One in Ten

In just a few months working at TTL, I have seen the inside of so many clinic rooms that I can’t quite remember which room belongs to Manemaneng or which room I saw in Thlanyaku, which one was three hours away, or which clinic was right down the road.

While visiting these clinics, I assist with nutritional assessments – weighing and measuring children. I’ve seen all sorts of children and, more prominently, all sorts of reactions from children. I’ve seen babies sleep through their measurements and kids that throw fraught tantrums. I’ve seen plenty of tears well up. Some kids are fretfully shy while others want high fives or scream at the top of their lungs. I’ve even seen babies, and sometimes children who may be a little to old to be called babies, pee themselves because they are so scared to be weighed. I get it. I’d also probably be screaming and crying if a giant weighed me in a harness swinging several feet above the ground.

In the midst of all this chaos, I’ve actually had a lot of fun. When I’m in a clinic setting, or more frequently when I’m in the TTL safe home, I forget where I am.

One in ten children do not make it to their fifth birthday in Lesotho.

I forget the statistics I’ve learned in the classroom, information from research projects, even facts I had committed to memory for my college thesis.

One in ten children do not make it to their fifth birthday in Lesotho.

I forget why I came here in the first place.

One in ten children do not make it to their fifth birthday in Lesotho.

When I’m helping out at the clinic or in the safe home, all I can think about is how I can try to coax a smile out of each kid. I become a kid myself, I play.

And I’m not just talking shy smiles or a little baby talk. I get stupid. Stupid stupid. I stick my tongue out, I blow kisses, I cross my eyes until they hurt, I wave like a manic or dance or jump from outside the window, I prance around like a horse, echo their weird noises, become a human jungle gym, pretend to eat plastic toy food that I know for a fact just came out of some kid’s mouth judging by the long strands of drool accompanying it. I get stupid.

“Babies are like drugs,” a friend said to me once. “I just can’t get enough.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These kids always turn my day around. It’s only when I get home and the walls of my rondavel start to materialize again that I remember where I am and why I came to Lesotho in the first place.

One in ten children do not make it to their fifth birthday in Lesotho.

It doesn’t just stop there. The World Health Organization reports that 40 percent of children less than five years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunting in Lesotho. The rate of childhood stunting in Mokhotlong is 48 percent, the highest in the country. The percent of the population infected with HIV/AIDS remains over 25 percent and Lesotho is still one of the 30 poorest countries in the world.

It’s always been hard to wrap my head around these facts. It’s still hard, even now when I face these issues every day.

TTL staff have faced these issues day after day for close to 15 years. They feed children who face severe acute malnutrition. They change the diapers of children who are HIV positive. They drive hours just to deliver food, medical supplies, and psycho-social support to families, even if that three or four hour drive only benefits one family.

That could be why I work with some of the most passionate and driven people I’ve met. When those statistics become your day to day life, when it’s literally your job to reduce those statistics, how could you not be passionate and driven?

I am so grateful to be working with women and men who have devoted themselves to creating lasting change in their community. One in ten is heartbreaking, hard to conceive, and frankly sometimes it overwhelms and exhausts me. But there are people dedicating to putting a dent in that number, even if it’s a small one.

I heard the phrase “one child at a time” my first day working at TTL. I’ve seen it in action every day since.

 

2 Comments
  1. Susie Rogers
    Nov, 20, 2018

    This is so YOU, Annie. I am moved to tears and laughter at the same time, picturing you twirling around and making faces. Love your heart and soul.

  2. karolyn buckler
    Nov, 21, 2018

    You are a very special person who gives from the heart! We at home in our comfort zone are proud of all you do!