Friday, July 13, 2007

field trip

This Monday, we made soymilk and tofu It was probably the coolest and most useful thing I’ve ever learned to do, besides maybe sheetrock a house. We put lemon grass and sugar in the soymilk, and it was better than any Silk I’ve had.

Today I’m in Bassar, in the Kara region. Our field trip began yesterday. Our first stop was the Red Cross in Atakpame, where the director gave us a brief overview of activities in the region. One of the employees was from the Savannah region and hopefully I’ll get to collaborate on some kind of project with them.

From Atakpame, we drove to Sokodé, where we had lunch and visited a Peace Corps maison du passage. It’s like a hostel for volunteers passing through town. They had lots of books there, so I grabbed one. The book situation seems pretty good for now, at least until I get to post.

In Sokodé, we visited a family planning ngo. They have had 215 girls start birth control since January, which is great for preventing pregnancy, but not necessarily AIDS. Still, it’s impressive.

Today we visited an ngo that works with people living with HIV/AIDS, their children, and children whose parents have died from the virus. This was by far the best visit – even though I was exhausted, thanks to the rooster that crowed non-stop outside our window starting at 3 this morning. We heard about the different programs, some of the children sang for us, and four HIV postive people told us their stories.

The stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS is still a problem here, to the point where families turn children out of the house for disgracing them by getting HIV. One woman said only her mother knows about her status. She’s a hairdresser, and she’s afraid that her customers will find another hairdresser if they find out she’s positive. Unfortunately, she’s probably right.

The other problem is the lack of ARVs (anti-retrovirals, or drugs) in Togo. Previously the Global Fund subsidized drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS, but Togo lost its funding due to human rights violations in the 90s. They continue to fund those who were subsidized, but for those who are newly diagnosed, there may or may not be drugs available. One guy today has gone 15 days without his ARVs. If you have enough money, you can pay for your own, but they come from Lome and are basically unaffordable for most people.

So that’s the situation here. Sorry to be a downer.

Tomorrow we’re visiting a traditional healer, and next Saturday, we leave for post visit. The Ewe (pronounced eh-vay) lessons have been replaced by Tchokossi lessons. When I get to post next week, I’ll be able to ask people their names and tell them I’m from America. I’m sure it’ll be great.