Childish questions

Jul 10th, 2009 | By | Category: International

1st July 2009

Not eating a brochette from a roadside stop would have meant not having to travel to a Kigali clinic to be diagnosed with food poisoning; it would have meant being able to travel up country.  It would have meant a bus ride through a spectacular national park, instead of being left behind, alone.

It would also have meant an opportunity lost; an opportunity to meet people where they were; in their own houses; in their own communities; on their own ground.

It might have been less troubling to have gone to the national park.

Printing off photographs, an encounter with a group of children comes back to mind.  “Take our picture”, they had said, when turning out my pockets showed I had nothing other than a camera.

Hiding behind the camera, questions did not arise at the time.

Odd questions, like who decided that African children must wear European dress, particularly when that means dressing in little more than rags?

In a country that is so concerned about the biodegradability of waste that it has banned polythene bags, how did plastic sandals suddenly appear as the most common form of footwear?

What games did they play before being taught to fashion a football from rags?

What are the requirements of true happiness when a group of children living in absolute poverty can appear so joyous?

What future is there for someone born into absolute deprivation?

What life expectancy is there?

In a year’s time, how many will be left? In two years’ time?

What sort of civilised world can spend trillions on weaponry and billions on entertainment, and yet cannot look after its own children?


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  1. Terribly sad. I wonder if ignnorance really is bliss, perhaps they just don’t know what they’re missing.

  2. I think kids who understand that a digital camera will give them an immediate picture probably know more about the world than might be imagined.

  3. Ian, The ‘Odd questions, like who decided that African children must wear European dress, particularly when that means dressing in little more than rags?’, is something that always troubles me. At least twice a week we have plastic sacks pushed through the door requesting clothes for the third world. I am not happy with them for two reasons.

    The first, is that very often the phone numbers and web addresses printed are non existent. Dubious companies playing on the ‘generosity’ of people who think their offerings are going to the third world.

    The second reason takes me back to my days as a volunteer for Save the Children Fund. I remember two things said back then – it was during the first wave of famine in Ethiopia – The first was about food and the second was about clothing.

    Firstly: WE (the 1st & 2nd worlds) had no right to walk in and bring these starving people back from the claws of death and then walk away. Once we gave food aid we had the responsibility to hang in there for the duration, teaching the people skills to grow, and feed themselves as well as other trades. Then and only then were we free to come home.

    The second: Was about goods being donated for these good causes. We should not hand over any item that we were not prepared to wear ourselves. Giving our ‘rags’ was an insult not alone to the people but to our Creator.

  4. I agree, wholeheartedly!

    I was in a school library in Rwanda that had received a consignment of books from England and had put these on their shelves – they included an industrial history of India from the 1950s and a US Government handbook for 1991-92 and other useless material – most of the consignment should have gone in a green bin. I felt angry that whoever had sent this stuff obviously felt that this would do for those people ‘over there’, that the people were not worthy of being sent proper books.

  5. Ian,

    I trust the Kigali clinic had a functioning loo? :mrgreen:

    What sort of civilised country can spend millions on tribunals and consultants’ reports, and yet cannot look after it’s own children’s health?

  6. I can verify the functionality of the Kigali toilet.

    I remembering being shocked when I moved to Dublin first and discovered that there was no proper medical service for children; I think that the persistence of for profit health care has its roots in the McQuaid-Browne dispute – something that has never been fully resolved.

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