With a small cry, eight year old Saodatu crawled into my lap last night as I sat, devastated, in the dark on the crumbling mud bricks behind Pa Roke’s house. For thirty minutes Sao held me almost as tightly as I held her as we both summoned the strength to go in and visit Aminata. Saodatu had come to see her playmate, whose lifeless body had just been brought home from the hospital. Aminata left Mapaki in our ambulance just hours before, suffering from internal bleeding after a fall days earlier. Unfortunately, the doctors were not able to provide her with the needed transfusion in time and Aminata died. Sao was not quite able to make into the house and released my hand as I stepped in to sit with the family next to the tiny, lappa-wrapped body laid out in a corner of the dimly oil lamp lit room. I cried and cried last night, realized how my own illness has probably protected me from too many similar events in Mapaki over the last few weeks and reflected on how “normal” but still difficult it has become to visit small lifeless bodies, something that we just don’t experience in Canada. I thought about this as I lie in bed last night reading a description of “structural adjustment” hospitals in Rwanda, places that you pay to go to to die, as economic policies dictate that hospitals are unaffordable as places of treatment. I wonder how many small lifeless bodies have been visited by those setting economic policies and wonder if a few such experiences could possibly have any impact on the decisions made so far from these sad walls.
This morning I am in the library, typing these notes as all around me sit clusters of teachers from our twinning schools, come together to read and review the exchange of letters between their students and students in schools a great distance away in North America. We started the morning, after personal prayers for Aminata’s peace (Aminata’s house in adjacent to the library and mourners are streaming in and out as we work), by reading a letter received this morning from Canada. Grade six teacher, Angela wrote, “It is hard to believe how quickly this year has passed. I've shared your letter with my students and showed them the photos of the Mabarr school kids reading their letters. They were so excited to see a small part of themselves integrated with your students. We have put together our last letter to this group of students and I know each of my students will never forget this experience. I also want to thank you for this opportunity, Carolyn. I've enjoyed it immensely and have learned as much as my students.” Today teachers here are reading their twin schools letters, some for the first time, and reflecting on what lessons students have learned from this experience. Our hope is that students have moved from getting to know about each other to learning with each other to learning to act on the world to make it a better place for all. Over the next few months I hope to be working with a great team of Sierra Leonean and Canadian researchers to investigate the impact of this initiative. Stay posted for news on this.
Sorry for the lack of photos...internet upload issues are under investigation.