Our afternoon saw us invited into the homes of some local villagers not associated with The Hunger Project (THP.)
Our first host, Jane was a widow with three children. Since her husband died, she works doing casual labour to provide for her family, surviving on less than $1 per day.
She invited us into her home, a mud hut with two small rooms. The first room, a dark sitting room ended up hosting around 16 people as she answered our questions about her difficult life.
We passed through her bedroom, which consisted only of a filthy mattress where the whole family slept. I seriously would not let my dog sleep in such conditions. Her children were dirty, clothed in rags, clearly malnourished and unwell.
Out the back, by the cooking pit, we were joined by Margaret who had 7 children and told us her story. Children were shelling peas at her feet and a small pig was caged behind the kitchen area.
Each day is a struggle, with hard labour and childminding, with no assistance and no respite.
Mary next asked us to visit her home. She and her husband had six children with one of her sons in boarding school. She told us that they will often go to bed hungry to ensure they can pay the school fees. The focus and priority placed on education is outstanding.
Her home was a little larger than Jane’s and she was a hospitable host, offering us refreshment tho she had little to spare.
After another bus ride to an even more remote area, we came to Evaline’s home, and her story profoundly impacted many of us.
Evaline’s husband abandoned her when their third child was 9 months old, even selling their mattress for cash before he left. In the understatement of the day, she told us, ‘he wasn’t a very caring man.’ She hasn’t seen him since. She has now been diagnosed with allergies, tho she’s not sure to what, but her skin is often itchy and sore. She also has been diagnosed with syphillis but can’t afford the tablets that cost $1 each, let alone transport to the distant clinic where they’re supplied.
Evaline also stays up many nights to do a local brew to supplement her income which she can sell for $3. This can take up to six hours to complete so she is often exhausted also surviving on little sleep. She’s thinking of not sending her children back to school next week as it’s just too expensive to buy the pencils and books on her limited income.
These three women we’d met had all heard of The Hunger Project, but weren’t actively involved due to health and transport issues. They’re able however if needed to access the health centre and services provided such as Functional Adult Literacy classes and learn about Income Generating Activities, all available at the Epicentre.
The contrast between these three women and those who have embraced the principles of THP were startling!