Counterpart Training

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These women are the HEART and SOUL of the Cultural Center of Hope. It was amazing to be able to have them trained at the recent Peace Corps Counterpart training! They thoroughly enjoyed the accommodations, meeting new friends, and sharing funny stories about their PCV!

Thank you for being the backbone of my project!

Interning at the Maternity Clinic

I have been blessed with the experience to intern at the local maternity clinic! The photos above are actually from a clinic 90 km north of my village. Unfortunately we do not have an ultrasound as of yet, therefore expecting mothers must travel 4 hours north to get an ultrasound. My friend Nasrine and I traveled north to check how far along she was and the position of her baby. She is having a boy! (Actually by the time this post goes up she will have already have given birth!)

I decided to focus my third year on interning, watching, and soaking up information in the local health clinics. I have sat through mother child consultations, helped with vaccines, and will be seeing my first birth this month!

Pure Joy

“I think, therefore I am. (Cogito, ergo sum.)”

– Rene Descartes

Today I witnessed two of my students pass their High School Exit Exam. Joy doesn’t even begin to explain my feelings. I am filled with pride, joy, excitement, and many other emotions. I often forget the enormous barriers that students face daily here.

Many students move to Mahanoro to continue their studies. Mahanoro is a district town and is the only town with a government high school in a 90 km radius. Students come from all over to study. Many move away from families and friends. They rent small palm tree houses that they share with other students, sometimes amounting to 5 in one room. They cook, clean, take care of themselves all by themselves. In addition to the daily activities, these students take eight classes, a full schedule in high school. They wake up as early as 5 am and go to bed late after preparing dinner and washing dishes. All of these classes unfortunately do not have books, meaning that instead of following a textbook and writing down exercises. These students are writing a textbook in their notebook, which is being verbally lectured by a teacher. Miss a word or two; forget a sentence, well its not acceptable. These students have four classes a day, each being 2 hour long.

This morning Cecilia, my student two years ago, ran over to my house. « Miss ! Miss ! Miss Charlotte!!! » I opened the blue gate to find Cecilia literally jumping of joy. « I passed!! » she exclaimed with a squeal. I wrapped my arms around her.

Passing high school has been her dream. She is the first in her family to do so and hopes to continue on to university in the spring. I could not be more proud. Cecilia you have climbed mountains and I am positive you will succeed in University and anything else that comes your way.

To all the amazing determined students whom I have had a pleasure teaching over these couples years, thank you, thank you for being absolutely inspirational.

A Brave Man

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“I am now the best looking man”

Lezoma, 33 years old, ostracized from his community for being different. Since a young age he was teased for his different face. Children would scream and point fingers at him, calling him names. At 11 years old he decided to drop out of school and work the rice fields. He found peace in the solitude of the rice fields, no one calling him names, no one yelling mean slurs at him. He worked as a farmer and helped out during the various fruit picking seasons to make a living.

My first encounter with Lezoma was in January 2014. I heard there was a young man who had a double cleft lip who lived in a small village off the main road called, Tsaravinany. I took my chances and biked out to the village, before no time I crossed Lezoma on the path. He carried bundles of banana leaves and two large jackfruits which hung from thick piece of wood. I greeted him in local dialect. He looked at me surprised, even chuckled a little at the sight of a foreigner speaking local tongue. I asked if we could talk, that I had something important I wanted to ask him. I explained about the mission, Operation Smile was arriving in April to the capital, Tana, and I would love to have him join me. His face brightened. He immediately answered, “You can fix this!” and pointed to the large gaps in his face. I explained that if he trusts me and would like to come up on to Tana with me I would be leaving the first week of April and I would pick him up on the main road. He agreed.

Lezoma walked into the operating room barefoot, nervous yet calm. I was present for the entire surgery and held his hand through his fear. Lezoma’s surgery went amazing, his before and after pictures were tremendous. His courageous spirit was a highlight of the mission.

6 months after we had returned from Tana, I biked back to Tsaravinany, the small village lined with rice fields and banana trees. To my surprise, young kids whom I had never seen before, ran up to me screaming, “Lezoma! Lezoma!”. My heart beat accelerated as I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad thing that they image3 image2 image1-2were screaming his name. I arrived at a small coffee seller, and there sat Lezoma. His dark brown eyes looked back at me, and small wrinkled formed on the sides as he smiled. “Charlotte! Mandroso!” he welcomed me to sit. I ordered a small coffee with sugar cane syrup. “How are you? How is everything? Tell me about you.” I requested. He stood up, “Charlotte, I have a problem! A big problem!” My heart dropped, thoughts raced, what could it be, an infection? Another health problem? “ I am so good looking now, all the ladies in town want me!” He chuckled, that familiar chuckle I had heard when first meeting him. I exclaimed “ OH MY! Yes you are a good looking man!”. We exchanged smiles. Later that afternoon I headed back home, as I turned around he waved once more, and said “Thank you, thank you.”

Jocelyne

6 months ago I met Jocelyne. 11 years old with a facial tumor. She has been accepted by Mercy Ships for initial consultation and scans. 
After three weeks of trying to get in contact with her, endless radio messages, and letters sent by boats going down to the canal today Jocelyne showed up on my door step. She walked with her grandma over 8 hours. 
We will go up for her in time visit this Sunday! I nearly cried seeing her, I was so happy aw showed up. With no phone and no reseau it’s been extremely difficult to get in contact.