One of the ways women earn money here is to work as house help for people who can afford to pay someone to do much of the cooking, cleaning, washing laundry by hand, etc. For a house helper they work 10-12 hours/day, walk an hour to work and earn maybe $2.50/day if they are lucky. If they choose working at a construction site, they might make $3.50/day for carrying 8 gallons of water to the site or carrying 100 lbs. concrete bags up 2-4 flights of stairs all day. Payday is either at the end of each day or at the end of each month. Most of these ladies get up before 5am to make their family breakfast (if they have food) and get their children ready for school if they are fortunate enough to have school fees. Then they are on their way to their jobs usually arriving by 7am. Once they complete their day job, they return home usually after 7pm. They then have to collect firewood in the dark, prepare dinner, put the children to sleep and then themselves usually by 11pm to start all over tomorrow.
Finding a job is very difficult especially one which actually pays them for the work they do.
Deb has such a heart for these ladies. She takes time for the ladies that work on our compound here each and every day. She talks with them about their families, their health, and their life. She also shares the Gospel with them whenever she can. So its no surprise that the women feel very comfortable talking with Deb. So much so that when a friend of one of the ladies who works on our compound was struggling with a sick baby she suggested their friend talk with Deb.
“Rose” was struggling at work each day for the past couple of weeks because her 13 month old son was very sick and his health seemed to be worsening daily. Rose leaves her son with her elderly mother to care for him while she works. Her husband left her when their son was born and his family kicked them out of their compound. With the little bit of money she had, she had her mother take her baby boy to a local government hospital where they were told the baby is too weak to care for and advised her to take him home. You see, “Rose” would have taken her child to the hospital herself but she was extremely concerned that if she asked for the time off from her employer, they would likely fire her since they had recently helped her with medical costs and time off when her son had contracted measles. Since she couldn’t afford to lose her job she continued to work each day knowing that her son may die from whatever he had that even the local hospital would not treat. So Rose’s choice was to continue to earn money so she could feed herself and her child or try to nurse her son back to health with no medical assistance. By the time Rose finally had the courage to talk with Deb and the confidence her employer wouldn’t find out her son was deathly ill. Deb listened patiently and cautiously as people approach us for money all the time. Deb could tell instantly that this was a sincere request for any kind of help and as their conversation ended Deb told Rose she would pray for her son and that she would get back to her the next day.
Deb immediately called friends at a local missionary clinic and made arrangements for the child to be seen the next day. She also talked with Rose’s employer knowing that their hearts would desire to help her and not terminate her. They quickly agreed that Rose could take her son the next morning to the clinic. Deb found Rose, gave her money to get a motorcycle taxi to drive her up to her home an hour away, get her son, drive back an hour to the clinic and return them home (total cost was $3). At the clinic, they diagnosed her son with pneumonia, malaria, and a severe skin allergy which caused a swelling of the eye lids. They provided the necessary medications and sent her on her way back home. Later that night Deb called our friend at the clinic and to take care of the medical fees. The total bill for the doctors exam and medications was $6.
The next day Rose stopped by, she was so appreciative and you could tell in her countenance that a heavy burden was lifted from her. It has been almost 5 days since, Rose was so excited to share that her son is eating again, laughing and playing!!! How easily this story could have ended much differently.
Since then, Deb and I have had many conversations around the fact that we have never been in this situation. We can’t imagine the anguish and desperation of deciding between feeding your family or affording medical treatment for a sick child.
So, what would you do if you were Rose??