Wednesday, June 17, 2009

hodge podge

By Morgan Clark

Last 5:30 am prayer session!!! After which we sorted through remaining
shoes (about 400) and got ready for the day.

We went to the hospital where pro-health was running their free health clinic to give shoes out to the children in the pediatric ward and those waiting for surgery or were waiting with their parents. Majority of these children did not own any pairs of shoes, so we felt very helpful at this site.

We set up in the pharmacy, and Lauren, King, Chris, and myself had a good shop running… we were able to keep it calm, and quiet, and efficient so that the children wouldn’t be disturbed as their feet were washed. We worked straight for 3-4 hours, tirelessly, and it really paid off.

There was a school nearby, and as soon as word got out that we were distributing shoes, we probably had about 500 schoolchildren submerging onto the hospital in eager anticipation.

Molly, Frank, Andrew and Tracie did an excellent job on crowd control…and believe me, it was tough. Molly shared a story about a mom taking another child hostage until her child would be given shoes. It took a lot of strength for them to face the crowds – it’s so hard to turn away such pleading faces.

We worked from 10-2ish and then went back to our hotel to pack up and get lunch on the way to the airport for our flight to Lagos. Before we left, we had a goodbye visit from Andrew’s family, which was filled with pictures, gifts, and so much love. We were really blessed to have them there (along with his church family), as they showed us an entirely different side of Benin City (plus Andrew’s nephew Dunamis is unbelievably cute!).

Andrew & Frank saw us off to the airport and we flew to Lagos, where we’ll stay until Monday. PS- you can only buy a ticket for your plane AT the airport ON the SAME day you want to fly (interesting concept?).

LAGOS
Well, I knew Lagos had about 14 million people, but flying in really put it into perspective (I couldn’t see it really when we first landed there on our way in from Atlanta)… I’ve flown into LA and NY, and they pale in comparison to the size of this “city.”

I had read some great articles about Lagos on slate.com before we came (thanks to my boyfriend’s research skills), but WOW… Lagos is something to experience. Such a BUSY, moving city. It’s definitely a lot like NY, but on a completely different economic level. The traffic is insane, the buildings, the people, it’s crazy! SOOOO different from Benin – it doesn’t even feel like the same country. Also, the electricity still goes out a lot here too – imagine such power outages in NYC and how they would go crazy – here it is the norm.

Anyway, we flew into Lagos arriving around 6ish, where our contact Henry met us. Henry volunteers with Pro Health and is awesome – what a funny guy. Coincidentally, he is flying to Raleigh next weekend for a week to visit a friend. I’ll actually be in Raleigh that weekend, so we have made plans to meet up – can’t wait to see him “on the other side”. Henry took us to dinner, to our hotel (which is very nice as I sit here using the internet, it’s actually fast!) and we all crashed for the night.

SATURDAY
Woke up this morning, and Henry took us to meet Pastor Rex, who works with Hands At Work in Africa, a charity sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, that does some amazing things. Everyone, google Hands at Work RIGHT NOW because this is AMAZING organization that gives the tools to the community members to help better their lives.

Rex took us to the real slums of Lagos... to communities where so many kids have been affected by HIV/AIDS and to communities where they refer to them as “water people." Manny told us a quick story about how here, when a baby is born, some throw it into the “water” (which is like a giant sewage dump that you cannot believe is the Atlantic ocean) and if the baby floats up to the top, they keep it. If it doesn’t, they leave it. Insane.

We were given Hands at Work white coats and rainboots to wear as we walked around, to protect us from the slush we were walking through – the same slush that the kids were running through barefoot. I am still trying to process what we saw today… it’s hard to imagine that people can live like this. But still, the children were so happy to see us. They have the brightest smiles, and it’s really the only thing that makes me feel not terrible – to know that they are still able to be happy.

I don’t think I’ve seen children smile so genuinely before (other than a baby’s first laugh) like they do here. You can see it all over their faces how happy it makes them for us to sing to them, play with them, handshake or high five.

Pastor Rex and Hands at Work has established a free school for some children in the community as there are NO government schools in this “water” area. They also are able to feed the children, and we served
them their lunch today at their school. The school is a shanty that is divided into four “classrooms,” and they were learning English and math. Wonderful teachers. Heartbreaking though – this was a totally different level than the schools we saw in Benin City and the village there. Pastor Rex and his wife are an amazing couple, and I’m so glad to meet him. I will definitely be involved with Hands at Work from now on!

That’s all I have to say today... I am really still speechless so I’m glad I could manage this. Andrew has just joined us again tonight, along with his friend Moses (yay!), and we’ll hang with them until we leave. We missed Andrew & Frank a lot today, as they always have side comments or something to point out on our drives, that without them, we wouldn’t have noticed.

To sum up: LAGOS is CRAZY. I miss Benin City, haha. No, but I can see why Frank likes to come to Lagos – it’s definitely one big party in certain areas. Our hotel has a pool and poolside bar and plays lots of islandy music – very calypso – reminds me a LOT of the Bahamas. My college friends who went on spring break with me there – the hotel here is very similar. So funny. Lots of love to all!

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