Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Loss and Hope
The child was named Asante. What a beautiful name. In Swahili it means "thanks".
Unfortunately this was the child that I mentioned earlier. The child of Solange's sister. Solange has only 1 sister and 1 brother. Although she is only 20 herself, Solange is the eldest in her family. Her parents died years ago and her younger siblings have had a hard time of it. For a while they were living in a refugee camp. During which time, Solange's sister had a little boy and named him "Asante".
Eventually they moved back to their family home, in an area that has been all but deserted because of ongoing fighting. That is where they were living, way out in the bush, and in the midst of insecurity, when Asante became sick. Medicine didn't seem to help. They had no money. They took him to a "kishenzi" doctor. That is a "traditional doctor" or an "herbal doctor".
I am sure there is a place for this type of medicine, but I also know that these are often the doctors of last resort.
When there isn't a hospital nearby... when no one knows what is wrong with you... when you think someone is poisoning you... or when you just don't have much money...
you go to these "doctors".
You get the idea.
The Kishenzi doctor gave Asante some form of treatment. But he died. And now the family owes $50 to the doctor anyway.
But what other options did they have? Doing anything feels better than doing nothing.
When Asante died, Solange was summoned by her sister and brother before she had a chance to get a hold of me.
She had no money in her back account because all her savings went into the small plot of land that she bought 6 months ago. She is still waiting to save more money to build a house on that plot of land, so her brother and sister can live there in safety.
She planned for Asante to live there too. But he didn't quite make it.
Solange went back to her rural home, full of shame, because in Congo it was surely her duty to contribute to the cost of a funeral for this little child. And yet she had nothing, but the promise of some land she bought for the future. They couldn't bury Asante for 2 days (a long time in Congo) because no one had the money for even the simplest of burials.
I can't think of a more clear example of what it is like to live in Congo. There is an endless, unimaginable balancing...where somehow you have plan for a future when the present is barely hanging on by a string.
Do you save money to buy the land and build a little house, so that a year from now your family can live in safety? But what happens in the meantime?
Or do you cover the emergencies that arise each month, shelling out month after month, but building nothing for the future. The tyranny of the urgent, leaving you just as destitute next year as you were the last.
It is a balancing act. Solange has now paid for the medical debt to that kishenzi doctor. And she remains with the promise of a small plot of land. If only she can find the money to build upon it, her brother and sister could have a safer place to live. It may seem a small consolation to the loss of a child, but it is also the best way to avert the next disaster, before it happens.
A tiny house in Goma, can mean a lot. It means better security, and better health care, and it means hope to continue forward. It is SHONA sales that bought that land and it is continuing SHONA sales that will allow Solange to build upon it one day.
I wish for all the world that Asante had a different life, the opportunities he surely deserved.
But I remain forever impressed by the strength of those who face these losses, often too many to count, and still believe that a different future is possible.
Please buy SHONA products and reward that hope. For Solange and her family your purchases really do make all the difference in the world.