Photo: Seane Corn
Although there is so much beauty and vibrancy among the people, you can also sense the despair that poverty and hunger brings, especially in its men. On our very first day, we visited the Acholi slums, bringing food, medical supplies and clothing to the people who live there. The participants were surprised to notice that the women seem to be the ones working and raising the children, while the men gather in makeshift bars and spend what money they earn on alcohol. Many of them were understandably distressed and angered to see this, which I can understand, but it is very easy to be judgmental. I often think if perhaps I didn't have the tools or support to deal with my deep pain, loss and grief...I'd drink too.
Yesterday we drove into Kasana to meet with Natalie Angell who runs Shanti Uganda, another of the organizations we are funding. We've come to help her build an eco-birthing center deep in the bush.
Giving birth in Uganda is a dangerous and dirty business. The clinics where the impoverished can afford to give birth are so awful, unclean and ill equipped that many women would rather take the chance and birth at home, even though they may not have the proper or sanitary instruments necessary to guarantee a healthy and safe delivery. As a result, both infant and mother mortality are heartbreakingly high because of infection and lack of proper care. Lost is the art of birthing in a sacred and compassionate way and often the mothers are left alone, in their pain and without support, only to be treated indifferently and harshly during the birth itself. Many women are even hit by their midwives if they cry out or scream. Also, because of high instances of untreated malaria, mothers often miscarry in the second trimester. Caesareans are practiced with unnecessary frequency, abortions are primitive, and often mother's with HIV/AIDS aren't given the drugs available to prevent mother to child transmission at the time of delivery. All too commonly, the disease is passed to the child through her breast milk as a result. Natalie's description of the standard birthing practice sounded barbaric and frightening, and I couldn't imagine what giving birth for the Ugandan poor must be like.
I was soon about to find out...
Seane Corn is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher known for her impassioned activism, unique self-expression and inspirational style of teaching that incorporates both the physical and mystical aspects of the practice of yoga. For more on Seane Corn, visit SeaneCorn.com.