When the buses pulled in to the Cwero clinic at 9 o’clock, the clinic site was already packed with people, some had been there since 2:00 in the morning.
Among the hundreds waiting for a chance to be seen by the medical team, a young woman struck up a conversation in perfect English.
Her name is Juliet. She’s 25 years old and the mother of 2 beautiful children: 4-year old Matilda and 2-year old Mitch Lawrence.
Her life has not been easy by any measure. Her mother and father died of HIV when she was 18 years old, “little by little,” as she put it. The family lived in fear during the years of war; her brother had been kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
She is well spoken and clearly smart. “I dreamed of becoming a lawyer,” she said. “My teacher liked me a lot because I was bright.”
Without parents or money, schooling was not an option. Juliet said it was best to find “someone who could take care of me.”
She and her husband farm for corn, millet, sweet potatoes and bananas. She lives in a traditional thatch hut where she graciously invited me inside.
Juliet demonstrated the little fire pit where she cooks, where the family sleeps, how she grinds corn and saves her seeds in corn husks for the next season. All of this in a small circular space. She was a little embarrassed about the beans on the tidy dirt floor and used her little broom made of reeds to sweep them away. She proudly showed me two chairs that she said were “for when the ladies come to talk.”
Juliet represents what the women of Africa are when you get away from the stereotypes: smart, resourceful, committed to the community and wanting the very best for their children. “My dream is for my children to be educated,” said Juliet. “That is what I would like.”
Juliet is not so different from the American team staffing the clinic. The main difference between her and all of us is not intelligence, resourcefulness or resilience – merely a lack of opportunity. She is a mom who works hard and wants her kids to have a good life.
This is what I have loved about Medical Missions Foundation from the beginning. The dignity with which the staff treats every parent, and the nurturing way they treat every child as if they were family.
More than that, the Medical Missions team always seems to find a special bond, finding cherished friends in the countries where they work, so close it often feels like family.
Juliet does not have indoor water, a phone or electricity. But she is wealthy.
Out of the 700 people who arrived at the Cwero clinic, I am grateful Juliet decided to strike up that conversation. Just one more valuable gift this trip has given me, that didn’t cost any money.