A life-changing experience

  • May. 21, 2008 1:00 p.m.

Submitted by Ramana (Axel) Waldhaus–In what country/city do you have a coastline of beautiful, sandy beaches; park on the sidewalks that have potholes so deep that you can break an ankle; women do most of the hard, physical work; most women braid their hair, wear extensions or wigs; where you can buy anything openly on the streets, including whisky in small, one-ounce baggies and pirated CDs and DVDs; most people with income eat only 1½ meals a day; the urban population is 20 percent and rural 80 percent, mostly in thousands of villages, surviving, or not surviving on subsistence farming, much like 1000 years ago; a traditional meal costs 50 cents and a European/American meal $10; national average of incidence of HIV/AIDS is 16-19 percent, in some areas over 30 percent; the average monthly income of 92 rural families living with HIV/AIDS is $16; the Canadian CUSO volunteer’s honorarium is 2 ½ times larger than the salary of an agricultural engineer; people are dying of AIDS because they cannot take their medication because there’s not sufficient food in their stomachs and/or they lack money for the bus to the hospital for monitoring and medicating; the music booms in virtually all public transportation and people drink and dance and sing while in transit on the week-ends without violence or excessive intoxication and where people are young (life expectancy: 37 years), athletic, fun-loving, friendly, welcoming, vibrant and hopeful?In Mozambique, Southeast Africa. 19 million people, politically stable, but among the five poorest countries in the world.Long time resident of Haida Gwaii, Ramana (Axel) Waldhaus, returned in January from Mozambique after volunteering for 3 years working with people living with HIV/AIDS: living in Maputo, the capital; working with a local, national NGO; commuting by chapa (minibus) to the village of Boane and later to the village of Piccolo ( 45 minutes by chapa and 45 minutes walk-7 km) to assist a group of people, mostly women, who are living with HIV/AIDS. The 22 members of this group, called Vida Positiva, were cultivating a garden and receiving a snack of cheap biscuits/cookies and crystal juice in lieu of food aid. He used his own funds to purchase good quality cookies and real fruit juice. After receiving a considerably larger stipend: a bean stew and bread brunch and some food such as rice and beans for each person, as well as bus money for trips to hospital for testing and HIV/AIDS monitoring/TARV (treatment with anti-retroviral medication). The number of members increased to 92; still, people were dying regularly from malnutrition and resultant inability to take antiretroviral medication; procured government emergency funding for food, some medicines, school supplies and a dressmaking course for 22 members and activist training for 22 volunteers from the community.Ramana (Axel) will present an evening of three parts: 1. Slide show of Vida Positiva group, Mozambican portraits, scenery, art, culture and flowers.. 2. Information on ease of volunteering, personal safety, logistics: brochures and PP presentation on volunteering with CUSO throughout the world; info and links to other volunteering organizations. 3. Opportunity to donate towards the purchase of 6 additional sewing machines for the 6 remaining graduates of the dressmaking course.Queen Charlotte, Wednesday, May 28, 7:30 pm, Library, QC School.Masset, Friday, June 6, 7:30 pm, Green Church.

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