Monday, August 20, 2007
One man that we met in Arusha (sadly I forget his name at the moment, but I will find out) taught himself to design hand tricycles. He has no formal education, he received a little bit of training recently at the association for the handicapped in Arusha, but he created his own design... something that current MIT students are doing! How is it possible? In addition to being in a low economic class, he is physically disabled. There is a great stigma against the physically disabled that they are trying to counteract, but it limits your opportunities even more to be disabled. To the left is an actual photograph of him working on the bike chain of the trike. What would a man like this be able to do WITH an MIT education when he already does this WITHOUT a MIT education! And what will we all do with an MIT education. Is it our duty to make the most out of our education? Or is it up to us since we had to work to get to this position? Or is an MIT education even better than another education? In addition, how can there be such a big difference between people in their knowledge without a formal education? Some don't know basic logic or common sense because they have never learned to think in that way, but here are some that are engineering relatively complex modes of transportation for the disabled...
Overdue pictures... photoshop had stopped working, but now it's all good! These are from Sibusiso, the ngo that is becoming self-sustaining and provides education/therapy to mentally handicapped children and their parents/guardians. They have a program for families that come from far away where the mother and child can stay in one of the guest houses/dorms for free for a month to get training. The first picture is of a mother learning how to give massage therapy to her child and the second is of a child playing in a very large sandbox. They have difficulty walking/sitting up by themselves, so they buried them in the sand to be able to sit up by themselves to play.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Mobility Care builds wheelchairs whenever there is a sponsor, but sponsors had been scarce so there was not much work to do so we decided to go right then. We stopped by Mr. Daniel (the boss)’s house and Lucus' house. At Lucus’ house, we met his wife and the kids she babysits (to the right is a picture of a few of them and Tish... with a MIT shirt :) ).. his house was quite nice… spacious, clean, and the scenery around it is just gorgeous, and all natural. Mr. Daniel’s house was 2 small rooms… I wondered why his house was so much smaller and cramped than Lucus’ when he was the boss, and I found out later that he supports all his siblings on top of his family… including paying for his younger brother to go to teacher’s college…. His younger brother really wanted to be a doctor, he loves science, and apparently when he met with Tish one time, all he wanted to talk about was physics and biology because he had finally found someone else that knew as much (and more) than he did. Sadly he couldn’t afford to go to medical school, but teacher’s college is cheaper, so Mr. Daniel is paying for him to go there, and he’s going to work as a science teacher and save up to be a doctor. Apparently loans in Tanzania are very bad to get because they’ll come and take away your house and the interest is at ridiculous rates.
Lucus was asking Tish and me if we could find a sponsor for Emmanual, and we explained that we would try, but that a system needed to be in place because there were surely more kids like Emmanual and we couldn’t find sponsors for them all if there was no stable program set up. So we discussed ideas for setting that up (if anyone is interested in pursuing this program/club/ngo please let me know), but I wanted to see Emmanual and talk to him in person so that I could come back with a more detailed story, and be able to really understand his situation.
So after about an hour walk on a very bumpy, dusty road (of course not paved), we got to Emmanual’s house. If you can call it a house. The weather is nice and the natural scenery is so beautiful that even the small houses looked gorgeous and like they were part of some paradise landscape… but this one… there was one main house and then a small building next to it. The small building had 3 small rooms. One of those rooms was emmanual’s home. To the right there is a picture of two of his siblings standing at the door of their home.
Emmanual, his mother, his very drunk and abusive grandmother (she even hit me!), his aunt, and his 3 siblings all lived in this cramped space. I don't even know if they could all lie down. Their father is dead and their mother works breaking stones into little pieces to be used for construction which pays little to nothing. They barely have enough to eat, so school is a rare luxury. I asked Emmanual what he wanted more than anything, and he said and education. Not to be able to walk normally, not to be rich, not to have a home where he could actually have room to lie down comfortably… but to have an education. Thinking of all the kids in the states that complaing about having to go to school and drop out of school…. How unfair that the millions of children that want an education more than anything aren’t able to get it. How unfair that people can’t appreciate their education when they are offered it freely. He was very shy but very handsome, and he’s become pretty adept with the crutches (well not crutched, mobility devices that are basically two sticks with arm holes that he uses to support himself… the name of them is skipping my mind) that he got along with the wheelchair which he saves for special occasions (the terrain is so rough that the wheelchair, though much stronger than the ones in the US, would still wear out pretty quickly) and for when gets to go to school… but the crutches don’t even have padding on the bottom… (to the right is a picture of Emmanual with his supports in front of the building where his home is)
Friday, August 17, 2007
One major thing that I’ve been questioning is whether by “helping” whether we’re actually helping. What if we aren’t? What if I’m contributing to increasing pain and suffering in the long run? Because in the end, is it the length of someone’s life that is important or the quality of it. And is it the actual quality in comparison to others’ lives, or is it the quality that you make of it. In other words… by changing the lives of certain societies that may be poor and dying of illnesses that are curable, we are changing other aspects, including, inevitably, their perception of what is possible. As they see more lives being saved and more opportunities.. more material possessions… won’t they just keep wanting more? Isn’t that a major problem with our society? So many people have so much, and yet they just want more. What if we’re turning them into us? I thought that perhaps by respecting their culture, being open and with my desire to absorb everything about their culture, I would not be imposing my own, but one particular conversation really made me think….
In Arusha, I was documenting a Mobility Clinic that makes wheelchairs and special chairs for children with cerebral palsy. There are 4 men and 1 woman, but the 1 woman was out sick for the first 2 days I was there. Unfortunately, they didn’t have many orders due to a lack of sponsors and a lack of a program to find sponsors, so they had a lot of down time during which we discussed problems, projects ideas, their lives, and the Tanzanian society. We were talking about women’s roles, which in
There are other immediate problems that arise from our "helping." Noone would say that saving lives is bad. However, if we go into Uganda lets say, and save every life that we can, the natural selection process will be interrupted. The already overpopulated nation will be even more populated. Families that can barely afford to raise their living children and send them to school will have even more living children to take care of. Noone wants to say lets let these children die, but we have to develop all aspects in parallel which is no easy task. We must educate, empower, and (forgive the cliche) teach them how to fish instead of just blindly saving lives and treating diseases. Perhaps this is something everyone else already realized... but its something I recently discovered.. and it is no easy feat. There are very few organizations or individuals that work on all aspects at once and there are very few ngos that work together. Progress isn't being done in parallel, but rather at their own paces. I cannot emphasize enough how important parallel development is. Otherwise our helping may end up hurting.
btw, i know the pictures are kind of random, the first is of one of the men (luke) from mobility care spoking a wheel... and the second is of a coffee bean tree. yes, they grow on trees. and they're green. weird...
Thursday, August 16, 2007
To come in the next few days: stories of the hospitable Chinese and cute children that love Korean Dramas, insights into our education system, questions of morals and whether doing good is actually doing good.. The wonders of red bean, the large korean population in Beijing, their obsession with the Olympics.. the ethics of illegal dvds, getting caught trying to bring fruit into the US, making friends on the plane... getting sick again.. trying shots of a Chinese liquor which combined with bbq and hotpot made me very sick.. but going to see the biggest buddha in the world anyway.. getting there and being so sick that i didn't care to walk the last few meters to see it.. though my awesome traveling companions convinced me to let them help me get there, and I did see it and even got some pictures. albeit i look dead in them.... :) losing my shoes, my bag ripping from the weight, finding Subway, meeting a United Airlines pilot on the streets of Beijing, swimming in natural hot springs and soaking in rose petals... dancing on a square with locals, climbing the great wall and flying down... and so much more.
promises to update soon. plus i'm back so if anyone's interested, call me up and i'll tell you stories in person and show you photographs! :)