March 8, 2006

I'm the Guilty One


There is a story today in the New York Times about the AIDS epidemic among African children. In the past decade, the disease has overwhelmed the African continent and millions of adults and children now live with the virus.

The country of Lesotho, tucked away in South Africa, is not spared from this epidemic. Two pediatric AIDS clinics have opened in the country in the past year, but thousands of children still do not receive any treatment. Half of the infants who are born HIV positive die before their second birthday due to lack of medical treatment. How tragic this is considering medicines can prolong their lives by decades.

When seven year-old Tsokotsa Lepheane came to the clinic, he only weighed 36 pounds. Both of his parents have succumbed to AIDS; his mother in 2000, his father in 2003. His grandmother, who now raises him, sold homemade brooms to purchase the $5 bus fare to take him to the clinic. In recent weeks, Tsokotsa has refused to eat solid food. The only thing he ingests is hot water---or medicine, as he calls it.

The hospitals and clinics in Lesotho are filled to the brim. The infants in the AIDS ward are sometimes crammed three to a crib. Doctors and nurses are heavily overworked; the turnover rate is high. "Everybody is running away," said Maneo Tsoaeli, the head nurse of the government-run Quthing Hospital. "The situation is so pathetic."

When I read articles like this or look at photo essays of modern-day slavery, a wave of sadness spreads over my skin. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do little children have to suffer so much? And is there anything I can do to help?

And when I look at my life, I realize that there are so many instances when I criticize my government or my political leaders. There are so many times when I cry into my pillow at night, overwhelmed by the stresses in my life. And there are so many times when I wake up from my soft bed, wash my face with clean running water, grab a bite to eat from my kitchen that overflows with food, and yet I mope and groan about paying taxes and grumble about the failings of the democratic system.

At times, I look up at the sky and angrily ask, "Aren't you up there? How can you let this happen?"

And if I wasn't so angry and frustrated, I would hear the quiet and humble reply. "How are you letting this happen?"

5 comments:

  1. Thanks Caroline. Very insightful and inspiring.

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  2. My favorite post, yet. I often think the very same thing. But then I wonder, what should I do? Who will wash the dishes and change my daughter's diapers if I go save the AIDS orphans? How does it all work? Let me know when you figure out how to help (I'm serious) and I'll be right there with you.

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  3. Yeah let me know as well if you ever figure it out.

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  4. Hmmmm...I know, what a quandary that faces us all! On one hand, I want to help out desperately, but on the other hand, I just don't know where to start.

    I wish I had a passion for science and then I could become a doctor or a nurse and do volunteer work in Africa. But surely, my own strengths and talents could be used somehow to alleviate world suffering...

    I guess for now, my philosophy is to do all I can within my sphere of influence. I've started to volunteer once a week and I think I would also like to volunteer at a nursing home on the weekends. And I will try my hardest every day to help those in need and uplift those around me.

    And I think for you, Jami, you can do so much within your own sphere by taking care of Amira and helping her to become a caring and kind individual, just like yourself. When she gets older, you can do volunteer work as a family and expose her to the idea that we need to help out whoever we can.

    Perhaps when all of us are a bit older and make a steadier income, we can go to Africa and do volunteer work for a week! How does that sound?

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