Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dirt Poor

You’re about 16 years old. Not really sure what year you were born in. Your father died when you were an infant. You have never attended a day of school in your life. You cannot read or write- not even your name. You mix up the numbers counting to ten in Duhluo, your native language. Jiggers(pinhole sized bugs) burrow into your skin because you sleep on the dirt floor of your hut. Your brother is mentally handicap and doesn’t speak. Your mother is too weak to gather firewood to sell at the market. The straw roof of your house is falling apart so every time it rains you get soaked. You have no consistent food supply. In recent months your food supply has been the washed up omena (like sardines) dried up on the shore of the lake. This is the life of Gaston Omundi.

Two weeks ago Gaston and his family were brought to St. Camillus by a community health worker and fellow CMMB volunteer, Kayla. The first few days Mary, Gaston, and Michael just laid in bed so worn out by their living situation. Being admitted to the hospital was like checking into a five star hotel. They each had a bed, 3 meals a day, running water, electricity, didn’t have to worry about the impending afternoon thunderstorm and most importantly access to healthcare. We spent a week excising jiggers from their hands, feet, and butts. All the result of months of sleeping on a infested dirt floor. (Like bed bugs but more painful.) Hours were spent soaking and digging out the jiggers. Puss, blood, and larvae flowed out of the sores we opened. A painful process, but very much needed. I’ve seen lots of unpleasant things working in hospitals but this may be at the top of this list.

While all this was going on at the hospital, a new home was being constructed for the family. The old house needed to be burned down to prevent the spread of the bugs. Its kind of like Extreme Home Makeover..Kenya Edition. Instead of Ty Pennington flying you to Disney World, the white people take you to the hospital. To this family the hospital was Disney World!

Gaston and I became friends. He’d drop by x-ray always in a cheerful mood. I didn’t know weather to feel happiness or disgust that this child was so happy. He was always singing, dancing, and laughing which is great. At the same time, my four year old niece is more educated then this 16 year old. What does his future hold? He cant even become a fisherman or a farmer because he doesn’t know how to count. He’ll be cheated every time he tries to sell his goods. What is going to happen to him? It became my goal to teach him how to count to ten in Duhluo. Every morning he’d be waiting for me to arrive at work and we would count over and over and over. “Achiel, areiyo, adeick,…” He’d mix up 4 and 6 a lot and he’d just start laughing as I wanted to pull out my hair. How can I get this into his mind?! I have incredible respect for teachers! By the end of his stay he was almost counting to ten consistently. “Teach maber, Gaston!” (Good work!)

On Friday I had the privilege of taking them back home. They lit up as they saw their new house. With full bellies and no jiggers they started a new chapter in life. A social worker will continue to work with them to make sure they stay that way.

Welcome home, jigger family!


Kayla Bronder said...

Lauren, again your excellent writing skills truly display the craziness of the whole situation. You're help was invaluable in helping them heal and getting them home safe and sound. Thanks so much for everything and Tich Maber!!

Duncan Onguta said...

How are doing in Karungu Kenya I am from there but now living in Toronto Canada.