Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Boundless, Bottomless Love -

I'm an eyewitness. I've seen firsthand the poverty and desperation of the situation in Africa. I was reminded this past week of my responsibility in that. I am the only voice that many of the children and grannies and young men and women I met will have in North America.Here's the story that I'm telling today. It's not my story. It could be. It may one day be. For now, it's second hand from a man I trust.Several years ago, a group of people outside of Africa had heard of the plight of a community that Hands at Work had identified as being in desperate need. One of the ways they were challenged was that the community, which lay between two larger cities, had no water source of its own. Each morning and evening, women and girls would walk with large containers to a neighbouring community to fetch their daily water supplies. The group of people that heard this decided that what they wanted to raise money for was a well in that community. So, within a short amount of time, George was in the very community, sinking a bore hole for fresh water and watching the water gush forth from the ground changing the lives of those who lived there. There was elation and celebration and dancing all around the bore hole and those with George celebrated as well. In the midst of this, an elderly woman, motioned to George and beckoned him to follow her. He did and as they walked the path that women and girls of the village had walked daily for water, the old woman told him that the bore well was more than water. Yes, it was a reason to celebrate that there was now convenience and fresh water and accessibility right there in the village center, but the real reason to celebrate was ahead of them. She stood at the side of a double lane roadway that led to the border of Zimbabwe. It was lined with trucks, loaded and parked, waiting for entrance across the border. This was the route that young women and girls had to take every day to fetch water. Truckers opened their doors and lured the young women with promises of money and food in exchange for sex. The well in the village meant that girls would not have to contend with these truckers each and every day, sometimes twice a day, while they went to fetch something as essential as water.I learned a lot about changing lives this past week with George here. I have been challenged again to continue to work for change. My friends' lives depend on it. Last year our church community raised enough money to support 100 kids in Mulenga for the year. These kids are vulnerable in their community, often living alone with only siblings in the home. $180 a year allows them access to school, a meal a day in which they are being checked on and cared for and daily home care visits to make sure that they are safe and healthy as can be in their own homes. $15 a month. It has changed my economy. I look at purchases differently - particularly in this season of giving. What more do we possibly need? I hope that this same community will continue to increase the amount of children they are supporting - I know the resources and capabilities are there. The thing that threatens it is that people see giving as a project...something you do with a return of an emotional "feel good" moment. For me, Mulenga isn't the name of a project, it's the village where some of the people I love most in the world live. Mulenga brings to me images of Kennedy running, Mangani dying, Loveness feeding, Cynthia laughing, Prescovia smiling and Deborah singing. It's the place where Nkosi walks blindly through the streets, smiling in everyone's direction and talking to whoever passes. It's the place where Crispin has his fabric stand in the market, where little Cynthia chases her friends, where children clamber for the chance to hold the hand of an adult for just a few moments. Mulenga is where Emmanuel and Christopher are best friends, where Jackson climbs trees, where you can purchase laundry soap in daily allotments and where women sweep their dirt yards impeccably clean. It's also the village where a school is much more than a building, it's the place where my eyes first met Eva's as she shyly peeked around the corner and came into my arms and my heart.I've been asked by many about why I feel that pouring money into "a bottomless pit" feels like the best use of my money. I've struggled with that for months but all I can say is I've seen it changing lives. Giving hope. Yes, there are many agencies that aid in impoverished countries and they can all claim change. I'm all about finding a way to help and pouring into it. This is my chosen route because as I've seen, larger aid agencies and NGO's are in the cities and surrounding villages but 10 minutes outside of those areas, you don't see agenices, orphanages or NGO's. Hands at Work targets the least of the least...the poorest of the poor and builds capacity into those communities by training volunteers in their own villages to care and serve their own villages. I love that. I love it because I love Jesus and I'm pretty sure he was all about the poorest, those with the least capacity, the most vulnerable. I am not saying that the other agencies aren't effective choices...I'm just saying that for me, I identify with this.I've heard the arguments that micro finance and loans are the way to go. That building orphanages and childrens' villages are the way to go. I think all these things are fine and if that's where your heart is...pour into it! George finally clarified something for me that I couldn't articulate for myself in the past months. These larger projects and organizations - they have something going on that is good and can be very effective, but they target those that are on what he refers to as the "ladder". It means that people that have some capacity for change, those are the ones that get microfinance loans, aid relief, access to childrens' villages for the children they care for. Hands at Work is about building a box, so that the poorest, most vulnerable can stand on it and even reach the bottom rung of the ladder. We are boosting people to the point where they can reach the ladder and be given the chance to climb. I love that.I love Mulenga. I love its people, its shanties, its dirt paths and gluey branched hedges. I love the children, those that care for them and those that need the most care. I love who I am when I am there and how it changes who I am at home. Is it a bottomless pit? I hope that the care, love and relationships I've found there are bottomless...because what I've been witness to has only scratched the surface.www.handsatwork.org

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