Friday, March 28, 2014

The Donkey

The Donkey

The donkeys are on my mind, more than I want to admit.  I cannot help it.    They always look sad and I am not sure what they are eating and they cannot be getting enough water.  Their bodies are covered with scars.  The way they bray sounds so sad like they are calling for someone, anyone to help.  I think of the boys in Pinnoccio being turned into donkeys and wonder if a person is trapped in there.  They work way too hard and are everywhere.  They are too tired to be dangerous or to even much run away.  

On the other hand, I enjoy a landscape  full of animals and the ease with which farm animals and people live together.  Sometimes I think the children are so fortunate to run and play with animals all around.  I know mothers, in my village, who go to great trouble to have the goats and donkeys that roam  rural Haiti.

But it is not a hobby in Haiti.  The donkey is a tool for survival.  It is not a pet or a 4-H project.  It is how one gets water, food and fuel.  Mostly they do not even ride them as they have to be used for carrying loads.   

My thoughts go everywhere.  This is a good life.  It's better than many kids who are inside all day playing video games.  Then I think, its not fair that they should be so vulnerable.  It is not equitable that some children depend on a donkey while others have multiple cars and turn their water on each morning with no thought of where it came from.   

The children can not imagine the children's life in the United States and they can not imagine theirs.    It seems they are happy until they are grown and have to earn a living and do not want to be farmers with a donkey.  They want a job in the village but there are none so they go to another city or another country where a donkey, so familiar a part of their childhood, does not exist.  

I work on making a birth center and the women laugh and say, "I cannot ride a donkey  in labor."  
I consider that Mary was suppose to have been riding a donkey when she was in labor with Jesus but don't say anything.  It doesn't seem like a good idea, I admit.  I understand that birth may not always be safe in their homes with an illiterate midwife but it is safer, they feel, than riding a donkey in labor for an hour or two.  One in forty- four women will die of a pregnancy related cause but getting healthcare on a donkey's back seems, they feel, to up the odds beyond reason.

Children play with a donkey near the soccer field.  There were no motorized vehicles in the area where I was living.  In the case of an emergency, a person with a moto or machine would need to be called and travel some distance to help with transport to the hospital.  Children helped with the care of the family donkey, assuring that this important resources was well fed and given water.  
Women and young girls are most often responsible for getting the household water and taking produce to market.  Owning a donkey can make this work far easier and is a much needed asset in rural communities.  Women with a donkey could load water on a special saddle and bring it from the pump.  

In the place where I lived in LaGonave donkey's were an ever present part of the landscape.  Their braying were the first sound I heard in the morning and often the last I heard before drifting to sleep.  There were parking lots of donkeys with young boys watching them at the weekly market.   It is estimated that there are 44 million donkeys being used for work and transportation world wide.  There are at least 210,000 in rural Haiti.  In areas where a donkey is a families only means of transportation, a woman must depend on walking long distances to get prenatal care. In the event of an emergency, the community must use a donkey to travel many miles for emergency care or find a motorcycle.

George is getting ready to ride his donkey up the mountainside to help his aunt  return from a busy market day.  The donkey first came to Haiti on Christopher Columbus 's second voyage to Haiti in 1495.   It is believed that they were first domesticated some 5,000 years ago on the African continent.

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