Saturday, 7 February 2009

Day 5: Maa AIDS Awareness Programme (MAPP)

Mosquito bites: still 0

Number of times batted away a fly that wasn't there: 133

Maa AIDS Awareness Programme (MAPP) was founded in 1995 as a response to the crisis of HIV/AIDS in the Kajiado District of Kenya. The Foundation is not actually directly supporting MAAP, but I thought it would be worth a mention to get a further feel for the scope of charity work happening in the country.

Once again we set off on bumpy roads to the MAAP offices, where we were given a short presentation on some of the work the project has enabled in the community. It tackles issues such as water and sanitation, health, poverty reduction and child care using methods of training and community empowerment. It has also set up day care centres for orphans and underprivileged children, two of which we were lucky enough to visit.

I happened to be sitting in a truck with two of the Masai workers and spent an amusing half hour attempting to learn a Masai song. Rachel has footage of this but I daresay it will never see the light of day as we don’t want to be sued for section one of causing severe damage to third party ears. The drive to the centres was even more treacherous than the day before as there was no actual road to use - so up and down we went, crossing several kilometres of fields and valleys.

When we arrived at the first site, we were taken into a little hut full of children and a couple of Masai women. They sung us a song, after which the elders spoke for a few minutes about the centre. I was amazed at how quietly the children sat: there was no fidgeting or whispering to neighbours as you’d expect, just silent, neutral expressions. There were flies crawling all over their tiny faces, some batting them away occasionally but most just leaving them free to roam (in stark contrast to us visitors who were prone to manically swiping anything that brushed our skin – at one point I was doing battle with what I thought was a particularly persistent fly but which turned out to be strand of my own hair. Slightly embarrassing). There was one little girl who had flies crawling in and out of her eyes and didn’t seem to notice – for some reason that brought a lump to the throat that was difficult to dislodge.

The next site was another, much larger, day care centre. Again the children were much calmer than those we had met at the Ngei project. I mused on this to the project worker, who explained that Masai children are brought up to be very disciplined and to respect their elders. This would explain the absence of screaming excitement and why each came up to us to have his/her head patted and would not leave until the grown up had complied, a tradition in their culture. They sometimes lingered to stare in fascination at our light-coloured arms, but were too polite to grab hold for a proper look.

Our final stop was another Masai community, where we saw the bee hives and water tap they had constructed. This tribe spoke little or no English but we attempted to converse with the universal sign language of smiles. At one point I reached down to apply suncream to my burning feet and I might as well have barked like a dog whilst performing a handstand with the attention it drew. All the Masai started laughing and pointing and I froze, unsure what was going on. The project worker explained that they had probably never seen a white foot, let alone a burnt white foot having a strange white lotion rubbed onto it. I gamely laughed along and wished not for the first time that I could speak a bit of Masai.

We were already hours behind schedule by this point (you can’t rush ‘Africa-time’) but stayed for a quick lunch of goat and steaming bowls of oxtail soup. All in all, it had been another mesmerising insight into the lives of the Masai community.

Nothing further to add apart from the fact that a zebra crossed the road in front of us (which I’d been hoping for all week so that the obligatory joke could be made) and we saw another evil looking ostrich.

Tomorrow we fly to Uganda for our last full day in Africa – next blog coming soon...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for blogging - it's been really good to follow your trip. It sounds like an amazing experience that you are having - can't wait to see the photos AND Rachel's video of you singing, which I hope does make it into the final cut ;-)
    best wishes,