November 22, 2004
Beatrice is a very proud woman who dresses with care and often wears a turban on her head. Both her feet are deformed and she cannot walk without the aid of crutches. She never misses the Ndirande Tuesday meetings and always sits in the front row on the mats. She sings the hymns with gusto, but rarely smiles. She is a single mother with 5 sons to care for.
One afternoon, after we had finished cleaning up the church hall after the session, Beatrice asked if some of us would come to her house and help her with a problem. It was decided that Heather and Brooke would go home with one of the Dutch missionaries, and I would go to Beatrice’s house with two Malawian women from St. Michaels and All Angels CCAP Church.
We drove up a washed out dirt road for a while until Beatrice told us to stop. We got out of the car and walked back between two buildings into an alley that led to a bunch of other dwellings. Beatrice pointed to hers, which was a one room brick house. Her oldest son was on the roof trying to make it somewhat waterproof. Then the Malawians started discussing the problem. Grace, one of the women, translated for me. She said that Beatrice was having trouble deciding where to dig her pit toilet. She pointed to a spot about 3 feet from the front door of the house. They asked me what I thought. I said, “I think that it should be placed as far away from the house as possible.”So we looked around. Because there were buildings crammed all over, the best space we could find was about 10 feet away behind a broken down wall. Someone else’s front door was only about a dozen feet from that.
On the way out of her “neighborhood,”we saw a woman cooking dinner and a bunch of men who had been drinking making rude comments from their perch on a broken down stairway. There was laundry hung to dry on makeshift clotheslines, but I noticed that the garments and blankets were covered with flies. Refuse pits were scattered about, just inches from where children were playing. We stepped over puddles of vile smelling muck as we were leaving.
Beatrice, however, was grateful for our visit and our advice. She proudly posed for a picture as we left. When I asked her about the toilet the next week, she smiled and said that it was all set.
She often brings two of her youngest sons with her to our meetings, and I notice that they practically inhale their snacks. I wonder how Beatrice feeds 5 hungry boys each week.
Last week for the first time, Beatrice was not there. I was told that she had sores under her arms (probably from her crutches, which are second hand) and was housebound. This week she was back, but she told us that her new toilet collapsed, while she was on it! Now she has to pay to use a neighbor’s toilet.
Sometimes I wonder how she keeps going when faced with so much adversity, but then I listened to her read the scripture lesson this week in a loud, strong voice. It has to be her faith.