The past month has helped to highlight some of the things I have taken for granted. Coming to Mali has definitely helped put many things in perspective. Even in the depth of the economic crisis in America, no American can be as poor as the poorest Malian. Here poverty is not unique. It envelopes you in all directions from the children in tattered clothes that play outside to the quality of the meal that is eaten. While it affects you in some ways because it is so prominent in every direction it almost grows on you as a norm. Almost that is till you see a young girl selling fruit on the street to support her family or young children begging in the street. Here lunch consists of rice and sauce while dinner may be beans, peas, cucumbers or potatoes. Here protein is a blessing and meat, fish and eggs are eaten by mainly the more well off. The next burger is 1 hour away in the capital city of Bamako. Nevertheless, I am lucky. Lucky to have a comfortable home, lucky to have food on the table three times a day, lucky to have water anytime I please, lucky not to have to work in the hot sun or the terrible rains, lucky to have been blessed to appreciate a difference. I am blessed.
This past month I have not been able to rely as much on Yeah, simply because he has been in the US raising funds. I have had to handle many things on my own in a foreign country speaking almost little to none of the language. In these past few weeks, my belief in my abilities has grown with my language abilities. I also have come to appreciate the caretaker role that Yeah plays among his 17 brothers and sisters. When my nephew Boi was seriously ill, the village clinic was the last thing that was considered. This was mainly because of money. Over here to buy the medicine to combat the malaria, it cost $22 and the entire hospital stay was $14. To an average Malian, that’s 20 days of pay. To me, the cost seemed minimal as I had come from a country where a hospital stay for an hour costs about $200 after really good insurance. I am blessed.
It amazes me too how the kids have rapidly adjusted to life here. The first month, the only things on their mind was their friends at daycare and their grandma in Alpine, Utah. Today they talk about playing in the mud outside, climbing trees and taking walks. Keanen also experienced his first insect attack. Well, kind off. He walked into my room in the dark and stepped on a bee. Yes a bee. The next thing I hear is this great shriek followed by some serious hopping and tears streaming down his face. At this time we thought he had just stepped on something. I looked at his foot and took out what I thought was a splinter. As I went hunting for the Band-Aids (not because anything was bleeding, rather just for comfort), I found the writhing bee. I was panicked as Keanen had never been bitten before. However all was fine after some good old Benadryl and a lot of hugs. The other day Keanen was talking about school. He didn’t seem too excited. I think he worries about making friends and understanding them. If only he knew, I worry more. Some days I wish I could take away every worry, but how else would he grow strong. We have been working on his numbers and letters in English. Now to start teaching him the French side of things. Carmen seems to get a deep pleasure in taunting Keanen. A year older, it seems to have only given her a fresh confidence in the teasing game. Keanen usually handles her for all of 2 minutes before there is a punch (usually when I am not looking) followed by injured wailing. Today I was telling Carmen that I couldn’t fix the light in one room. With confidence she said, “Daddy will fix it. Daddy can fix anything. I’m sure Mom”. Such confidence is comforting. The other day as I was lying on the couch, Carmen came and asked me if I was OK. Then she gave me a kiss and said “I love you Mom”. First reaction was “Now what did you do??” The innocent reply was “Nothing mom”. As she walked away, I realized to myself how lucky I am as a mom. I have two kids that even though they are different as night and day, they are healthy, happy and blessed to have a bright future. I am blessed.
Now how do we take what many have in America as a right and translate it across the globe to Mali. How can the children of Mali have the carefree childhood that my children enjoy. How can we say that we are poor when it is all so relative? Poor based on what? Money we used to have or money we want? Take a look at Mali. Why should a young girl in Mali not have the right to get an education? Why in Mali should children beg in the street when they should be in school? Why should three meals a day not be a staple? Why should healthcare not be enjoyed by all? Why should Mali be a poor country? All these things are not things that cannot be corrected. They can if someone has the strength to stop them. All people deserve a good education, equal opportunity and good healthcare. It all starts with education. If people are educated then they will have the ability to raise themselves out of poverty. 54% of the electoral are youth. If the youth are mobilized and education becomes the priority, they will have the ability to change their future and the future of generations to come. The time is now and the time has come for change.