Day 10: A Not-So Merry Christmas
As usual, the roosters and the sheep were the first to rise this morning. But Foster was not too far behind. At the crack of dawn, he came banging on the door yelling “Wake up, it’s Christmas!” After Adam and I slowly dragged ourselves out of bed, we were handed our first Christmas present of the day. Dan delivered a document from the farmers. They had met and written a constitution, outlining their rules of operations, potential loan repayment schemes, and even giving their group a name (Kano Egye Man – meaning Group Strength and Togetherness). Needless to say, this Christmas was off to a great start!
As we dressed and prepared ourselves to meet with the group of farmers, Foster returned with more news. “I must go,” he said. “Someone has passed.” Startled, Adam and I also left and headed towards the big Mango tree where all of the town meetings occur. Instead of hearing Christmas carols and seeing children scurry from house to house collecting gifts of yams and cassava, we only heard sobs of agony and saw devastated friends and family clawing at the Earth, pleading for the morning news to be untrue. Along the way, we learned that a 17 year old boy had died early in the morning. He died of Hepatitis B, a gruesomely easy illness to prevent. Today gave too real of a meaning to the phrase we hear day in and day out during our interviews: “I will use the dry-season money to pay for my children to go to the hospital.” So instead of dancing and drinking pito, we sat under the mango tree as the church choir sang songs of mourning. In the background, men scrambled to the cemetery to dig a grave. In Ekumdipe, the time one has to say goodbye to loved ones is cut short by a lack of embalming fluid.
Towards the end of the funeral, everyone dropped donations into a bucket for the family of the deceased. Nana, a young lady around our age, then told us, “Christmas is over. Today we mourn.” We put Project RISE aside for the day and focused our hearts and prayers on the young man and his family.