July 24, 2010
This is a land of contrasts, of laughter and heartache, of smiles and crime. As I work in the garden of one of the houses I look at the neat brick house, one of twelve built for the orphan families of 10 children and a mother. Beautiful, with its grated windows. Beside me is a lush and productive vegetable garden forged out of hard, unforgiving soil.
A group of us are transplanting grass to extend the lawn and to try and reduce the erosion torrential rains can cause in the rainy season. It is hard work. The earth is unyielding, rock-like clay. The small grooves we need to dig can take ages, but we are not alone. The mother worries when she cannot help us, even though she has her 10 children to care for.
We return to the building site, greeted by every person we pass. In the distance we can hear singing. As we approach the site, women sit laughing and gossipping while they set out food they have prepared to sell to the school children on their lunch break. Then the students come, but while some make their purchases others are telling some of us that they are hungry. They have no food to eat, and no certainty of any when they return home.
And when we return to our house I know that behind the pretty structure lies a darker side. Those windows with grates are there to prevent young men, terrified of AIDS and seeking virgins, from finding their prey within these beautiful and loving homes.