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August 17, 2002

I have a confession...these entrys are very extremely difficult to write...I cannot ever seem to capture my experiences, my emotions, my thoughts in words...I cannot seem to come up with a way of explaining a truly different world. How do you explain what it feels like to see one of your dear students fall sick and no one seems to care? How do you explain the generousity of a 'street child'? How do you explain the curiousity of children who have never seen a TV, who have never read a book, and who make their own toys? How do you explain a night sky in a place with no electricity for miles and miles and miles to ruin the view? I simply do not have the words. I seem to say it often, but it is always worth repeating...I am lucky to be here. Endlessly. Completely.

My dear friend and Team-mate, Shannon, is working for the year near Maputo, the capital of Moçambique. She is working on an HIV/AIDS education and prevention campaign. I would like to share some of her words with you since she DOES seem to have the ability to capture a bit of what it is like here.

Shannon writes:


My work is great. Everyday just about I go into the fields with a different field officer to see what his/her passionates are doing. The more remote the better. It's very difficult work and I feel that nothing could have prepared me for the difficulty of poverty. It's so difficult when you are in a village and a woman comes to you explaining that she has been sick for 6 years and feels that soon she will no longer be able to care for her daughter and you go to her "house" and find only the frame of a house. You ask her what she eats and she points to the grass in the nearby field. You ask her what she drinks and she points to the cholera ridden river where the women are naked bathing. You ask if she has a husband and she tells you he left when she got sick. And you try to talk to her daughter but she's 6 years old and doesn't speak Portuguese because she never went to school.

All you want to do is give her everything you have. So you bring her some rice the next day and maybe a pot to boil some water in. And you realize that when you leave in a year who will be there to do this for her. Sustainability takes time and she has none.

And you go and visit her every week as well as the other four individuals you have met in the same way and you know that for each of these individuals there are so many others suffering. And you know that you are only one. And then you take some time to explore Maputo and you see where the government workers live and it's all you can do not to advocate stealing from them because sustainability takes time and these people have none. This is nothing new. This is nothing that is talked about where I come from. This is devastation.

Before I started the program it was expressed to me by friends' of my family that perhaps my energy was being wasted in such a devastated place. That maybe my energy might be better utilized at home in the good old USA where people have everything and systems (as poor as they are) to support them. That perhaps the people were causing their own suffering or just suffering too much to help themselves, let alone to know what to do with help from others. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Yes people are suffering here but this in no way means that their souls are suffering. They will go out of their way to help me or anyone else. There is an unspoken community it seems. Sure you have your thieves and such but most people treat each other with the utmost respect and honor. If these people, the Mozambicans, were truly suffering they would not care about their fellows in humanity. True devastation is when people who can help don't care anymore. But this you already know.

Shannon Brode may be reached by e-mail at: (Copy & Paste)