it was a work trip with a somewhat packed schedule that took me to Madagascar, already almost two months ago. i should have planned some personal time there. stayed a bit longer to see things. i would have taken even more photos … photos of things and people and landscapes. things i saw and wanted to keep forever.
i also had planned to write something colorful and heart-tugging when i got home.
yeah. that didn’t happen either.
it’s taken a while for me to wrap my brain around what i saw and heard while there. partnered with the fact that it was the holiday season, a time of excess and greed in many parts of the world, that made it even harder when i returned home. coming from such deeply rural and poor neighborhoods to the obnoxiousness of the retail world puking christmas all over the city was somewhat disturbing, to say the least.
i had planned to maybe just show the photos without explanation, but i changed my mind.
you should know some things:
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 80 percent of people live at or under the poverty line, living on US$1 or less a day. half of the children under age 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. open defecation is commonplace. (which, unfortunately, i found out the hard way on an otherwise lovely beach at our hotel.) most people (more than half) don’t get an education past the fifth grade. every year, about 44,000 children (or 120 a day) die before their fifth birthday–from pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea. access to clean water is hard to come by and child exploitation–including sexual–is a serious problem.
i also learned a lot about the coup in 2009 that led to a lot of the present-day problems plaguing the country. while there, elections were in full swing … the first since the coup. the man currently in office will be replaced by a man he was supporting. no word whether this is good or bad … depends who you ask. his opponent was backed by the former president, who’s been in exile in south africa since being kicked out. all this mess in government has led to serious corruption and suspension of a majority of foreign aid. crime is on the rise. people are scared. security is an issue.
all of this and i’m still left with memories of moms in colorful lamba wraps, their babies tied securely to their backs, nobody in shoes … and the curiosity they all showed us. while getting a smile out of most of them was difficult, it wasn’t because they were unhappy. it was because they were shy. timid. not yet trusting of why all these americans and europeans had descended upon their tiny villages and communes, befuddled that it was all to meet them. to see their families. to hear of how the work being done on their island country was to help them have a better, healthier life. the women were thrilled and honored to show us their children’s vaccination papers, and to tell us of how they, too, have been vaccinated. small steps. big results. UNICEF is known here. these families, mainly the moms, know about UNICEF and why we were there. it was life-changing, really, to see the changes that so many dedicated people are trying to make here.
of the more than 1,600 photos i took on the trip, all of which technically belong to Kiwanis magazine, i will share but a few. to give you a glimpse into the world that most will never see, but should.
these are the faces and images of a group of happy people who are very thankful for the medical attention they are receiving from strangers around the world.
All images are taken by Kasey Jackson and are owned by Kiwanis International.
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