Lucky Me, I am working more and more with the Community Service Department. This means I am working more directly with students and their families in need. I say Lucky Me because helping out in this way is such a privilege. And for my little effort of assistance the joy and gratitude I get in return is priceless.
I think for most of us in the West the closest analogy to this experience is being a parent. Having a child you love is both a privilege and a responsibility. Staying up all night with them when they are sick and cranky can be exhausting and yet exhilarating in knowing that you are there for them and your comfort and care can see them through the night. Your exhaustion is over powered by your love.
And so it is here.
I am working more in what we call the village. Not a village by any stretch of the Western imagination. More of twisted trail of shanties and shacks created out of and propped up by the most bizarre combination of materials wedged together to maximize protection from the rain and built upon a landfill of trash that was the former dump.
My tree house fort as a child had a more luxurious interior at least I had the old carpet from my parents den and slightly used beach chairs.
But not here – Here the interiors are simply a platform built up about 12 inches to withstand the flooding that happens with every rain storm. This platform serves as the floor, the living room, the dining room and bedroom.
When visiting I try to be gently and respectful. I am pretty small and not very heavy but still in one house the platform was made of thin bamboo strips and I put too much weight on one foot and broke through. I was most apologetic as I looked at the hole I had created in the platform. The residents did not seem too concerned knowing they would find something else to wedge in there to “fix” it.
Every house has a mosquito net and in the corner a section for cooking.
And that is it. Clothes are thrown over a wire or rope strung across the corner. If folks are really lucky they have nails pounded into their paper thin walls and use these as clothes hooks. There is a thin well worn woven mat for sleeping that they spread across the open planks of the platform at night. One or two cooking pots are often stored outside which basically means they lay in the muddy dirt until it is time to cook. And more often than not there is trash stacked here and there.
So it is pretty easy to make an impact. And the smallest gifts are met with huge and sincere displays of gratitude. Families who have their children in CCF programs and make sure the kids come to school receive monthly allowances in the form of rice, money and medical care. And whenever CCF sees an immediate need we pack up the little trash pull carts and come in with extra tin to fix a roof, tarps, new mosquito nets or whatever is needed or hop on a moto to make personal deliveries of emergency food or rice.
This week we delivered a brightly colored foam mattress and ruffled pillows to this mother and daughter – A huge improvement over the thin straw mat. Giggling, we all tried out the mattress and pillows to make sure they were comfy enough. The neighbors gathered at the door to watch the spectacle and oh’ed and ah’ed at the latest additions. Seems the delight in fixing up one’s home is universal.
It was far from a Martha Stewart revamp and certainly sheets were not 600 thread Eygptian cotton but still the response was “over the moon”.
The daughter had just gotten out of the hospital. The mother is also not well. So CCF has offered the mother (who is a sweet heart) some additional financial support to stop scavenging during the night and rest so she can get better. In a week or two when she is stronger we will discuss a business loan so she can start something like a small fruit business or whatever she likes.
The mother is convinced she does not know how to do anything but scavenge for garbage but we are even more convinced something better is in her future.
The day after we delivered the ruffled pillows I was present for the Student of the Month Awards at the Satellite School. The beautiful daughter, despite being sick and absent got the Best Student Award. Afterward she rushed up to give me a hug, show me her latest honors and tell me how much she liked the ruffled pillows.
The gentleman in the background of this photo is Hoin, my new best friend in the CCF Community Service Department. More and more we can be seen zipping around on his moto splashing through puddles, negotiating unrecognizable obstacles, pot holes and flocks of baby ducklings as we drive deeper into the community.
I have not been here long but many of the community children are in my leadership class or have met me at school so they know my name.
I have resorted to using my childhood nickname since the children struggle with my formal name.
And I can hear them call out “Ardi” and see them wave to me as we ride by.
I am the smiley pale faced gal in the photo and like I said “Lucky Me”!