In life, you get from it what you put into it.
In a world where the days look fairly similar, the nights short, life has become the ordinary.
The fast pace of New York City prepared me in many ways, to take chaos in stride, do deal with many different types of people, to insulate myself in my own small bubble at times. What New York City did not prepare me for: profound loneliness, a slower pace, and a life not based on activities but rather interactions.
Each day, I know that the women who visit my health center have a certain routine. They get up early, with the sun. They fetch water in 5 liter jerrycans. They walk however far to the health center, children in tow. They wait for three hours or so, while we weigh and measure their babies. Then they go home, cook the main meal of the day (dinner) and go to sleep a couple hours after nightfall.
There is rarely deviation from this routine.
But adjusting my life to this notion of time has probably been the majority of the culture shock I have experienced.
Recently I have made an individual commitment to my village and to myself—to go the extra mile, to attend more village kitchen cooking demonstrations, to work more frequently and tirelessly with a village in my catchment area that is currently dealing with chronic malnutrition among children under the age of five.
As one of my counterparts said to me, half in Kinyarwanda, half in English, “I talked to her (head of social affairs at the sector level). She did not understand why you want to do a care group with mothers who are good examples. Why not mothers who are poor?” He then followed with, “but at first they don’t understand so they don’t want to try, but when they see it is working, they will be happy and want to help.”
The idea of a care group is not new. It is a form of peer to peer training. The concept being, a group of ten mothers who have a good understanding of hygiene and nutrition, can share their knowledge with other mothers. But behavior change is the hardest thing to instill.
In the coming weeks, my counterpart Victor and I will carry out our plan. We will walk 4 miles each way, to the village that needs the most help. We will train our first group of mothers so that in the process, they will have a better understanding of health on the whole, and be able to authentically teach their peers.