So, tonight, a larger group had been exercising 'listening watch' and approached at speeds normally associated with motorised vehicles, jumping sticks and debris on the way. We did not want to encourage too much nightly excitement, so kept the exchanges to 'Hello, how are you, fine and thank you'. Then, I realised that Asamau wanted my attention really badly. She held up her little swollen finger, with another infection on it. It is looking better overall, but the clear lack of basic hygiene continues to affect the poor child's comfort and jeopardise her longer term usability of the finger.

I took her hand in mine and looked at the offered injury, her eyes piercing out of the dusky evening low light levels. Even if the parents have not realised that we have something to offer to help this child, the child has clearly appreciated what we have done to help her, and is appealing for more support.

With no adults available tonight, and mindful of the dangers of wandering around the camp in the dark - the hazards are many - there is nothing for tonight to be done.

Tomorrow, we will pay a visit in the morning. Clean up the finger, again, dress it again, and request that the family take better care of this child, again.

This really brings home just how easy it is for the 'big operations' to waltz into communities like this 'Carry out surgery, provide training and more' in a few days and claim great achievements - and since nobody is gonig back in on a regular basis, who can challenge it. The post operative or even first aid care infections are potentially life threatening, the lack of ability to follow the directions for medication shocking in many cases, it is not like the 'west' this is more challenging than most will ever even realise.

It is also brings home our approach of 'gaining trust and developing commitment' is a much much longer process- it takes years and needs followed up on even after that. Our approach is not full of headlines and 'thousands reached this week', we do not say things like ;we treated 50 people per hour' or 'installed xyz water filter' headlines. No, we are working towards the long term, sustainable community enablement, steps towards self-sustaining changes and self-awareness. It is tough, it is lengthy, but it really is worth it.

If you really want to feel how much it makes a difference, join me one evening on a drive through the camp, and who knows what sort of ambush we may enjoy together.... these precious moments are the support and encouragement that keeps us going - and they are truly precious.

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