I am walking with a well dressed woman, Jonio, from where the dalah-dalah (taxi-bus type thing) has dropped us off, in a very close suburb of Bukoba. I follow her and her daughter, also well put together, clean looking and well fed down an unpaved rocky path towards their home. Earlier today they had come into Raza’s shop requesting financial aid from IZAAS and I asked if I could do a home visit. From my experience here it seems to me that they are what I would call middle class Bukobans, by appearance only, and I want to see how they live. We walk for about 15 minutes downhill. Jonio is pointing out the various highlights of this neighborhood, the school, her friends’ houses etc and we arrive at a small house. Her son Dedas is sitting on a rock listening to a disc-man, so I conclude that I was right, middle class. Nameema greets me warmly and comes over to shake my hand. I ask to see the house and she graciously invites me in. Through a cloth curtain outside door we enter a room about 6×6, with a straw lined floor and they spread out a cloth for me to sit on. We all sit and start chatting in broken English and very broken Swahili about life in general. After a time, I ask to see the rest of the house, there is another cloth door behind them and I am curious. I stick my head in (there is not enough room to walk in) and it is another room, about 6×4 with one large bed and one smaller bed, some plastic containers and some wooden shelves. Nameema explains to me that her sister and her sleep on the small bed, her mother and other sister on the big bed and her brother on the straw of the adjacent room. I ask about the father and they laughingly mime and explain that he is a drinker and he is abusive and they are happy when he is not around, like now. Where does he sleep?
I follow Nameema into an adjacent structure, also with low brick walls and a tin roof, this part of the house consists of two rooms, one has a bed, with standing room all around, and the other is what she laughingly calls the sitting room, there is a wooden futon frame, but no mattress. Now she is laughing hysterically and so is her sister, Beth. She decides to continue the tour in a very MTV ‘Cribs’ fashion. She takes me to the bathroom, the shower, a woven straw corner with what looks like and old gas can full of water (this suburb is quite far from water supply and I see several people trekking around with these gas cans) and then I get to see her garden which has newly planted pineapple and cassava sprouts along with some other beautiful plants. This is not a temporary home, the garden tells me that she plans to live here until they give fruit. (pictures to follow)
My tour is finished and I have to ask what they are laughing about because I don’t see anything funny about this situation, but they do so I stop asking and laugh with them, so that they don’t think I am mean, but I feel more like crying. This is a very typical situation and they are not poorly off. All 4 children have finished primary school and at least started secondary school, so they are making it work. Nameema is the most articulate, happy and beautiful youth that I have met she is also disabled. Nine years ago she was hit by a car and she had to stay in the hospital in Kampala, Uganda for 6 months. In the past 9 years she has had 5 surgeries and she still uses those silver crutches with the handles (not sure what they are called). She broke her femur in 4 places and did something very severe to her lower leg that I could not figure out but there are two huge parallel metal rods sticking out from her leg that each contain a series of pins, so I assume that they are holding her leg together.
Jonio, her mother, came to IZAAS because Nameema has to go back to Kampala for (at least) 2 more surgeries and she needs money for the trip, doctors and a visa. What happens when you are living at the poverty line, making just enough money to house, school and feed your children and suddenly one of your children needs expensive operations and trips to another country? How can they manage the expense? There is no way, this is where IZAAS came into play. For the past 9 years Raza and IZAAS have been paying for every trip, doctor’s visit, visa and surgery for Nameema, otherwise, without the proper care, her leg would have had to have been amputated.
Smiling and requesting that I come back for another visit tomorrow, Nameema walks with me as far up the path back to the road as she can. The going is tough, it is uphill, rocky and winding, so she turns back after a few minutes. I wave farewell and turn to watch her make her way, slowly and carefully down the steep path. I am so glad that she will get her funds for her trip to Kampala but I wonder after 9 years, what is the best expected outcome for her? Is it possible for her to ever walk again unassisted? Without the proper aftercare I really have no idea, so I can only hope that with the money that she will get from IZAAS this next operation will be the one that cures her…I am doubtful, but hopeful at the same time.