Monday, August 20, 2007

POSTCARDS FROM AFRICA - #7 of Michealene Risley's live-blogs from Zimbabwe

Ed. Note: Sincere apologies for the delay in posting this. These blogs were written during the production/filming of TAPESTRIES OF HOPE in Zimbabwe. Between sporadic electricity in Africa and getting to blogs back in California, we lost a couple of days. Afterwards, the crew was arrested and interrogated by the Zimbabwe Police, and the blogs were temporarily taken down out of concern for their safety.

8/18/07
What strikes me the most about the young girls at the empowerment village is their tenacity. The poverty is readily apparent in their torn and worn-out clothing. There is only one girl with shoes. The underwear we have brought here from the US has been enthusiastically received. Each of the girls has a story surrounding rape, AIDS, or being orphaned. The youngest girl at this village in Rusape is now three years old.

After our first day of singing and blowing bubbles, the girls greet me enthusiastically. They laugh at my attempts to speak their language. They are kids who laugh and tease each other and are remarkably self-reliant. Each of the girls seem protective of each other, the little ones are always being held and taken care of. Once again I am humbled by their ability to handle their circumstances.

It is difficult not to want to take them all home, to ease their suffering and give them a better chance at life. When I hear the squeals of their laughter as they chase bubbles, it eases the heaviness of my heart.

I have fallen in love with the littlest one. Her name is Runyarara Makoni. GCN has given her Betty's surname as her own. She is a tiny, beautiful little one with a knowing light in her eyes and she is quite shy at first. After she is comfortable, she loses her shyness. Her head is shaven, as all the girls here. It is too costly to do anything else with their hair.

Runyarara was found abandoned in Rusape. She has been raped. Both her parents are dead. No one really knows how they died but most likely from AIDS or Malaria, or both. A man has come to the village to claim her as his own, but the staff and Betty believes he is her rapist and refuse to let him take her. She has not been tested for HIV as the test is costly.

The girls and I sat by the side of a hut while Lauren filmed us. The sun was setting in front of us and you could look out and see the breathtaking valley below the Chitsotso mountain. We all sang the song which the girls have created. It is a song that they have created to their rapists and abusers. As we sing they translate for me. The words go something like this:

A little baby
Why did you rape a baby?
Why did you rape her while she is so young?
Jail the rapist, arrest the rapist
Cut his penis
We don't want to be fondled
We don't want people fondling our breasts or our bodies.

As we wrap up the day singing this song, there is a little five year old named Tendai. She can move her hips and dance amazingly. Everyone shouts for her to get up and dance. Then all of us get up to dance. It is impossible not to feel a spark of hope that through the Girl Child Networks these girls will heal and have some happiness in life. Some of them are so inspired by Betty they want to join her crusade and continue to fight against these crimes. The spark of hope ignites in my heart and there laughter fans the flames. I still want to take them all home though…

Michealene Risley

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