Sunday, June 10, 2007
This month, I made my first nomination for a Just Post. I don't know why I haven't nominated a post before this, because I think the Just Posts are wonderful and raising this community to think about things we might otherwise keep pushing away and avoid thinking about.
Actually I nominated two posts (I LOVE that I don't have to pick just one), but one was one of Jen's and I figured that one would be included anyways. The other post was The Silent K's Mad Spirit Pride. Both of these posts hit very close to home for me, as we continue to struggle to get help for our mentally ill family member. There's nothing new to say about our personal situation, except that we are keeping in touch with the mental health services and if someone doesn't want to get help, there's not much you can do until they pose a real, immediate risk to themselves or others; risks like forgetting to turn off the stove or not keeping food in the house, outside of the more violent risks that come to mind like suicidal tendencies or violent behaviour. Sadly, I suspect it will come to one of those former risks with an emergency call to the police before she gets help.
Anyways, this post isn't about me; it's about two posts that really spoke to me on the subject of social justice. Where Jen's post made me fear for the future, that our family member could end up on a street corner completely alienated from her family (and I do think that scenario is within the realm of possibility, even with the amount that we care about her), The Silent K's post made me feel hopeful that there are people in the mental healthcare field who recognize that mental health is a spectrum, and we all move up and down it over our lives, who move up and down that spectrum themselves. Some of us just go further than others. Thank you, Krista.
Also this month, Jen and Mad are celebrating the six-month anniversary of the Just Posts, and are asking us to put our money where our blogs are, through one of two charities. This month, we are invited to donate to Open Arms, a small organization in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, focused on providing a home for AIDS orphans and keeping them integrated with the culture and community of their village. Because Jen has met these people and put a human face to administrators, I have donated. Mad has also endorsed the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time knows that I've been to South Africa twice and am deeply in love with the place and its people. I have written a lot of words on the subject already, and will likely write many more, and if you haven't read some of them before, help yourself to the South Africa category down on my sidebar. A few things that seem worth writing about/repeating now. In Soweto, I was struck by the number of billboards advertising funeral homes... come to think of it, I've never seen even one billboard for a funeral home here. It is obvious that a lot of funerals are being held in South Africa, thanks to AIDS and the systemic barriers to treatment.
I think I will take a township tour every time we visit the country. The townships are vibrant places so different from anything I've experienced here. I can't figure them as slums, because the people I see in the townships, even in the poorest informal settlements with handmade tin and cardboard shacks built on top of each other and a single water faucet per street, are pretty well-dressed and take pride in their homes. While stopped at a traffic light, I took a picture of a woman hanging her laundry up in her backyard that is smaller than my living room, and she kept gesturing to me. It took me a while to figure out that she was inviting me into her home; she wanted to talk to me. If I hadn't been on a formal tour, I'd have jumped at the chance but as it was we had to keep moving.
During this same tour, we drove through another informal settlement, in the middle of which was a big cemetery. It was huge. It strikes me that the people who lay in that cemetery probably have more space to themselves than they've ever had in their lives. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Now here's where I admit I'm a total knob. Way back when Mad and Jen kicked off this Just Post thing, I said we were going to sponsor a child through Help Lesotho. It's a Canadian organization, and they did a presentation at my mother-in-law's church about a year ago, which we attended. But I didn't actually finish the paperwork. I downloaded a form from their website and emailed it in, but there was one form we still had to fill out and snail mail in, and we just haven't got around to doing it. Yes, that was six months ago. I am ashamed. But now I see that you can pay online and set up monthly payments to pay for a child to go to school in Lesotho. Lesotho is even harder hit by AIDS than South Africa, I think, because it's very isolated and rural, high up in the mountains. I think it's called The Kingdom of the Sky or something like that.
Anyways... Mad and Jen's campaign for Open Arms has been the kick in the pants I needed to actually complete the transaction to sponsor a child in Lesotho. Even though Sugar D has just lost his job, it's $38.75 CAD a month, and it's important to us to contribute. So it's finally official, I think.
PS I don't think South Africa has the highest AIDS infection rate, although it's very high. I think Botswana actually holds top honours in that dark category.