Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nyangezi Women Survivors (1)

Nyangezi women survivors.

Several months ago, Dr. Florimond, his sister Bellah, and I went to the local UNICEF office to tell them about the medical services available at Poll Health Center and Shilo Hospital in Nyangezi.

The UNICEF manager curtly told us those services were not needed in Nyangezi. She went on to say that people were healthier there than other areas of Congo, and that Dr. Florimond should have built his health facilities where they were really needed.

Apparently, she spoke without knowing much about the Nyangezi area.

Wesa Academy, another victim of war.

The day we visited Shilo Hospital, we drove over to Wesa Academy, once an excellent school with over 1000 students, now sitting empty for almost 10 years, another victim of war.

The women wait to hear how we can help them.

There we met over 60 women survivors of sexual, gender-based violence (SGBV), who live in the area. They were brought to the meeting by Jon Pierre, a young Pastor who acts as their intermediary.

Jon Pierre (white shirt) introduces Dr. Florimond.

The women elected Jacqueline to speak for them. Also a SGBV survivor, she explained that these women are the sole support of their families, as they have been widowed or deserted by their husbands during the war. Due to injuries stemming from sexual violence, many are unable to do farm work or carry heavy loads, the only work available to country women such as these. What household belongings and animals they had were stolen by soldiers, so they are unable to pull themselves out of poverty.

Jacqueline describes the women's situation.

Jacqueline emphasized their lack of medical care; some have not received treatment after being raped. Many are in pain and have difficulty walking. They are unable to take their children to the doctor when they are ill.

Thinking that Dr. Florimond is a medical doctor, the women hoped he would treat them today.

Dr. Florimond explains he is a psychologist and cannot treat them medically.

Deeply moved by their situation, we both said we would help. Dr. Florimond offered them access to medical services at Poll Health Center. I said I would find investors to make small loans so they could buy and sell food-- this is an excellent way for the women to make money, provided they have the initial investment to get started.

The women applaud their appreciation.

Needless to say, the women were overjoyed, showing their happiness by singing, clapping, and yodeling, African-style.

A happy moment.

Taking advantage of the upbeat moment, I tried to show them how to use abdominal breathing to make their painful memories go away. Something must have gotten lost in translation, because the more I explained how the belly rises and falls with each breath, the more they laughed. In fact, everyone was laughing . . . it was a great moment of connection with these amazingly resilient women.

Dr. Victoria brings western behavioral therapy to the Congo,

With love and gratitude,

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