Sometimes it is the small victories that mean the most.
Yesterday Argentine (one of our craftspeople) got sick. She and Mapendo (another craftsperson) live on their own. Argentine began violently throwing up and was unable to stand or dress herself. Mapendo dressed her, went out in search of a motorcycle taxi, half-carried her to the taxi and brought her to the hospital. Remember these are two significantly handicapped young women, who struggle to walk with crutches on the best of days.
Hopitals here are family endeavor. In the hopstial there are doctors and nurses to conduct examinations, administer shots, and perform surgeries. They are not there to clean up after you, take you to the bathroom or bathe you. You, as a patient, must bring your own person to take care of you. Your person is expected to sleep at the hospital with you, usually sharing a bed or sleeping on the floor. This person is almost always a member of your family. Likewise there is no food at the hospital. Everyone must bring their own. THis means that the portion of the family that did not accompany you to the hospital will remain at home and cook for you. Daily they will send pots of food to your bed at the hospital. And they will be sure to send enough food not just for you, but for the famiy members taking care of you.
Argentine has no family in Goma except a younger brother whose school fees she is paying.
Yesterday I did not go to the hospital to see Argentine. After being assured that she was getting better I decided to wait, partly because I had too many other things to do. But partly because I wanted to see how Argentine and Mapendo would do on their own.
I arrived today to discover Argentine doing better and a large plate of beans and rice on the table nearby. Roy's wife (roy is another craftsperson) had brought them food and was keeping them company. And all was well.
So let me put it this way. A young handicapped woman is expected to be dependent on her family even when she is not sick. Everyone in Congo is expected to be dependent on their family when they are sick. Argentine has no family here in Goma to take care of her. Mapendo is talented at sewing, but she is young and often unsure of herself. Yet on her own Mapendo dressed Argentine, cleaned up after her, decided to take her to the hospital, and admitted her to the hospital. On her own, Roy's wife (who is neither family nor tribe) decided to bring them food. On their own, the craftspeople of SHONA have taken care of eachother beautifully. And I did absolutely nothing.
Not only that, but Argentine and Mapendo have both been saving money for healthcare emergencies. They will be able to pay her hospital bill themselves.
After three years here in Congo, these are the victories I am most proud of. The ones where I did nothing.