Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Joyce and Sarah

(Written before Peace Camp)
Making small progress is the essence of Peace Corps. Nothing happens over night.
This was a lesson hard for me to learn, but is now one I have come to accept, and even embrace.
The girls have started opening up to me, proving that taking time to build a foundation of trust is an essential aspect of this work. Maybe that is why Peace Corps Volunteers serve for 2+ years…
It barely even seems like enough time.
I have been mysteriously ill for quite some time, and had to be in the capitol city, Kampala for almost an entire month. Thankfully, I returned to Gulu just in time for my girls’ visitation day. "Visitation day" happens once a term, and it is the only time family members ever visit their children at boarding school. Since my girls have little or no family, it is important that I am there to support them.
I talked to each of them individually for almost an hour a piece. This post is about my interactions with Olympia Joyce and Akii Sarah.
Joyce fearfully giggled, looking down at her feet, as she told me that there is something she had been aching to talk to me about… but that she had been scared to do so.
Of course, I thought she was pregnant.
She told me something that I had already known, yet she had not yet told me. When the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped her and she was in the bush, she had been shot in the leg. The bullet left a large and unfriendly scar that she clearly is very insecure about. She told me it made her feel “really bad about herself.”
So while I was waiting for her to tell me that she was pregnant, she sheepishly asked me if I could buy her some Vaseline...
She also assured me that she is a virgin.
Sarah was the most confident I’ve ever seen her. While I was there, we picked up her midterm results… and whereas last time she placed 95 out of 107 students, this time she placed 59th! …And this is the girl I had to beg to get into school because of her academic history, and poor test scores.
It was priceless seeing her proud of herself… She even joined the girl’s rugby team! Who would have thought?
…After we talked happily for a while, she nonchalantly brought up the fact that her mother had been poisoned.  Why?  Because a neighbor was jealous that Sarah was getting her school fees paid. (In a previous post, I talk about how Sarah was once almost poisoned for the same reason just months before).  I could not believe it.  I didn't know what to say.  I didn't know what to do.  It was my fault.  She told me how her mom would now lie on a mat outside all day without moving. 
After hearing that, I, being the wannabe psychologist that I am, said that it must be hard having to deal with what’s going on at home. 
She said “Auntie, I forget about it all when I am here.”


At Peace Camp I got a phone call from Sarah.  The network was horrible out there, and I could not really understand what she was saying.  I thought I heard "My mom is dying in the hospital," but she had said "My mom has malaria and is in the hospital."  I asked her about how her mom has been since the poisoning incident.  What did she say?

"Oh some people came to our house to pray... she is now okay."

I shake my head in disbelief.  What do I say to that?

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