When I think about poverty I usually think about living in crowded conditions, getting by on little food and not having the little extras that life has to offer. I grew up in a home where things were pretty simple and we didn’t have a lot, but I never knew we were poor. Looking back I can see that by most people’s standards we were. We always laughed about eating bread and scrape (putting the butter on your bread and then scraping it off for the next person) I remember when I did not have a bed, but slept on the living room floor. I had one drawer in a closet and few clothes. Things were simple but I don’t really associate being poor with negative emotions.
Today I saw one of the hard parts about poverty. The women that work for Musana aren’t “dirt poor” in the way that some might think, but they don’t have it easy and they certainly don’t have the extras. Medina, had six daughters before she finally had her last child, a little boy named Benji. Benji was the first child I saw when I got to Uganda and I was mesmerized by his bright eyes and big dimples. I thought he was about the cutest kid ever.
When he was born his mother had him circumcised by a local man instead of taking him to the hospital to have it done. The money for transport to the hospital was hard to come by so it was easier to just do it locally. The man who did it, cut the urethra leaving Benji with a pretty serious problem that will have a huge impact on the rest of his life if it is not corrected. Recently, his mother took him to see Andrew, a Scottish doctor who is volunteering here this summer. Andrew told her that his condition was serious and that he needs to go to a hospital.
So Ellen’s parting gift was transport money and Medina and I took little Benji to the hospital. After several hours on the road in the crowded taxi and then several more in the waiting room, the doctor finally saw Benji. He said that he would need surgery and soon. He would be hospitalized for three days and the estimated cost would be about the equivalent to what Medina can bring in, in a years time. Sitting in
that doctor’s office looking at Medina’s face, little Benji sitting on her lap, I realized that these are the moments that make poverty hard.
“What can I do? Where can I get that kind of money?” She asked questions like this over and over on the ride back to Lugazi and I had no answers for her.