Administration and doctors' offices occupy the front buildings, while the women's wings spread out toward the back, opening to a lovely grass area with a pond, eucalyptus forest, and palapas where the women gather during the day.
This is my second visit to Panzi. I came a year ago and toured the hospital, but everyone was inside that day and the women's area had not been completed. Now there are people everywhere, doctors and nurses in lab coats, country women wrapped in colorful cloth, small children clinging to their mothers, crippled men on crutches, and a few muzungus (white people) touring the hospital.
There are over 300 rape survivors and fistula repair patients being treated at Panzi on a daily basis.
During the day, aides provide life skills training and teach handicrafts. All the women survivors are concerned about their future: How will they survive when they leave the hospital? Where will they live? Will they be able to support their children? Many practice handicrafts, learning to knit, sew, weave baskets and rush mats, in the hopes that this will sustain them.
Up until now, my work with rape survivors has been with women several years out of hospital, who had been raped, treated and then released. Being at Panzi Hospital surrounded by so many raped and damaged women, most in pain, all ashamed and trying to make sense out of their shattered lives, is an astonishing, humbling experience.
I feel the full weight of the evil done to these innocent women. So much damage has been done for what? What could ever justify this cruelty, this suffering?
With love and gratitude,