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Many aid workers keep online journals called web logs, or "blogs" for short. Blogs tend to be very personal, to present unabashedly biased opinions and to be much less formal than an organization's web site. Blogs are sometimes provocative, and some may make you feel uncomfortable -- you certainly won't agree with everything you read in blogs, including those produced by aid workers.
The AWN blog portal presents a range of aid worker-produced blogs from around the world. However, AWN is not responsible for the content of any of these blogs, and inclusion here on the AWN blog portal in no way endorses their content by AWN. If you disagree with what a blog has presented, by all means, write the blog author ("blogger") directly and let him or her know what you think.
If you would like to submit a blog by an aid, relief or development worker, please complete this form.
After having an African scene batik for about 4 years, I finally got it hung (well, my husband hung it with help from me saying "A bit to the left. Whoa! Ok, no, no. Back to the right again. Now down lower. Ok back to the left again? Yeah, hold it right there...etc).
The main point is that I got to use some old, burnt wood I found in the bush quite a few years ago--remnants of an old hut that I rescued and varnished--to hang the batik from. I don't know why it took so long to get this stuff on my walls. Partly it's busyness I guess. Partly, it's trying to envision my many rescued and varnished pieces of "firewood" (as the guys here see it and believe me, I have quite the collection awaiting placement) as taking part in my interior decore which has been fairly non-existent since we moved to this house because I just haven't gotten around to doing it. I've had blank, white walls for far too long.
Anyway, I'm now kind of in the mode even though time is limited. The hanging of the batik motivated me to dig out some hand-made pottery items, bells and tea candle holders that haven't hung in our home since our last move in 2007. I enjoy this kind of thing and can lose myself to it. If I really get going it's hard to stop, even to eat. But getting that stuck into decorating or crafting around the clock would be a luxury. There are so many pressing needs here and things that MUST get done that it can be hard to pull myself out of work mode. I have to admit though, when I do, it sure is fun.
Now if you'll excuse me, I really should decide to do with my +/- 20 other pieces of rescued, varnished wood. Hopefully no one has used them to stoke the fire.
We got visas here in Dubai. A straightforward process, with only some ordinary, run-of-the-mill frustrations. We fly in on Saturday.
As they say, If you want it easy, don’t choose Afghanistan.
A comment was left on my last post which expressed frustration about not being able to access journal articles "without paying substantial sums." I've been posting a lot recently on the Open Access (OA) movement which seeks to redress this very situation. But since the bulk of scholarly literature does not yet fall under the OA model, what options do researchers have at their disposal right now for retrieving the full-text of academic journal articles?
Here are several suggestions:
1. Visit an academic library to use its journal article databases. Even if you are not a student or faculty member, academic libraries will often let community members or researchers search their subscription databases while on-site. Generally, the only cost involved is for the printouts. Or if a library subscribes to the print version of a journal, you can always make a photocopy. Use WorldCat to locate the nearest library that carries the journal you want to retrieve.
2. Search on the title of the article of interest in Google Scholar. This is Google's scholarly literature search engine. Just below an entry's listing in the search results, there will often be a link to "All x versions," which directs users to the various places online where they can find either a citation to the article or even a PDF. Here is an example of the various "versions" available for an article I wrote back in 2000 that was published in Libri Journal. (Caveat: It's always a good idea to proceed with caution when confronted with unfamiliar URLs! If a web site address looks suspicious, one way to check it out is via Norton's Safe Web search feature.)
3. Contact the author of an article directly. Usually, s/he will be happy to share a copy with you.
Recently, I read and listened to the classic book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was free courtesy of Kindle, Amazon and Audible. The Munchkins were just as memorable from my childhood when I watched the movie.
The Union Popular, one of the two legitimate opposition parties in Equatorial Guinea, has just issued a press release in advance of legislative and local government elections in May. I post the press release in its entirety below. My Spanish is not perfect, but after going back and forth with a party official a few times I think the main points are that 1) The UP wants voters to boycott the elections, and 2) President Obiang is claiming that the UP signed an electoral pact with his ruling PDGE. This is not true. No pact has been signed.
Full text below. Please let me know if there are other main points I missed.
República de Guinea Ecuatorial
La Radio y Televisión del Estado bajo el absoluto control de PDGE, y patentizado en la página web de su gobierno, está difundiendo en los últimos días la firma de un Pacto Electoral entre el PDGE y los partidos paniaguados incluyendo en su lista al partido político Unión Popular.
Mediante la presente, el Partido político Unión Popular recuerda al pueblo de Guinea Ecuatorial y a la comunidad internacional lo siguiente:
Que, a raíz de la NO participación de Unión Popular a la Reforma Constitucional en Annobon el mes de mayo del año 2011, el mandamás de los partidos políticos Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene expresa su cólera y venganza y saca de su delincuencia escuela democrática a Alfredo Mitogo Mitogo para estar al frente de UP con la aprobación y oferta protectora anticonstitucional del presidente Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo a todos aquellos que saben nutrirse de sus ‘sabias orientaciones’;
Hoy refuerza su acostumbrado método, apoyado por un miembro de gobierno que dice ser de la “oposición democrática” en ofertar por primera vez, a cambio de cargos y otros intereses económicos, las siglas de nuestro sufrido partido al Presidente fundador. ( esta vez, no se puede aplicar ninguna ley), por mucha que la ley reconozca la integridad y la legalidad de la directiva de U.P, el vice primer ministro encargado de la política interior agarra a Mitogo para desestabilizar a U.P y acabar con la ilusión y el sueño que un día tuvieron sus padres fundadores, hablamos de Juan Ntue Masakum, Andrés Ikuka Ebombe Bombe, Julián Yekue, José Martinez Bikie, Justino Mba Nsue, Andrés Moisés Mba Ada, Hermenegildo Ilolo Paca, Julián Mañe Edu, Baltasar Abaga Obiang, Jacinto Edu Alogo, Guillermo Richar Cuaresma, Tome Salas, Benito Mangue, Esteban Avehe…todos muertos junto a su mártir PEDRO MOTHU MAMIAGA, y pocos vivos como Domindo Abuy Elo Nchama, Angel Masie Ntutumu, Angel Masie Mibuy, Teofilo Ondo Nkulu.
Alfredo Mitogo y Genoveva traicionan memoria de estas ilustres personalidades vendiendo las siglas de UP exponiéndola en la sangrienta lista de apoyo al PDGE. A Mitogo y sus colaboradores, que Dios les dé larga vida, responderán el día después ante este pueblo por todo el daño que están causando a tanta familia huérfana, exiliada, sin trabajo a causa de UNION POPULAR.
Para que vuestro silencio no suponga complicidad, es momento que los militantes y simpatizantes de PDGE sepan que su presidente fundador Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo está utilizando sus votos para regalar a su antojo a los verdugos llamados “partidos políticos de la oposición democrática”. Pues, el PDGE es siempre ganador al cien por ciento pero con la formula de 97.97% de votos a favor y 2.03% de votos a repartir.
Es momento que el pueblo de Guinea Ecuatorial se conciencie que el PDGE gobierna con o sin elecciones razón por la cual Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo viene teniendo y manteniendo a toda costa la actual antidemocrática Junta Electoral Nacional bajo control y supervisión de su Partido Dictatorial de Guinea Ecuatorial y jurado NUNCA aceptar una Junta Electoral Independiente que realice unas elecciones democráticas transparentes y fiables.
Unido a todo lo susodicho, el partido político Unión Popular a raíz del pacto electoral suscrito entre el PARTIDO DEMOCRATICO DE GUINEA ECUATORIAL Y EL CIUDADANO ALFREDO MITOGO
Primera: NO HABER FIRMADO ningún Pacto Electoral con el fundador y propietario del PDGE;
Malabo, a 17 de abril de 2013
Margaret Thatcher supported her son (Sir Mark) and Simon Mann’s 2004 failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, according to a deleted section of Mann’s 2011 memoir obtained by The Observer.
Thatcher “allegedly told Mann at a meeting at her Belgravia home: ‘I’m sure it’s going to work’.”
More from the article:
On his release from prison, Mann said he could never forgive Sir Mark, who he claimed was a key participant in the military adventure rather than a mere investor, for failing to come to his aid. Details of the meetings between Mann and Baroness Thatcher, held in the lead-up to the attempted coup, were originally due to be published in Mann’s memoir, Cry Havoc, which came out in 2011. This section was removed on the advice of the publisher, John Blake. However, an early manuscript of the book has been obtained by the Observer and its full claims can be revealed for the first time.
Thatcher’s mental capacity was already on the wane in 2003 – the year her husband, Denis, died – when the conversations are said to have occurred.
[Mann] writes: “Maggie asks me how ‘their’ money is being handled.”
Photo credit: Royden LeppToward the end of last week, our chief health worker told me that plans were being set in place to meet with the local area curandeiros (traditional healers, witchdoctors...choose your term) to discuss community health concerns that we and they face. This may seem like an odd plan since we often have to deal with the fall out of people who have spent too many days at the curandeiros awaiting their cure and who by the time we see them are too far gone to help anymore. But this is precisely why it is so important for us to establish dialogue and discussion with them. In terms of our beliefs, training, and practices, we're worlds apart. I don't condone their methods of treatment, but consulting a curandeiro is an integral part of life and the culture here. It's what you do when things go wrong, just as naturally as it is for us to pray or consult our family doctor.
I have met and dealt with several curandeiros over the years (probably even more than I know). I have treated and prayed for them too, both of which they are very open to. Although their beliefs and rituals are of concern, ultimately they also want to see improvement in those they "treat". That's our aim too, and on this common ground we hope to establish a relationship and atmosphere where we can talk and teach about health issues they come across that are of concern to both them and us. There have been many cases where the person in their care was very ill, and getting worse, and we have been able to reach agreement to take the sick person to hospital. As a result, lives have been saved. So we do have credibility with them, and on that success, we are moving into a closer circle where we can impact them and their practices for a healthier community and even more lives saved.
I must just say that I have never attempted this before, but I (we) are compelled by the desperate health needs we see. We desire to reach out not only for the sake of the community at large, but to the curandeiros individually as well. We've thought about this opportunity and talked about it for quite awhile, and now the door is open and our next steps will be taken both carefully and prayerfully.
15 years ago today, my sister gave birth to her third child and second son. We were thousands of miles away, and missed the fun. 7 years ago today, a few minutes after midnight, my Dad died. That time we were only a few feet away.
Family is like that, full of milestones of joy and grief, events we only experience by letters and photos, and others that we agonize through in real time. In my experience, it's harder to miss the grief milestones than the joy ones. But both are losses that take a long slow toll over time.
12 days ago, we were in Virginia with my Mom, less than 24 hours from departure, as she turned 77. This time we were there. And it was fun. We took her to a lovely French country restaurant, legendary in the area, the kind of place you only go a handful of times in your life. She had not been in two decades. This being our season of paring down and packing up, Julia and I had rather limited wardrobe choices for such an occasion. So at the last minute we delved into a closet of clothes my mom was keeping for memories. Julia wore the outfit my mom had donned to leave her own wedding reception 55 years ago. I wore a black lace party dress she had for sorority functions around the same era.
We all miss my Dad even more in this time of transition and selling. The home they established over four decades will officially go on the market in the next two days. We wish he could have been the host of the 77th Birthday, and the 15th. But tonight we remember only gratefulness for the way he lived and loved us all.
Sitting in the domestic departure lounge at Jomo Kenyatta at 10:30 am on a rainy Wednesday morning. A table full of Kenyans of African and Indian descent are loudly debating the merits of Ghandi and Mandela while two young Europeans in shorts share a morning beer glued to their individual iphones. The windows are smudgy, the plastic tables are small, and the lady at the snack counter gave me THREE packets of sugar to put in my coffee. I can see the control tower and palm trees in the misting cloudy greyness outside. A free wireless signal tempts me to get on the molasses-slow internet. Africa.
And an hour to spare threatens enough space for churning thoughts to clamor for attention, which allows some Dave Wilcox song lyrics to surface:
"There will always be a crazy, With an army or a knife To wake you from your daydream, Put the Fear back in your life . . . "
Two bombs in Boston, hard to ignore as an American. We read the news, watched President Obama give an excellent speech, skimmed the flood of analysis, felt the angst. Pressure cookers with ball bearings and nails. A mentally ill attention seeker? Someone who is angry? After 911, the immediate suspects are "other", foreign, but if we define a terrorist act as one designed to kill random innocent civilians to inspire terror, well, almost all other incidents on American soil including bombs and school shootings are the work of over-armed under-diagnosed suffering deluded individuals.
I am sitting in a city that has had dozens of bombings (Nairobi) headed to one that's had dozens more (Mombasa). Which perhaps gives one a bit of a different perspective. So here are a few thoughts:
1. Terrorrist acts are levelers. When someone explodes a bomb in your building, you're no more safe in Boston than in Mogadishu if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. Evil does not have boundaries. All cultures have people who are bent by disease or ideology, who are deceived, who are desperate. 2. Goodness does not have boundaries, either. It was inspiring to hear President Obama describe the runners running on to give blood at hospitals. I watched young men in ABU's (camo) just like Caleb's pull down the barriers to gain access to the injured. Bostonians reacted with grace and mercy, showing that on the whole terrorism fails to cow the human spirit and instead draws out the best.
HOWEVER, it does make a difference whether you are in Boston or Mogadishu after the bomb explodes.
3. My news was flooded with Boston stories on Monday. But the same day, in the hospital, caring for a Somali patient, I heard that 9 suicide bombers had strode into the High Court in Mogadishu the day before and killed 29 people, while a simultaneous car bomb took the lives of five including Turkish aid workers and innocent bystanders. This in spite of months of security and progress in Somalia. This is a huge blow to a struggling country. But I had to search hard to find news stories covering this tragedy. How much press has this garnered? Is it a matter of fatigue that we can not muster enough outrage to mourn Afhagnis and Pakistanis killed by bombs week after week, year after year? 4. In Boston, 170 injuries as of a few hours ago had only resulted in 3 deaths. In Mogadishu or Nairobi, the patients with severed limbs and blunt trauma would not likely survive. Here is a quote from an early news story that sort of slapped me in the face, reality-wise:
At least 21 of the injured were taken to Beth Israel Deaconess, where about 100 additional physicians, nurses, and other personnel descended on emergency rooms to help out the 25 or so typically there during a Monday afternoon.
The physician to patient ratio was more than 1:1; and THEN THE REINFORCEMENTS CAME for a 5:1 or more ratio. Wow. When a mass casualty rolls into Kijabe, it's just another day on the roads here, the one or two physicians on duty multiply to 5 or maybe ten. We're a long way from Boston.
And so as I wait for my plane, in transit, I am reminded more strongly than ever of the real message behind bombs and sadness. This world is not quite home. Not quite what it should be. Off balance. Broken. And so am I. But the Dave Wilcox song does not end with the knife-wielding crazy.
"It is love that set the stage here Though it looks like we're alone. In this season set in sorrow, like the night is here to stay . . . In this darkness love will find a way."
Ugandan journalist Daniel Kalinaki posted this exam from the Kampala International University on his twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, and it has been a bit stuck in my head. Is this really real? Is this normal? Their wikipedia page says that KIU is ranked 58th out of African universities. It's deeply sad if true.
Last week, one day, Daniel and his mom came to see me. She wasn't feeling so well. Daniel, on the other hand, was bouncy, smiling, cooing and full of life and happiness.
Daniel and his twin brother joined our milk program several months ago in order to provide supplemental feeds when their mom was struggling to breastfeed them both. Sadly, Daniel's twin brother died several weeks ago. His mom just didn't show up at the health post for over a week and then we heard about Josefa's passing. Apparently she was away on a trip somewhere and he got very sick. We were so sad over this news and sent a special message asking her to please come in as soon as she was back. So she did, and it as a joy to see Daniel thriving even though mommy wasn't feeling well.
While I listened to Daniel's mom's chest and checked her for fever, Daniel smiled and gurgled at me. When I was done and was talking with his mom, he was still smiling and gurgling at me so I reached out, picked him up, and held him for awhile. He immediately reached toward my face to grab it. Maybe he was checking to make sure flesh so pink/white was actually real. He laughed at me and I laughed at him. I loved holding him for a short while, but had to give him back so we could all carry on with our day. His mom had a ways to walk to get home and I had a day full of work ahead of me. Thankfully, his mom wasn't too sick and I think she'll feel better again soon. I hope Daniel remains healthy and grows up to be a smart man with a good heart who loves God. And I'm so thankful we can be part of that potential journey.
(Thank you to all who have given, and especially those gifts designated to the SAM Ministries Emergency Feeding program!)
Every week my colleagues produce a wonderful round-up of development news which is sent out by email. The latest edition is below. If you want to receive the Europe Development Digest each week, you can sign up for it here. Please tick the box under ‘Europe Development Digest’ (eventually I’ll be able to direct you to a subscription page with that already ticked, but we haven’t set that up yet.)Europe Development News | April 3 to 10, 2013 European Report on Development calls for strong collective action
Supported by the European Commission and seven EU member states, the newly-published European Report on Development (ERD) 2013 seeks to contribute to the global reflection on the post-2015 development agenda. It identifies development finance, trade and investment and labour migration as the three key potential drivers of a post-2015 global partnership and presents a series of policy recommendations for international collective action in a post-2015 agenda (and more specifically for the European Union).Credit: Oxfam International
Five European states adopt multilateral measures to fight tax evasion
In a joint letter to the EU commission, the finance ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom say they have agreed on a pilot project of multilateral automatic information exchange aimed at fighting tax evasion, reports the EUobserver. The initiative mirrors recently-adopted legislation in the United States requiring citizens to declare overseas bank accounts and foreign banks to notify the American tax authorities about their American clients. A similar EU-wide law has so far been held up by Austria and Luxembourg. Global Financial Integrity welcomes the initiative but urges rapid expansion to include developing countries.Credit: Flickr user 401(K) 2013 World Trade Organisation cuts global trade forecast for 2013
World trade growth fell to 2.0% in 2012 – down from 5.2% in 2011 – and is expected to remain subdued in 2013 at around 3.3% as the economic slowdown in Europe continues to suppress global import demand, said the World Trade Organization . Speaking at a press conference held at the organisation’s Geneva headquarters, the Director-General Pascal Lamy said the recent slowdown shows that there is a need for more rules-based trade in order to reduce unemployment and to stimulate growth, adding that the threat of protectionism may be greater now than at any time since the start of the crisis, since other policies to restore growth have been tried and found wanting.
Fair distribution is key to development
A cache of 2.5 million files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts and nearly 130,000 individuals and agents, mostly rooted in the British Virgin Islands, Singapore and the Cook Islands. CGD Research Fellow Alex Cobham has posted a blog that comments on the lack of transparency around corporate ownership.Credit:ICIJ Extractive industries to publish what they pay
Echoing tough legislation passed in the United States last year, European Union negotiators reached a deal on a law that will require firms operating in the extractive industries to declare – with no exemptions – payments made to foreign governments over 100,000 euros on a project-by-project basis, as part of efforts to end poverty in resource-rich nations. Advocacy groups, including the ONE campaign, welcomed the deal, although Oxfam and Eurodad expressed mixed feelings.Credit:Flickr user boggerthelogger
Financing post-2015 goals in a changing development landscapeA new paper by the Overseas Development Institute explores options for financing potential post-2015 goals within the changing development cooperation landscape, focusing on five sectors: education, health, water and sanitation, sustainable energy and food and agriculture. In considering how to finance the estimated annual USD 26-50 billion (20-38 billion euro) funding gap for each sector, it concludes that government spending by developing country governments and Official Development Assistance will be critical, although innovative finance can go a long way if mechanisms can be scaled.Credit:Flickr user Torbein
Long time readers (all 3 of you) will know that we harbour a long, deep love for Afghanistan.
So it will be no surprise that we were to return there – albeit for only a few weeks – this April. I was to do a risk assessment, and Julie to do an evaluation. Our kids were coming because they were to do a reconnection – reconnect with their old friends, their old places. The country and the life where they have lived; each of them, for at least half of their years. And, they have been really, really looking forward to this.
In readiness, I submitted our visa applications a month ago. Bear in mind that the website says turnaround of visas takes only 5 business days.
After three weeks, I grew worried. A call to the Embassy revealed that Kabul had not yet given permission for us to travel. More days passed. Our departure date grew near.
I will not recount here the numerous – bordering on tedious – number, and content of calls, conversations and agonisings that took place over the last week, as we mulled, mooted and masticated the options. Delay flights? Try in Dubai? Call it all off? Give Canberra more time?
In the end, we gave Canberra more time. We also allowed for a second effort in Dubai. As the Afghan proverb says, ‘Trust in God. But you should still tie up your camel’.
Today, we heard that Canberra has not issued visas. Probably, the issue was simply time. Just now, a colleague and friend recounted that it took her five weeks to get her visa. Earlier this month, other friends were so late in getting their visas, they had their passports couriered to them directly to the airport, just prior to departure.
We are going anyway. We’ll hope for visas in Dubai. God oversees all this, somehow. This I believe. ‘Oversee’ doesn’t mean ‘control’, and I do not assume to predict that the outcome we desire will eventuate. We’ll see. ‘Being in control’ is less a reality than we’d like to believe.
But I am tired of anticipating disappointment when it comes to Afghanistan. We just wanted to get there. Do some important work. Let the kids have a good time.
We were not, you know, expecting a revolution.
Last week I wrote about the experience of reuniting runaway children with their families.
Our latest reunion is of a 13 year old boy from Lang Son province in the north of Vietnam. "Hieu" had been working for some kind of traveling circus which was exploiting him, and his family was uninterested in helping, so the little guy hopped on a bus and headed to Hanoi. We met Hieu on his first night in the city and within a few days accompanied home to see his father and uncle.
It was a long trip to a fairly remote area...
Home isn't a happy place for this boy. Hieu only recently met his father, who had been in prison since the birth of his son, and the uncle who raised him has no interest in his welfare. Their home is very poor, with no comforts whatsoever.
Hieu agreed to stay with his father, but just for a few days. He sees no future at home, and his father doesn't seem to care at all. So Hieu is already back in Hanoi, but this time not on the streets; he's staying at a Blue Dragon shelter while we help him work out what he wants to do.
Kids need a family who love and care for them; it always breaks my heart to meet children who know they don't have that. The look in Hieu's eyes tells me he's already feeling let down by the world. I only hope that Blue Dragon can fill that void he feels, and give him reason to trust the world once more.
Warning Sign #1: When government officials use the data to set targets like an increase in vaccination or a decrease in cancer numbers, they always use percentages, not absolute numbers. That’s a sign that people know the numbers are wrong and don’t want to rely on them. (Of course, sometimes it just means that the percentage is the right way to look at it. Increasing the number of people in the district with access to clean water by 20% conveys more information than saying you want to increase it by 330,000 people. You need to use your judgment. (as always)
Warning Sign #2: The disaggregation doesn’t make sense. This is a judgment call again – sometimes the data are weird because there is something weird going on (Such as India’s missing girls. We only wish that data was fake.) For example, pregnancy is a major risk factor for anemia. If your rates of anemia in pregnant women are lower than the rates in the general population, something is wonky.
Warning Sign #3: The math doesn’t work. If you know a few true numbers, you can use them to ground-truth the rest of your data. For example, if you know the perinatal mortality rate for the smallest babies, then you can use it to determine whether the reported infant mortality rate makes sense. (This slide deck has the detailed instructions, starting from slide #20.)
At the beginning of last week, one of the health workers presented a critical health topic in a culturally relevant way during our morning devotional time. It was primarily planned for the large group of women currently participating in our work-for-food program.
So what was the topic? Malaria? HIV/AIDS? TB? Nope. The critical topic of choice was--the baby's "soft spot" (fontanel). The question was, "What changes in a baby's soft spot do we worry about? What affects it?" There is quite a bit of preoccupation with the baby's soft spot and whether or not it bounces, and if it does, how quickly it does, and to what depth, etc.
The first, bold person to answer was a lady who said, "Vomiting or diarrhea." A few others nodded.
Then an older woman said that when the soft spot goes down, that's dangerous and the child could die but a traditional healer can help. Many more nodded their heads this time. Someone else suggested that that in this event, mom should have being taking "preventive measures" by massaging the roof of the baby's mouth with oil. "If she doesn't do this and the child becomes sick, the traditional healer will administer a mixture of oils and herbs or salts to then rub into the roof of the mouth, and administer an infusion of roots and herbs for the child to drink, to heal and control movement of the soft spot." There was much nodding of heads after this comment.
After several others also contributed their ideas, the health worker went on to explain that a sunken soft spot indicates dehydration, and the danger that results from vomiting, diarrhea, and even fever. And that while the parents run quickly to the traditional healer to identify what evil spirit has caused this and how to appease it, the evil itself is the very diarrhea that is dehydrating the child. He went on to explain the critical importance of re-hydration, especially in infants. Everyone sat in rapt attention--surprised that there would be such frank discussion on the cultural practice of seeking help from traditional healers whose main purpose is identifying evil spirits during illness. Everyone sitting there in rapt attention also heard the message about dehydration and life-saving re-hydration. They have also joined us for several weeks of devotions so far, and prayer, as always followed the morning's discussion.
A mom, examining an image related to the lesson.After our prayer time, I was swamped with quite a few immediate needs but couldn't help but catch out of the corner of my eye how, as everyone dispersed, one woman with a baby on her back came to the center of the circle and knelt down to be prayed for. A man, I didn't even notice just who it was at the time, saw her and came immediately to talk to her. Then he laid hands on her and prayed for her while everyone else milled busily around coordinating the day's and week's work. There was a certain sense of wholeness in that instant, but it was brief because I also was absorbed with milling around trying to tend to sick people and coordinate the health workers for the day's and week's activities.
As that day unfolded, it held its fair share of challenges. But this was one of the high points.
The Blue Dragon team is back on the road this morning in search of kids who have been trafficked into Vietnamese garment factories.
Since lunar new year, much of our attention has been on bringing home girls trafficked into Chinese brothels. Simmering away in our minds has been the issue of the many missing children from central and northern Vietnam, both girls and boys, who are enslaved in factories in Ho Chi Minh City.
A few weeks ago we helped one 15 year old boy out; he'd followed a friend to the south from Hue province, and when he got the the factory he quickly realised he'd made a mistake. He hadn't known he was expected to work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week... and that he wouldn't be paid because this was "training"! One of our team was passing through Ho Chi Minh City on his way to reunite a trafficked girl with her family, so he took a detour and got the boy out. The factory owner was refusing to release him unless his family "reimbursed" them for his transport and living expenses - but by now the Blue Dragon lawyers have more than enough experience in dealing with traffickers and factory owners. The young boy is back home now, and won't be making that mistake again!
It's time for us to focus again on the big question of how to end, once and for all, this trafficking of kids into the clothing and textile industry. We don't yet know how many children we will find in coming days, as the information we have about their locations is still very unclear. But we'll be working with the police to find the factories and get the kids home. I hope to have some updates, and some good news, by Wednesday or Thursday.
Last week I wrote a note at the end of each day. This week, I'll try to post one of those entries each day, just for a change.
Wednesday. April 10, 2013.
This morning I had to head back to the school. I was just there yesterday but when I left had forgotten to bring the infant formula from that health post to the main health post (it's not needed at the school health post right now). Anyway, the main post is nearly out of infant milk, and no one was going to town, so our only recourse was to fetch the formula that was at the school health post. That was how the day started. After devo's that addressed rehydration mix. After I woke at 5 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep again even though it was so pitch dark I had to push the Indiglo button on my Timex to see what time it was when I first woke up. And btw, I hate early mornings as long as I'm able to sleep, but when my mind starts racing at 5 a.m. and I get up at that crazy time, I really do love the solitude, silence, and the soft and gradual lightening of the sky as the sun slowly rises.
Anyway, back to having to drive for over an hour in order to obtain enough cans of baby milk to see us through another day or so. When I mentioned that I needed to go to the school, Dwight mentioned that maybe he and Tome needed to come along to do some work on the badly deteriorated road and whatnot. Then he disappeared and I had to get antimalarials for Simon to take to Sede health post, had to get laundry going (no power this morning cause something happened to our generator last night) and organize a few other things first-off. When I was ready to head out, Dwight was goodness knows where so I had to head out to find him to see if he and Tome were in fact coming along or if I could carry on by myself. It took a bit of hunting until I found him looking for someone else who wasn't at their house (so he could make progress on the power-outage thing). Anyway, long story short, he and Tome had their hands full with electricity woes so I was to go on my own. So off I went.
The school is always a busy place. As I approach on the BAD road by vehicle, kids always run out to greet me, waving with great enthusiasm. I pull in at the health post and as I climb out of the vehicle am instantly swarmed by my preschool, Grade 1 and 2 fans who are on free-time. They jabber to me in dialect, grab any hand/finger available that is not busy carting my bag/camera/glasses/pen/keys. Whatever it is I'm carrying, they want to relieve me of which is always very sweet and humbling to me. So in short order, my camera and miscellaneous bag are whisked ahead of me. My pen, glasses and keys I hold tight.
When I reach the health post, Ernesto is busy doing a student's health evaluation which makes me happy. I find the 6 cans of precious formula I've come for, go down to greet the school's cook and check that things are ok with him, greet the teachers, recover my camera and misc. bag and crawl back into the vehicle to head home. All this while attached to at least 5 kids/arm who are drilling me with words/questions in dialect which I don't understand. I answer them in Portuguese which they're too young to really understand, the whole time we're smiling at each other and enjoying the contact. They love adult attention and my own kids are grown up and pursuing their lives/careers far, far away. So this kid-adult-time works for us all.
Anyway, once I peel myself away from the hands were holding every available finger and probing buttons on my vehicle's remote control and smudging my reading glasses from all the grabbing, I climb in, wave frantically back at them in farewell, and drive off. As I climb up the hill away from the school yard, I discover that about 8 of the young boys have hurried ahead of me, broken off the branches of some nearby shrubs, and are are waving them "Palm-Sunday" style in front of my vehicle as I drive past, and they're smiling big as can be and singing as loudly as they can, "Beeeooootiful schoooooolooooo, schooooloooo! I shall never, never forget, beautiful schoolooooo!"
That song is their most rehearsed expression of appreciation and it really does touch my heart. I came to get powdered milk but I certainly received much more than that. The rest of the day can bring what it may :)
PS: On a separate note, April 10th is also my little brother's birthday. He passed away awhile back when he was 17 from complications from a ruptured appendix. The years have passed but I sure still miss him. We have a lot of catching up to do one day. When we were little, on Saturdays I used to make him play school. I was the teacher, he was the student. I know for a fact he didn't enjoy that particular "fun", but he cooperated for my sake. I need to remember to sing him "Beeeeooootiful schooloooo, schooloooo!"
When being deluged daily with over a foot of rain in the last couple weeks, and only rare glimpses of sunshine, it's time to head for the gates of hell. Yes, Hell's Gate National Park. This is the kids' school vacation so I was glad to get a day to take them with a few friends to our nearest national park where we rented bikes for an unusual way to view animals.
And we're off.
Soon this was my view. At this moment I realized the importance of choosing a park without predators when biking with five teenage varsity athletes. Because predators pick of the stragglers.
When we ran out of road we climbed.
And enjoyed the view.
As well as the animals: zebra, impala, gazelle, warthogs, buffalo, and a couple giraffe. None of which I captured very well on a phone while riding a bike and huffing to keep up. Even I can't really see the zebra that were originally in this picture.
Mid-day we switched from the park to a nearby "heated" pool where we got a good deal to swim for the afternoon. And miraculously, we all got sunburned through the overcast clouds, and the rain held off until the very end of our swim.
And perhaps the greatest adventure of all was in trying to get back home as the torrents of rain beat down once again. I was too busy driving in low-4WD to snap mud photos until we were almost up to the town.
Yes, that's the view out my window, of the ROAD.
A quick head's up to let you know that I have just added a tab to the top of my blog labeled "Where Can I Find... ." It's essentially a directory to the various resources I have developed over the years that facilitate access to forced migration information and research. So a central starting point of sorts... .
The other three tabs on my blog lead to research guides on refugees, IDPs and stateless people - all of which have recently been updated.
Tagged Web Sites/Tools.