I sit on the porch of my thatched roof bungalow, close my eyes and listen. The sounds are distinct and yet they seem to merge into one harmonious sympohony. I hear a multitude of bird calls, shrill whistles, small chirps, loud caws, and deep throaty gurgles. Nearby cattle are lowing and a rooster, crowing since dawn is still at it. An axe is striking wood and hammers strike nails repetitively. Somewhere in the distance Afro pop plays on the radio and many voices shout to one another in that beautiful melodic language that is Swahili.
When I was invited to join the 2006 Phil Simon Clinic Tanzania Project nearly a year ago I was excited and empowered by the notion that I might, in some small way, make a difference in the fight against the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania. As our departure date neared and the reality of the trip began to sink in, I was increasingly occupied by feelings of anxiety and even fear. Fear of the devestation brought about by the disease that is HIV/AIDS. Instead what I have encountered again and again in the events of the past week is a message of comittment and hope. Comittment on the part of Tanzanians serving those who are infected and ill and hope brought about by the advent of antiretroviral therapy. With treatment comes hope and a lessening of the feeling of shame brought about by this brutal disease.
Nowhere have the messages of comittment and hope been more evident than on Friday where we visited St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and an orphanage caring for well over 250 children. There is no doubt about the devistation wrought by disease throughout Africa. HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, and poor nutrition are just a few of the contibutors. It would be easy enough to lose hope, and simply give up in the face of such devestation. Nonetheless, we have had the honor to meet many caring and remarkable human beings who are devoting their lives to taking care of those who cannot.
I was brought to tears by both the doctors, nurses and social workers we met who are giving their lives in the service of caring for others. My life has been changed by their beauty and strength, heart and soul.