I sit at work this Friday morning watching the old videos of Michael Jackson and all those people who sang for world peace back in the day when it was more attainable (I work in a media house so watching TV is my job. But believe me, it gets old fast) and the images that play across remind me of the mission trip I went on the day before.
I joined the health campaign CDS – Community Development Service group and although my initial reasons for joining were not altogether altruistic, I feel like I am doing more to better the society than I could have otherwise. So here we are holding our meetings every week as prescribed and we get invited to take part in a medical outreach at a location I’ll call GBU local government within the state.
We get in the bus and start off on the hour and a half drive it takes to get to the location. After about an hour, we are completely out of the capital and have left all proof of civilization behind. We travel for the rest of the way on dirt roads and as we pass, clouds of dust rise and choke us like incense from a burner in a mallam’s shack. There are no electricity poles to give hope that sometime in the immediate future, the electricity grid will be extended to these parts. Streams and hand pumps provide water to this community and so the risk of ring worm is high.
We arrive at the local government development centre, which is the only brick building we have seen in a while and the first sight that meets our eyes is a large field packed full of people – natives of various ages but mostly elderly waiting under the blistering sun for medical attention. As we alight, I comment to a friend that it’s at moments like these that I feel NYSC is not a complete waste of time.
I am not a doctor – not even medical personnel so as soon as I help set up, I take on the self – appointed task of activity documentation. When I tire of this task or finish it – although I like to think it was the latter, I go to sit beside the doctors. Even my untrained eye can see the traces of malnutrition and premature aging caused by hardness of life on the people.
I see a child come in who says she’s nine. I am incredulous because she looks four but the doctors seem to accept it and they document accordingly. A man comes in who was blinded in one eye during the Biafra war and whose other eye went blind soon after. He is sixty years old now and most likely would never access or afford the medical care he needs. I see an ageing man who comes in with a lot of complaints and is possibly diabetic but has never been diagnosed and suffers because of that. A middle – aged woman who has complaints that indicate the beginnings of a cardiac condition and who still actively farms her plot of land is there as well. The doctors attend to a lot of people till about three but even then they have barely taken care of half of the people who turned up and they are exhausted – the heat hasn’t helped. We walk a short distance to the nearby home of a notable member of the community for lunch and to rest.
We leave at about five pm for our base in the capital and although I feel like we’ve done a good work here, I know that it hardly puts a dent on the problems of this community and others like it. These people may seem singularly unfortunate but there are so many other communities worse off than they like the Effium community where a mission outreach held a few months back. Many people will never get to see these people first hand and see the conditions under which they are forced to live. Even for I who have seen, it seems too painful to remember and subconsciously I’ll try to erase it when I get back to the comfort of my familiar surroundings. I write this for them. So that we can remember those whose pain is forgotten.