We cover the whole Lake Zone around Mwanza and a few of our families are up near the Serengeti, which is a 2 1/2 hour drive away.
We headed out there Friday to catch up with some of them.
Kibeshi was born with microcephaly (a very small head and brain) and subsequently is quite severely disabled. His mother could not cope and left him with her own mother who lives in an isolated house. Bibi Kibeshi is in her sixties and not the sprightliest lady but working hard to make sure Kibeshi eats well. There is a such a stigma against disability, especially out in the villages where it can be seen as possession by evil spirits and the children are often killed while young, and there are so few resources to help that I am always so impressed with those relatives that really try their very best for children with additional needs.
We had helped Bibi Kibeshi (Kibeshi’s grandmother) to buy a plot of land and seeds not far from her house and we wanted to check on her cotton crop which should have been ready to pick. Apart from Richard Scarry’s ‘What Do People Do All Day?’ I had not seen cotton growing in fields before and was inordinately excited to see the fluffy cotton wool balls growing on bushes in the fields along the route.
Bibi Kibeshi had already harvested her cotton and was getting ready to bale it up to sell to a local dealer.
A neighbour was helping her to prepare some sweet potatoes that she’d grown – some to dry and sell , others for the family to eat.
The houses out here are very much spread across vast tracts of land. We’d worked out the best route but it was still a good half hour drive between each family.
Off next to Mariam and her aunt, Kesha, who has been struggling for a while. We had set Kesha with a kibanda (vegetable stall) that had been doing really well but people stopped coming when her brother came to stay, very sick with AIDS.
There’s something about this picture that I love – it just really sums up the quiet curiosity that children show when I step down from the truck, not running away, not moving closer, until they are sure what they are dealing with!
Fortunately , Kesha has managed to hang on to a lot of her capital and as her brother is now taking medication and improving steadily, she is hopeful that she can restart her business next week. A number of things can de-rail a business but ill health or death of family are the main ones that can devastate it because of the financial cost and the cost in time that it takes. This family has been badly affected by HIV – Mariam’s mother died of AIDS, her uncle has it and Aunt Kesha was diagnosed with HIV just after she took Mariam in although she started on medication straight away and is pretty healthy now – and, of course, little Mariam is infected too.
Passing briefly past the home of Kulwa and Dotto, twins that left the outreach programme a few months ago as they were progressing well and their mum had a sewing business set up. It was great to see them looking so big and healthy.
The final call of the day was to Mama Shoma. It’s not overly common practice but quite a few men out in the villages take more than one wife, to help tend the fields or to provide more children. Last time we came out here , Hassan, our Community Development Officer, and Anna, the Social Worker, spent an hour calming a dispute between the wives because one had been given more land than the other one. This time around the wives had fallen out because the second wife, the buxom fun widow who had most of the husband’s attention, had accused the first of stealing potatoes off her land and the first wife, the quiet one deformed by cysts, was not speaking to the second one.
Forty five minutes later of Hassan’s impressive negotiating skills, giving everyone time to speak and helping to explain why it had to change for the sake of the small children involved as well as the parents, we were ready to leave. It wasn’t an appropriate time to set Mama Shoma up with a business so we’ll wait til she comes in to us for weighing Shoma to talk more to her about the fish business she wants to set up. Sometimes the two wives set-up works well out here but, in this case, where there is definite favouritism towards one wife, it is not going well at all.
With a long drive ahead, we set off back along the bumpy roads to Mwanza, with this week’s music selection from Hassan so there was a lot of Celine Dion and Dolly Parton, to get ready for next week’s fun. Definitely no two days the same here!