Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Cholera Slap in the Face

While I have the best of intentions keeping up with this blog it's just getting harder and harder to focus and put this experience in writing. This entry is a bit more sad than most and lacking in my normal sarcasm. It's been a hard week and it's time to "stop being nice and start getting real." By real, I mean Cholera. Since arriving on this trip Cholera seems more like a long lost concept that doesn't effect me or anyone I know. Now, I know it's real and I know how much it sucks.

One of All Hand's many projects is working with a local orphanage. We are working to educate the staff on proper nutrition, hygiene and child development. There are several volunteers who focus almost solely on the project and two times a week a rotating group of volunteers goes to the orphanage to play with the children and give the full time staff a break.

Last week I visited the orphanage. The children seemed well taken care of for the most part and the staff genuinely cared for the children. For me, the jarring part was the fact that the majority of the children had various colds and sicknesses. Basically, each child that I held was dripping from one hole or another. But, as I soon found out, a cold is curable, Cholera probably is not.

At our daily staff meeting on Thursday night we were told that one of the children, a two year old, contracted Cholera and died the evening before. Cholera and my experience here finally hit home (or more like hit me in the face). One of the children I held and played with two days before was just gone and two others are in the hospital.

It's odd but this is the first time in the month that I've been here that I felt something. Well, maybe it's not odd. We spend most of our days here working on school construction or rubble removal and while there is community involvement the personal connection is a bit harder to establish. With a child, that relationship is instantaneous. My new goal is to try harder to make more human connections with the community. While there are painful horrible parts of having that type of connection, there are truly celebratory and joyous parts as well and both are worth the effort. So, it's my time to start getting real.


  1. I can't even imagine that Jen. It's difficult when bad things happen to anyone, but especially a child so young. You are doing wonderful things and making human connections every day. Just like our time at Healthy Kids, you never truly know the impact you have made. You are wonderful and you are doing wonderful things!

  2. Jen, you are making a difference and can continue to make a difference. You are a true social worker at heart. You can leave something of yourself with the people. Don't forget, these people have volunteers coming in and out of their lives and so it makes it difficult to form an emotional attachment.

    However, you can make the difference by leaving what you do best when you're with people. Leave something that they will remember you by and take away and hold onto it. Whether its emotional, psychological, social or even humourous.