Tag Archives: africa

Drought in Turkana

The far northern part of Kenya, bordering with South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda, is known as Turkana and is home to a tribe of Nilotic people of the same name.  The land is harsh, arid and rocky expanses of flat plains with rough mountainous patches.  Drought is common, a natural phenomena occurring every ten years or so, but the rains always return.

The Turkana people are pastoralists, living with and by their animals.  They move their herds and manyattas with the weather, following the rains, which provide their livestock water to drink and grass to graze.

The world is changing faster than the Turkana people.  Borders have been drawn, wars fought, and in the past decade, even the climate has changed.  The last great drought they remember in 2001. And since that time, they haven’t seen rain the way they once did, what was once forest and green plains, is now desert.  Spartan rains have left the soil parched and cracked, rivers and vegetation dried, and life is a struggle.

The past year has been the worst, over ten months without a single drop of rain.  The Turkana are surviving solely on the international community, their only water coming from the few bore wells and with most of the livestock having starved to death, the only food is international aid.

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Return to Goma II

A thundering crack shakes me out of my bed.  The black sky flashes with light, a rumble and another crack, so loud, my heart races.  A cool breeze rushes in, the metal door frames and single paned glass designed for hotter climes.  I curl up in my mosquito net, under my single blanket wishing for warmer clothes listening to the rain pounding down and waves splash on the shores of Lake Kivu.

I’m trying to sleep, but jet lag has the best of me and I watch the storm through the night.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and I am invited to march with the women of HEAL Africa.  After will be my first screening of Pray the Devil Back to Hell to the female HEAL staff.  I’m honored and inspired to be showing it on their day of celebration.

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Goma, DRC Day 3

2pm on a Saturday afternoon in Goma.  Sitting at the Hotel Nyira with one of the city’s most reliable internet connection and a decent cappuccino listening to Barbara Streisand.  The rain and the generator simultaneously begin.  Rain drops pelting on the leaves of my luscious surroundings, a low hum of a motor, a lone chirping bird and occasional roar of a UN plane flying overhead.

I’m on a short break between meetings.  The days are busy, hardly a spare moment to breathe, let alone write.  Phone calls, meetings, women leaders, international NGOs, journalists, activists, MONUC (the highly debated UN peacekeeping force in Eastern Congo), the momentum grows.

On the surface, screening a film in Eastern DRC is logistically challenging, but relatively straightforward and innocent.  This film, however, is the uplifting and inspirational story of a broad-based civil movement.  If it has the impact I think it might, it could provide the catalyst for one here.

The timing is good.  Women in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic are tired.  After 15 years of civil war, over 6 million dead and hundreds of thousands of women raped.  They are tired.  Tired of the rape, abuse, torture, murder.  Tired of being unable to provide food for their children.  Tired of the violence.  Tired of the war.  And ready for change.

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A quick thought

I apologize in advance for the delayed uploading of these posts… between meetings, travel, exhaustion and incredibly slow internet connections I didn’t keep up.  Here are a few images and some words… let me know your thoughts.

Life in the DRC

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Goma, DRC, Day One

The border crossing is easier this time.  The bureaucrat behind the wooden desk smiling and friendly as he examines my papers – last time he almost sent me back to Rwanda.  The sun shines good luck on me, 8 days visa for only $35.  This too changes with our bureaucrat’s mood.

And I cross.  Congo beams as strongly as the African sun:   a guard with dapper, checkered loafers, women in bright colors, exuberant “bonjour and jambos,” potholed roads, thick with volcanic rock, motos honking, white LandRovers in traffic, dust, chaos, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The country is not polished, it is not controlled, it is lawless in many senses, rife with heinous criminal acts and civil war; yet the Congo is alive.  It is a living, breathing being that refuses to submit, refuses to be destroyed and is determined to survive.  And for this I have returned to the Congo.

I have returned to bring a film.  Abby Disney’s brilliant film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about the Liberian civil war.  In 112 minutes, she tells of unknown heros.  Of common women who are fed up with a civil war, with the rape, the murder, and the chaos.  Fed up enough to act.  They demonstrate.  For four years, they demonstrate, growing in size, power and influence, they demand audience with warlords and with the former president himself and demand peace talks which lead to democratically held elections and the first female president in Africa.

The story inspired me, it created possibility.  And I knew it would create possibility in the women of the Congo as well.

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Justine and HEAL Africa

After three weeks in Congo and spending quite a bit of time with the organization, I have to say a word about HEAL Africa.

The war in Congo touches all, women, children and men, young and old, military or civilian.  HEAL Africa’s mission is to ease their suffering and help them take control of their circumstances by providing holistic health and trauma care.

HEAL Africa is unique in Congo for it is Congolese founded and run.  Dr. Jo Lusi and his British wife, Lyn Lusi have been dedicated to serving the Congolese people since 1971.  They founded HEAL Africa in 1998 (check date) and have been unwavering in their commitment to the people of North Kivu.

The most important thing that HEAL Africa brings the people of Congo, however, is hope.  Hope that there is a way to end their suffering, hope that they can learn a skill, create a business and provide for their families, hope that they can connect with others who are suffering similar circumstances and hope that they are not forgotten and that someone cares.

While traveling north to Kayna, I met a woman, Justine, in the HEAL Africa house who had come to seek treatment for a fistula.  The woman had walked 7km to meet with a counselor and was quickly referred to Goma.  She had been raped many years prior and had been suffering since.  She was meek, soft spoken and isolated, sitting in the far corner of a room, not interacting with others.

Justine was taken in an ambulance to Goma.  I saw her off from Kayna and was rewarded a tiny smile as she drove away.

Back in Goma, I was walking through the hospital grounds and saw Justine again.  I almost didn’t recognize her for the huge smile on her face.  In only a week, her entire demeanor had changed.  Justine beamed with hope.   Thank you to all at HEAL Africa for your support of my project and dedication to transforming the lives of the people of the DRC.

*fistula is a break in the wall separating the vagina and the bowels and is often caused by severe or gang rape, or extremely difficult birth.  The most serious side effect of fistula is incontinence, a continual leaking of urine and feces from the vaginal opening, however there is often pain and weakness resulting from infection.  Women with fistula report having to change rags 10 times a day and 2-3 times a night.

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