The Outreach team set off last week to catch up with Bibi Deogratius (grandmother of Deogratius), who used to come to us for formula milk when the death of her daughter left her bringing up 5 grandchildren, including baby Deo. As she lived in such a remote area, we had set her up with some animals to start a small holding. When I say remote, you drive two hours to the Serengeti, then turn right and keep going for nearly another hour until you come across a little outpost of government built houses (built for workers in a local paint manufacturing plant).
The long drive gave us an opportunity to practice our singing but mainly I gazed out the window at dress shops with, bizarrely, East German shot-putter mannequins…….
and goat markets, with one of the goats on the barbecue at the back! :o( …..
bicycles, getting ready to be loaded up for the next journey…
and many homes with people going about their business.
Shortly after we turned on to the smaller road, we hit a chicken and came to a screeching halt. Hassan jumped out and called out to ask the local children whose chicken it was and to bring him a knife to finish it off as it was still twitching. Chickens are people’s livelihoods here so you can’t just hit one and drive on. Hassan had to negotiate a price to buy the somewhat thin and mangy looking chicken from its owner. With smiles all round from the family of its owner, the chicken joined me in a plastic bag in the back of the landrover for the rest of the journey, with one foot sticking out unceremoniously.
It didn’t seem to phase our hitchhikers though. We had been flagged down shortly before that by a well-dressed elderly gentleman and a young man in a Tshirt, on their way to a local council meeting, who had been sheltering from the heat under a tree. If you don’t have transport in these remoter areas, your only options are to walk or wait hopefully for a passing car or lorry to stop.
We reached Bibi Deo’s house
and she was thrilled to see us there and to show us her goats, which had had kids,
her pigs, one of which had produced 7 piglets a few weeks before
and her chickens and ducks. Hassan took the opportunity to acquire some healthier looking chickens for his dinner!
When I told her my name, she took me by the hand to the grave of her daughter who had died giving birth to Deo and was also called Elizabeth.
It was on her smallholding next to that of one of her sons and her husband who died last year.
With my shaky Kiswahili, and some translation by Anna, I attempted to complete a follow up form with her to see how much life had improved since we’d provided the livestock, a malaria net and the formula milk. It can be hard to gauge impact when people keep very little note of how things change from one day to the next but for Bibi Deo the health of the whole family had improved as they were all eating better and she could afford to take them to a doctor if they were sick. None of them had had malaria this year; an improvement on the previous year when it was an almost regular occurrence. Although not yet making a huge profit, she was bringing in enough from sales of animals for meat and of vegetables to give them a decent life. The new piglets were going to be her real money spinner ( the previous litter had all been squashed by the mother but she had separated these ones out) so we gave her a small top-up to pay for their vaccinations to keep them healthy.
She was glad now to only occasionally bring Deo in for weighing as he was no longer receiving food support from us. I asked how she managed to get in to our sessions before.She used to make a fortnightly journey carrying baby Deo that involved a 20 minute walk to the road, waiting for however long it took for a car to come past so she could get a lift to the main road which took 45 minutes, wait again for up to an hour to catch a bus which took 3 hours to get to the main bus station on the outskirts of Mwanza, stay in a guest house (not as genteel as the name suggests!) overnight and then take another bus for 30 minutes and a 20 minute walk just to get to us for formula milk – and back again the same day. Sometimes, the dedication of people to do the best for their family is breathtaking.
Hassan was suffering with a headache so I drove the first bit home over the roughest road I’ve ever encountered.
Despite my cheery singing, I think my slow driving was too much for him and he took over so we would get home before dark and I was relegated to the back of the landrover again, sharing with two live chickens and a dead one.
It was letting out time for schools so we were met with streams of children walking home from school, like lines of hundreds of refugees fleeing a warzone. It can be a 3 or 4 mile walk for them so children out in these areas don’t usually start school until they are 6 or 7 ie are strong enough to be able to walk that far and most are carrying containers to collect water from a well on their way back home.
We made good time and were greeted by the children at the baby home showing me the useful item they had found in the garden in my absence!