Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why You Won't Be Hearing From Me For A While

I think most of the people who read this blog already know this, but for those of you who don't: I am super happy and excited to say that I will be soon be going to Kenya, to participate in a volunteer project. The project is being administered by the Kenya Voluntary Development Association, and the organization with which I signed up is called Volunteers for Peace. The project for which I originally signed up had a focus on "harmful cultural practices" affecting women, i.e. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage. My project was merged with another one, and now the focus is broader, and includes work around HIV/AIDS, and work with children, as well as tree planting and brick making. There should be around 20 volunteers, from 6 different countries including Kenya. Conditions are going to be, well, basic. We need to bring our own eating utensils, sleeping bag, mosquito net, etc, and we will be cooking for each other. The project itself will last 3 weeks, and I plan to stay in Kenya for another week or so after that.

Since I will be away and without much internet access, and since there is a tremendous amount of preparation involved in a trip like this, I am currently on hiatus. I plan to be back to work on Monday, December 7th. (For details re whom to contact during my absence, see below.)

The organizers asked us to bring materials related to the project. Among other things, I will be bringing a few copies of Katie Singer's book(let), Honoring Our Cycles in Africa. From Katie's website: "The book describes what happens during a healthy menstrual cycle, how the traditional practice of Female Genital Cutting affects a woman's reproductive health, and what happens in the male reproductive system." It's a wonderful, simple book, and I only wish that I could bring more copies with me.

I will also be bringing a copy of a film that will soon be having its premiere in the US. It's called Africa Rising, and it focuses on the movement to end FGM in Africa, and the brave women (and men) leading the fight. Although headway is definitely being made, approximately 6000 girls still undergo FGM everyday, primarily in Africa. The people behind the film (see below) very generously sent me a copy. Despite the sadness of the topic, it's a beautiful, inspiring film. I hope you'll be able to see it when it opens in the US. See the website for screenings.

Still from Africa Rising

Africa Rising is brought to you by the amazing people at Equality Now. Their website and newsletters are decidely unglamorous, but they are at the forefront of the movement to stop FGM and other forms of violence against women. I encourage you to support their efforts with your time and/or your dollars.

You may know, or you may not, given the dearth of media coverage, that Kenya has been devastated by drought in recent months, and years. Semi-annual rains have just begun to fall, so I hope that, by the time I go, the situation will have been somewhat ameliorated. But that's not guaranteed, and regardless of how much rain comes, the impact of the last few years will be long-lasting, especially among nomadic communities. I don't know how the drought will affect my trip.
For most of my time away, I anticipate having very little internet access. (The community that I'm going to has no electricity.) So as of now until after my return, I am on hiatus. Two of my colleagues will be covering for me in my absence. Should you need assistance before I return, please get in touch with one of them:

Sarah Bly
(541) 821-2522

Lisa Leger
fertilityfairy at hotmail dot com
(250) 951-0243

Please note that both Sarah and Lisa are West Coast gals, on Pacific time. Lisa is in Canada and Sarah is in the US.
Thank you to those of you who have supported my trip with your donations of funds and goods. I look forward to sharing stories with you after I return.