“One kernel is felt in a hogshead; one drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire helps to give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act.” Hannah Moore (1745-1833)
In January 2008, Ron and I volunteered for two weeks at the Ilula Orphan Center in Ilula,Tanzania. One of the questions on the application was:
- Which 2 of the United Nations Millennium Goals do YOU think are the most important and why?
I had never heard of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals nor had I run across anything from magazines, newspapers or the TV news. Looks like I had some reading and research to do if I was to answer this question.
I learned much. The goals were drawn up in 2000 and the target date for reaching them is 2015. The MDGs form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions to work toward meeting the needs of the world’s poorest. They create the indicators and then track the progress. To make progress recipient countries must be committed to using the funding from developed nations properly and developed countries need to fulfill their commitment. Click here to view my source for the reference material I used below.
The excerpt below came from the 2007 United Nations update, the year before we went on the trip. This vital information as well as the website related to the Ilula Orphanage contributed to the educational preparation we felt necessary to committing ourselves.
Take a moment and read through the goals and ask yourself which two goals are the most important.
The Millennium Development Goals:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education
Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.
4. Reduce child mortality
Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five.
5. Improve maternal health
Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100million slum dwellers, by 2020.
8. Develop a global partnership for development
Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system. Address the special needs of the least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing States. Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt. In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries. In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies.
After studying the above MDGs and related articles regarding the health crisis/poverty in Tanzania and even specifically the region (Iringa) we would be working in, I chose Goal # 3 and # 6.
Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women ties in with reducing AIDS/HIV. In fact, I feel that achieving all the MDGs relies on gender equality in education, work, health and welfare and decision making.
By giving girls an education and keeping them in school as long as possible they have a better chance of putting off marriage. All too often young girls are married to older men who already have had several partners and are infected themselves. Because this disease is a cultural and tribal stigma, especially in rural areas, they seek no help. The girl ends up taking care of her husband and is sick herself and in turn has babies who are infected.
Girls and women are vulnerable. They have no power in decision making regarding having sex or experience in negotiating safe sex. Even if they have managed to get through primary school, they are often forced out of school at young ages to take care of sick family members and siblings. It is an endless cycle.
Massive campaigns in all areas of the country with free testing clinics, condoms and education are beginning to take hold, but the Iringa region that we worked in still has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country: 16% with women out numbering the men. Violence against women is still high which makes gender equality in the rural areas hard to maintain and men’s cultural attitudes regarding sex and right of passage (virility) also dominate over women.
Education, Education, Education.
It is here at this one little orphanage that 32 girls learn the significance of education. They learn to set goals and objectives and hold themselves and each other accountable. They have seen girls leave the orphanage, go to college and come back to share their knowledge and work in the region. The girls learn first hand the importance of gender equality and the only way to succeed is to see themselves as equals in a male dominated society. They learn life skills that help them build the confidence necessary to make healthy decisions regarding sex and knowledgeable decisions regarding their future. These are girls who have seen the consequences of HIV/AIDS first hand. Several girls at the orphanage are infected and they have watched family members die. Many are orphaned because of this pandemic.
It is in this one orphanage that a large community outreach program takes place. It conducts community seminars in the district on HIV/AIDS, poverty, human rights, international issues, environmental issues, nutrition and more. The girls help with these programs and put their leadership skills to use. Village participants are given maize and flour after the completion of each course..
What impressed us with the church organization sponsoring this yearly volunteer opportunity is their mutual respect for those they are assisting. They are not there to direct, but to take direction. They listen and work on projects that the board at the orphanage wants done. Life for many would remain abysmal if it weren’t for NGO’s and church organizations. We picked a worthy one to associate ourselves with and came back with a positive experience.
To find out how well the goals are being reached, click here to see the chart. It doesn’t look encouraging in many areas, but there is a significant decrease in HIV/AIDS and there is a parity level of education for girls. That is good news.
Next post: Life at the orphanage.