Thursday, February 3, 2011

One family at a time

Volunteers going to developing countries are often overwhelmed by the huge need they find and the slow moving change to improve the situation of those they try to help. Organizations like the US Peace Corps training manual suggest to the volunteers to focus on a specific child or family where it is easier to see ones impact.

With AIDSfreeAFRICA where I have worked for years on establishing a pharmaceutical industry - I knew it would not happen over night. However, our donors ask us: what are you doing? Is there any progress? Are you helping anyone? Is our money making a difference? The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

Joseph Kwende with son Steve
Most recently I was privileged to help the Kwende family. I met Solomon Kwende less than six month ago. Seemingly out of the blue he asked me if I have adult diapers. Coincidentally, my friend Anne Richard who has been providing AIDSfreeAFRICA the excess medical supplies from her son Michael, had previously offered adult diapers. To make a log story short. One of Solomon's brothers lives in Boston. One of his friends is a business man who sends 44 ft containers across the ocean. I loaded my car up with adult diapers and took them to Boston. Joseph Kwende's son Steve was a happy two year old baby when he had an epileptic seizure and went into a coma. Today he is 14 years old, can not walk, speak or take care of himself in any way. The father, Joseph once a successful business man himself became Steve's round the clock care giver.
Steve in his makeshift wheelchair
Three adult diapers a day at a cost of $200 every month is what he has to have plus medicine. That's in a good month when there is no crisis. In a country without cat-scan, MRI scan capability, no in-house aid, not physical therapy, no speech therapy, and other services Steve just grows bigger and gurgles when dad takes him on his lap and talks to him. That is when he looks happy. Bringing some relieve to a family struggling day in day out - is moving and leaves me appreciate every breath I take. 

For three days, Joseph in turn dedicated himself to help me with my many appointments with government agencies. He drove me everywhere, translated from French into English and translated statements that made no sense to me even when they were spoken in English. This is how I got a copy of our successful registration of AIDSfreeAFRICA as a Cameroonian NGO (non-governmental organization) His wife Delphine cooked and took me shopping for a few must have items I like to take home to reward our donors.

  

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