It takes a village

by Jourdan Fairchild in ,

As we pull into the small village, the women surround the car, dancing and singing and making the most gloriously joyful noise. We step out of the car and join in the celebration, and I feel so purely happy that I start to cry. The feeling is overwhelming and surreal (watch it here).Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.09.18 PMThat moment today will be seared in my memory forever. We spent the day with a group of local leaders connected to MATAMA, first meeting the director of public health at a district hospital who explained that, among many things, he’s seen a vast improvement in access to HIV/AIDS medicine in the area. We broke from meetings to indulge in a traditional lunch of nsima (a cornmeal and water mixture akin to grits) roasted chicken, beef and vegetables—all of which we ate with our hands. Our driver Willie showed me how it's done. It was messy, but surprisingly tasty. Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.12.35 PMFollowing lunch, we headed to a remote village for a celebration. What was the occasion? We were praising the fact that 10 villages had successfully completed training to make their villages free of open defecation. How’s that for perspective?!! This meant that the chiefs of 10 villages were willing to adopt clean water hygiene and sanitation practices to help make their people healthier. They instructed the men in their villages to build toilets and women to help them teach the children how to use the toilets and wash their hands in clean water. Amongst the 200-ish people present, men and women who had led their villages were presented with certificates of achievement. They were dressed in their best clothes, and they beamed with pride upon receiving their certificates. To us, a simple piece of paper can be just that. I can’t count the number of certificates I received in grade school. To them, it was a great honor, as it should be. They'd cleaned their homes from top to bottom in anticipation of our arrival, and you'd be amazed at how beautiful it looked given they're resources. Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.08.11 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.07.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.07.17 PMThe women performed songs that told the stories of what they’d learned, and they stepped and swayed to the leader’s beat in perfect syncopation—intermixed with some seriously awesome twerking (see above). I could’ve watched them perform all day long. And the children were most mesmerized by our cameras. I took photos and showed them to the children. They couldn’t get enough, and swarmed around me to keep snapping more and more.Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.08.50 PMPS: Have I mentioned the sunsets here? Cause they're kinda gorgeous.Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 9.28.42 PM

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