Don’t go picturing Naomi Campbell in designer-wear strutting her 3-inch heels picking up trash in New York City. This was real community work as in 1980s Land Rover a la Indiana Jones (the one with seating for 8 – or 12 – in the back, two benches facing each other), jeans and Pumas, bag-full of bread and Cadbury for snacking, hole-ridden side roads, red dirt everywhere, and then out of nowhere a community jango sprouts.
The jango (see pic, a community’s meeting place) was where KixiCredito, DW’s microfinance offshoot, and PARCIL, DW’s program that promotes social infrastructure rehabilitation, were to meet with the village’s elders to discuss their livelihood.
Women on one side (nursing mothers outside), men on the other, me in one of the “privileged” seats (for a second I thought I had committed a horrible oops and should be sitting elsewhere – they assured me that no, I was to remain in the plastic chair) a group of about 30 villagers, most of whom didn’t speak Portuguese but one of the many local languages, gathered to set their community’s priorities. What was most important? Water? School reconstruction? Healthcare? These seem to be the plights of most everyone here in this wealthy country.
I was surprised that the session started with a prayer (in Portuguese). All stood, this rich, traditional group, to pray to a G-d that I’m not sure they even believed in. But when all were back in their seat, the women spoke. At first, it took Luis (PARCIL program manager) a couple of different approaches to get them engaged and trusting…and then the dam broke. There’s a school but no teachers, there’s land for a clinic, but no money to buy materials much less medicine, government promised water pumps, but none have been installed, and of course, there’s no electricity. So, what comes first?
What comes first??? What do you mean what comes first? Aren’t these all basic human needs? It’s incredible how these poor poor communities have to pick one among these, and yet, they do. Once they have water, they deal with education. Once they have teachers in their schools, they construct the clinic. Once the community is healthy, they get light…and so on. The great power that DW has been giving these communities for so many years is to depend on themselves to pull themselves out of poverty. No amount of international funding can match that.
Only quasi-white person in the group, this was one of my most fulfilling experiences here.
Hot off the press
My visa came through and my passport is back in its orange leather sleeve. I will be saying good bye to Angola on the 23rd of April…back in the US on time for my birthday. Bittersweet, I tell you.
Somehow, however, I (ahem, DW) will not have to pay ANY fine…shocking. I’ve been in the country for over the “allotted time” but the universe is working with me. Three months and a bit will be my total time (this time) here in Africa.