Even if we are not aware of the phenomenon, the World Pulse is causing rings of ripples that get bigger and bigger as they move away. I have been a witness of this phenomenon and I would like to share it with all of you. From the US, I went to Uganda and Kenya granted by the Center For Global Health at the university where I teach. The grant was meant for me to work with the prestigious organization Reproductive Health Uganda in Kampala and on female genital cutting for my own project “I am not Cut” in Kenya.
Once I had the details of my trips more or less set up, I decided to contact some of the World Pulse sisters who live in these two countries. It was at that moment when the Pulse started to send tiny ripples of hope, love, and sisterhood, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and from thousands of miles away. Those ripples built a current that swept down all the differences and created a strong and powerful bond among us. Now, my World Pulse dear sisters Nalubega and dr. Edonna (Uganda), and Consolata and Mama Africa (Kenya) are making sure that the ripples don’t stop, for the sake of the women we work for, for the sake of our communities, and for the sake of our own. We are all eternally grateful to the World Pulse for giving us the chance to create these ripples. Here is the short story of our encounters:
UGANDA Kampala May 2009 I met Nalubega Teddy and her colleague Wangi Godfrey Mario, both from SPACE Uganda (World Pulse Group) and we started right away our collaboration to work with the women of SPACE in Kampala—single mothers, widows, and orphans with dependents. I talked with the women about reproductive health, and they all had plenty of questions to discuss. Although the health of these women is of my priority, I realized that their dream is to be self-sufficient and have enough money to pay the school fees for their children. We are brainstorming now on how to create a microfinance system so the women may develop their own small business, and here is where dr Edonna comes into the picture with a ripple of hope (read below). These women have no money but their hearts are generous and have plenty to give; the ALL collaborated with my project on female genital mutilation because they realized that they have the power in their hands to help other women who struggle with different but also important issues. These widows, single mothers, and orphans donated their time and their images for a documentary on female genital cutting, committing themselves to stop the practice. I am most grateful to all of them.
Mbale, June 2009 I went to Mbale, long trip from Kampala just to meet the amazing and powerful dr Edonna; more that worth it the five-hour bus trip! (no bathroom stops). We talked for hours and hours about our own lives, our work, our dreams, our hopes, and we were certain that our ancestors and spirits had brought us together. Dr. Edonna decided to collaborate with SPACE Uganda in Kampala. I believe she has already met with its director Kasinja Tonny. Dr Edonna and I brainstormed strategies and ideas to make the dream of these women a reality and we will keep working towards this goal along with Nalubega, Wangi, and Kasinja Tonny. We are all connected!!! On a more personal note, I spent a fair amount of quality time with Nalubega and her family in Kampala, to the degree that she adopted me into her clan, WHAT AN HONOR! Now, I belong to the Empeewo clan, from the kingdom of Buganda, and my name is Nakiryowa. The funniest and scariest moments were when Nalubega and I navigated together through the streets of Kampala on a boda-boda (taxi-motorcycle). Sadly, the last day of my stay in Kampala I attended the funeral of Nalubega’s brother, a young man who died of tuberculosis three months after the diagnosis. His condition would have been cured if he happened to live in another part of the world. Hopefully his widow will be able to benefit from the microfinance system we want to create for SPACE Uganda.
An unbelievable connection happened after I left. SPACE Uganda also contacted with my friend Janet in Kampala, the nurse I worked with at Reproductive Health Uganda. Janet and I are working on coordinating a sanitation project in Kifumbira, a slum of Kampala, where the girls will have the leadership.
KENYA June 2009 Nairobi I met Consolata, my dear pure heart Consolata. She hosted me in her house and I had the chance to meet her sister and her lovely daughters Sherry and Stacy. Consolata took me to Kuwinda, a slum in Nairobi where she is working with the girls through her organization WomansHope. I talked to the girls on reproductive health. Right at that moment Consolata and I dropped the stone on the calm lake that starting forming new rings of ripples. We created a support group for teenagers in Kuwinda, a mentorship program, and another support group for girls who haven’t reached puberty yet. Consolata and I will have video conferences every month to monitor the development and implementation of the project. We count with the help of the school teacher of the slum, a terrific and very committed lady. The girls from the slum are also contacting me to keep track of their work. This project seems to have come from heaven, from the Pulse of heaven. I have never seen girls living in a slum who are so eager to improve their lives and make a change for the sake of their children (yes, most of these teenagers have already children of their own). My aim here is to keep the reproductive health program running for the teenagers and a prevention program for the youngest girls. Of course, the oldest girls would also like the opportunity to get trained to make their own living, but for now I have to be real and start slow. Our dream would be to keep the little girls away from pregnancy and the older ones away from STIs/HIV and from more unwanted pregnancies.
Mombasa June 2009 Lungalunga and Godo This is the part of my African journey that I treasure like the most precious and fine jewel in the world. What I experienced in Lungalunga and Godo was my gift from the Pulse, my gift from the universe. Once in Nairobi, I decided to go to Mombasa to meet my Rafiki (Rafiki Club-World Pulse). I wrote to Mama Africa (Project Africa-World Pulse) expressing my interest and she found the idea as fascinating as I did. The Rafiki Club is a literacy project launched by Mama Africa where women in these isolated areas of Kenya are taught how to write and read through an incredibly successful pen-pal system.
Mama Africa contacted Judy and Bendettah, the coordinators of the project in Lungalunga, to make arrangements and pick me up in Mombasa. The trip from Nairobi to Mombasa was long, 10 hours by bus. I left early morning and arrived at dusk. My guardian angel Judy was at the bus station waiting for me. We took another vehicle, crossed a small bay by ferry, on the Indian Ocean, and took a matatu (a public mini bus with capacity for 14 passengers; I counted 31 that night, promise!), another three-hour drive to reach Project Africa in Lungalunga. I arrived a little disoriented but happier than I could be.
Next day I meet the Rafikis from Lungalunga; what a beautiful moment! My heart is with all of them. We shared stories, we laughed, and we read the letters from the Rafikis from the “West”. Of course, we talked about reproductive health, and the women shared with me many of their health concerns, conditions most of them that can be easily prevented with a minimum of health care. Next day came, and with it the time to go to Godo and meet my Rafiki Mariam. I had taken the letter that I received from her to prove that she was my real Rafiki. The letter I wrote to her arrived in Lungalunga a week before my visit and Judy and Bendettah waited to give it to Mariam so she could read it in front of me. This experience was intense and surrealist, full of fantastic images and juxtapositions of realities, like a dream inside another dream, or a reality inside another reality.
That experience, as surrealist as it was, gave meaning to the nature of the written words, it gave meaning to what I write and to what I read. “Who is Mariam?” I asked to the group of many women who were waiting for me at the village school, “That one!” all at once answered pointed to a shy and beautiful woman. Mariam and I stood up, went towards the other, and became like two magnets from opposite parts of the world, strongly united in a tight hug of love and sisterhood. Together we danced, moving from one side to another in a rhythmic and slow motion while the other Rafikis laughed and applauded. We couldn’t separate. We were glued together through a powerful attraction. I don’t know if I was crying or laughing but tears ran down my face and neck. Mariam had my letter in her hand, I have hers in mine. Mariam opened my letter and read it aloud in front of all of us, and I lost track of time and space. Hearing Mariam reading a letter I had written for her two months ago when I had no idea this journey would be possible was too much for me. At that moment I sent a prayer to the universe, not to ask (I have more than enough) but to give, a prayer of gratitude and thankfulness, and I felt a warm awakening to the native words again "We are all connected."
Mariam’s daughter Peninah also read my daughter’s letter (Peninah and my daughter Sophia are also Rafikis). The experience became more and more unreal when Peninah read aloud the part where my daughter said “I just had a hair cut today, 8 inches, and now I have short hair…” (she even drew a smiling face). The Rafikis started laughing, literally cracking up, finding my daughter’s hair cut the funniest thing on earth. Considering that the women in Godo have no water, no electricity, no nothing, and work really hard everyday… and they cover their hair, the haircut issue of my daughter sounded too funny indeed, even to me. What my daughter didn’t say in her letter is that she donated the 8 inches to “Locks of Love” the organization that provides hairpieces to children who suffer burns or cancer.
The time passed fast, laughing and crying, even more when I tried to hold Peninah’s little baby (she is a 19 year-old single mom). The baby cried as he had seen the boogeywoman, and as a matter of fact for him I was the boogeywoman because he had never seen a white person before. Every time I looked at him from the distance, he cried unconsolable and of course all the Rafikis laughed even louder. I have a picture that captures me trying to hold the baby, I will share it soon.
After this experience in Lungalunga and Godo, I am determined to create, with the help of the Rafikis from the “West” (I am not sure what is East or West anymore, that is only a perception depending on where we are, right?) a MOBILE CLINIC, yes, I know this might sound like too much, but this is a very feasible project that can be launched very soon. If we all collaborate, we will not allow the ripples of life and hope to stop now.
Literacy and Mama Africa brought us together, the World Pulse made it possible for all of us to meet, and once again the rings of ripples that started forming then are becoming bigger and stronger as they moved away. Thanks to all of you, thanks to the World Pulse, WE ARE ALL CONNECTED! Araceli