In 2012 I was serving with Mercy Ships in Conakry, Guinea. The pace of life had just picked up with the arrival of Christina Fast, (I mentioned in my previous post that after visiting one hospital in Sierra Leone, Christina returned to Canada inspired to create her own NGO (Sterile Processing Educational Trust -SPECT).
Christina wished to visit the HOPE Centre. We sat for hours playing games with children and their caregivers. ‘Jenga’ is a huge hit there, and it is amazing to see how skilled the little ones are in getting the block tower to stay standing. Great excitement erupts when the tower falls. Some things are cross-cultural!
A young man there, who was an Albino, intrigued me. He had a wound on his forehead the size of the circumference of a large muffin paper. The sore was at least a ¼ of an inch deep- the result of Noma (a devastating infection). I watched as he knelt to pray in a small, quiet corner of the HOPE Centre.
As he touched his forehead to the floor in reverence, his wound touched the floor as well. It spoke deeply to me of his faith and dedication. I was surprised by how many Albinos I saw throughout my time there. They fare far better in West Africa, than in East Africa (where rumors of voodoo curses, murders and kidnappings for human organs abound).
Theirs is a difficult life – filled with rejection and chronic unemployment. I encountered Albinism three times in my time with Mercy Ships. In my early days of serving in Sierra Leone, I was traveling in a van, which was stopped in traffic.
A little boy came running up to the window where I was sitting, and grabbed my arm in joyful surprise. I could not understand what he was saying, but his Mother quickly explained that he was so excited to see me because I was like his Uncle. The Mother told me his Uncle was Albino.
The second encounter involved a group of us who were traveling on the weekend by boat- to a beach in Sierra Leone. On the way, we had to stop for gas at a marina. As the fuel tank was being filled, a woman ran towards my friends with a newborn baby in her arms, pleading desperately with them to take her child who was Albino. “She should be with you”, the Mother cried. I am puzzled and saddened by our world where too much or too little melanin- a simple pigment, creates so much prejudice and so many misunderstandings.
The HOPE centre was a place of peace for him, as it is for many of our patients, and I am reminded of how important this piece of the Mercy Ships puzzle is as Canadians continue to support the next HOPE centre in Cameroon. We are so grateful for this support!
Until next time, Jane
YOUR GIFT IS DOUBLED DURING THE MONTH OF APRIL!