Holy week has arrived (the fun week) and we have been baking for most of the weekend for the priests major fathers and the minor fathers for Easter we blasted the poor nuns with our less than reverent music while we cooked, it was well worth it. We were rockin’ out to Jimi Hendrix, Nat King Cole and Tom Waits and even got Sister Reggie to get into it, imagine a sweet nun rolling dough balls dancing to the likes of Ray Charles, Muddy Waters and Rolling Stones. It was awesome J We did make an exception for when the Bishop came and switched to Mozart but the jammin continued once he left. With over ten hours of cooking time under us we completed the baking with six different cookies, brownies, and date bars and got them packaged up in lovely saran wrap and bow.
With only sixteen more days left here in Adigrat my aunt and I are still shocked about how much we don’t know though we are right in the middle of it all we are still unaware about the slow progression the town is making and what they continue to live without. We visited the parish priest, Selassie Tesfay and gained some valuable information about this community. The town of Adigrat has a population of over 111,000 and they have confirmed over 300 aids victims that have come out and are taking care of their disease but they know there are thousands more that have not/will not come out because of fear and shame of public humiliation or they are still unaware they have the disease. The problematic areas are villages further out where girls are uneducated and will prostitute themselves and the soldiers and men are lonely and have nothing else really to do and when people get drunk and lonely-stuff happens naturally. The ways the catholic community tries to prevent and spread awareness is through clinics and reaching out to the youth organizing youth groups, recreational activities and sports to keep the young adults active and lectures about faith, abstinence, community and love (no education or support of condoms) in the inner city it has seen improvement and awareness in the youth but the outer areas of Adigrat are harder to reach and the issue of HIV is still at large in the rural lands. The people are invited to attend workshops in the city and blood testing is available and many representatives try to go out to Sassie and Zalaambasa to be of closer access to the villagers living further away. Volunteer work is needed for people to go out into the place were HIV is most prevalent and tell the people what is happening and the consequences of their actions. Lectures do take place in the military bases but there is only so much talking they do and hopefully they don’t all fall on deaf ears.
In outlaying states of Ethiopia there are practices among the people that also are harmful to the youths and have a high risk of spreading the aids disease. For example there are towns that are still practicing the rite of passage for girls through circumcision were they remove half of the clitoris. The girls are usually seven or eight years old and she is not deemed marriageable unless this ritual is performed, removing half the clitoris also cuts her sex drive and she wont have the desire to “sleep around”. The people who make a living on this profession are paid by one goat per circumcision this person becomes very rich very fast. They use one unsterile knife for circumcising all the girls in the town, imposing a huge risk to the spread of disease among the girls. If the girl refuses this practice she is forced to become a prostitute because no one will marry her and she needs to make a living somehow and that is the only option. This ritual also is detrimental to marriages because the woman now has no sex drive and the husband in turn will become frustrated and become unfaithful. The government is trying to stop this ritual but they must train the people who have made a living on circumcision into a different profession so they don’t go hungry when this custom is becomes obsolete. Or if the villagers don’t let go of their old customs then they need to use ONE STERILE knife per girl so there is no chance of spreading disease.
Due to no contraception really enforced in the towns there is a large population of children in the town, no less than five kids per family. A lot are child headed house holds because that lost their parents by aids. A lot of these children have no place else to go but the streets and become “street children” begging or stealing for money and with no intervention or guidance from a elder figure they risk growing up to be criminals more desperate for money and a means to survive with nothing going for them. Slowly but surely centers are being built up to help the vulnerable and the homeless kids with education, finances and job skills so they can have a better chance and making a living and not becoming dependant on stealing or begging as a source of income. Same with adult and the elderly beggars, centers are opened up so they can come and earn their food instead of begging for it. The centers are a source of training as well as moral support and guidance. The religious in the town are also trying to pry into the lives of how these people became beggars in the first place so they can go to the source and stop it before it even happens.
Healthcare is a huge issue here. This year 2009 the bishop was able to get anesthetics in the town, up till then there were none available so if anybody got hurt or broke anything they would have to travel for days, weeks to get to a hospital that could help them. You walk the streets sometimes and you see beggars who have severely deformed body parts, half blind, missing limbs and its sad to think that with a decent health care system so they could get the proper surgery performed they wouldn’t be so destitute and helpless. This town is also still in need of the special drugs a pregnant AIDS mother takes so she doesn’t transfer her aids to her infant during birth. They are in serious need of healthcare professionals and health care education.
Things are improving now they have anesthetics and they can perform corrective surgery without killing the person. They still are in need of skilled professionals to help care for the sick, homeless and HIV infected. Nurses, doctors and pediatricians all are in high demand in these parts. Media coverage of the growing organizations and help groups is also needed to spread the reality of these little developing cities.
Donations are very much needed from anyone who has anything to give; the biggest donations they get are about 400 Birr, that is 40 american dollars there are plans that need financial help to get off the ground such as a hospice to be built for the dying AIDS victims so they have a place to die instead of wasting away in the streets and the youth organizations also need funding as well so they can open more doors to the homeless and poor villagers and teach skills for work and provide childcare for orphans and neglected children living on the street. I will write back with more info soon about the organizations and contact info and hopefully pictures but no promises on that. Much love to everyone reading this and thank you for your continuing support!