i guess i’ve had my question answered. at least partly. understanding that i had no real perception of what we were going to experience while we were here in east africa, i came into the trip with as much of a blank slate as i could. there was really only a few things on my mind. how would God use this trip in my life, what was He trying to show me, how will this affect my future ambitions, etc… but as far as more of a research question, i had one in mind. i wanted to know what the care was like for the individuals here in africa who have special needs. whether that be mental or physical, was anyone noticing? the care in the US is still drastically inadequate in many aspects for individuals who fit in this category, and i thought it would be interesting to compare the two areas.
as far as mental handicaps, i really haven’t witnessed anyone with them. i’m assuming that they are just disregarded at an early age and chances are that they don’t survive too long. i know that sounds negative and in one sense it sounds like i am committing east africa to some sort of primitive society. i am by no means trying to convey that message. the only reason that i say that is because i have seen many people with physical handicaps, and they are all on the street begging. yesterday was an especially intense and in-my-face day as we were traveling around dar es salaam.
we visited two orphanages in the morning, both privately owned, and then we took the time for the rest of the afternoon to travel around the city in attempts of getting our travel plans figured out (bus tickets bought, etc) for the next week or so. dar es salaam is big, and even though it was sunday, we spent the majority of our day sitting in traffic. as any sensible person would do if they saw a large group of people just sitting and waiting in a stationary place, the people here in dar have an assortment of foods, trinkets, clothing articles, and even electronics that they take from car to car in the traffic jams hoping that someone will occupy their boredom by purchasing something. it works. when you are really hungry since you can’t seem to get to a restaurant because of the 500 cars that are just sitting in front of you, the cashews that the dude in the street is waving around start to look pretty tasty. but beyond that, it is also a very effective way of getting money if you are physically disabled. i’m not kidding. when you can approach a car and show the passengers your deformities and wounds, the passengers can’t just run away from that. when a disability is shoved in your face you are compelled to do something about it, so you shyly give some money thinking that it will solve the problem in some little way. here’s a piece of my day yesterday.
i had the pleasure of sitting up front in the van that we were taking around the town yesterday. it’s always a trip sitting on the left side of the car, up front, and not driving. i’m a little anxious about driving when i get back…it might take a while to adjust to driving on the right side again. but i digress. we were sitting in one such traffic jam and after watching several vendors pass by my window, i looked up to see a young boy walking along on the driver’s side. as he approached the van i noticed that he was hiding his arm. i could tell that he had an arm, i just thought that he had just received something that he didn’t want to show (or, ashamedly i tell you this, that he might’ve stolen something….why did my first reaction go to that?!). i must’ve glanced away for just a fraction of a second, but my attention was regained when i heard the thud on the driver’s window that seemed to resound in my ears. my head jerked toward the kid and i was startled to see a sorry excuse for an arm staring my in the face. his hand was crumpled into the inside of his arm and it was accompanied with strange color spots all over. he looked at me with pleading eyes as if to say ‘here it is, you see it? good. because this is what i live with every day. are you still gonna ignore it?’ i didn’t know how to react. it happened so fast, and my body automatically beckoned my head to turn the other way. before i knew it, he was gone.
later on that day i was bombarded with even more instances like this. we passed a man who was literally dragging himself from car to car along the asphalt on the highway because he wasn’t able to use his legs. i wasn’t close enough to see everything, but can you imagine how much that has to hurt?! soon after that, i saw another man, fortunate (in some twisted manner of the word) enough to have acquired crutches, who was also going from car to car begging. he only had one leg, and his pant leg was rolled up to show just that.
i’m sure that thousands of people pass these three every single day. why doesn’t somebody do something? what is there to do? to see this and also to know how desparate the situation is here with poverty….how do you start to tackle so many problems at once? i’m at a loss.
not to distract from what i just told you, but i thought that i should let you know about our time at the orphanages earlier yesterday. both orphanages were privately owned and neither was funded. the first had 85 kids, and the property was assuredly only big enough for 25 to 30. that might be stretching it. the second had 40 kids, and the place was about half the size of the first one. some of the kids at the first orphanage slept on the floor at night because they didn’t have anything else. yes, the kids were off the street, but they didn’t look like they were being cared for at all. there was one particular boy that was sleeping in the main area where we were at when we got there. we found out that he was sick, and as he lay there, flies covered his face and body. he didn’t even move to wave them away. the second orphanage seemed better than the first, at least in terms of the care provided, and i was impressed at the bunk beds and matresses that i saw in the house. then i realized how many kids would have to sleep in each bed each night to fit. it wouldn’t surprise me if there were 4 or 5 kids in each bed each night.
neither of these orphanages have anyone to continually support them financially.
take from this post what you will, but i hope that you are aware of the reality of these problems.