Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Men with Young Children

I started the week seeking photos of men with children under five. There aren’t that many drawings or photos of men caring for young children available so I decided to find my own.
Outside the maternity ward I found this father amusing his young daughter as they waited to see their new sister.

Then later in the day I accompanied 4th year medical and nursing students on community visits. Apuli, one of the community volunteers, facilitates community entry for students. This time at the suggestion of the health center in-charge, he took the students not to his own village but to one which is not a recipient of our community program. Ordinarily this could result in resistance and lack of access to homes. But Apuli has a wonderful manner and managed to keep two groups moving from home to home along the hills at the edge of the Ugandan Rift Valley all afternoon. In one yard, just as he was leaving to take the second group of students to their next home, he interceded a wailing child running by and within minutes has her calmed down. I’ve been looking for photos of men with under fives and am pleased to be able to capture Apuli in this role.

It is the time of the long rains and the hills are steep and slippery. Apuli alone of the whole group has come prepared and carries a brightly striped umbrella in addition to wearing gumboots. Sure enough as we head down a particularly slippery slope, I slide a good ten feet on my backside with my knee twisted beneath me so badly that I am surprised when I land in a heap at the bottom of the slope that I can still walk.

Medical students are drawn from the whole country so in this group of nine there are only three who are fluent in the local language. In the group I am with, Frances has an engaging manner and soon has people at ease. I can’t follow much of the interview but the non verbal communication is a delight to observe. One woman stops in the middle of her laundry to invite the whole group into her home. Later Frances tells me she is concerned about whether she can get AIDS from caring for someone who is sick so so he had to reassure her.

The students are on their second last home visit with a man who has two male visitors but still agrees to be interviewed. A number of children are underfoot. Some of them seem to be following us from house to house. There are also a number of curious older youngsters sitting off to the side watching the interview.

A sharp cry in the local language rings out amid some confusion. The father bolts off across the compound followed by a couple of older children.

“What happened?” the rest of us inquire looking around in confusion.

Frances replies, “There is an accident in back”

I head off with the group to investigate. As we arrive, a slack two year
old is being hauled dripping wet, by his father, out of a huge drum sunk part way into the ground at the back of the house. The air is suddenly steely cold with shock before the child starts to cough and heave. His father pulls his soaked shirt off and wipes him off with it.

The toddler had leaned over the edge of the drum and toppled into the murky water below. Luckily some older kids saw him and set up a hue and cry. Apuli measures the depth of the drum with a piece of stick. It is about 3½ feet deep. When I ask why a drum would be sunk in the yard, Apuli tells me that such drums are used to cool the distillate for making waragi, local home brew made from banana. I gather this home must to be local brewery as there are in addition, two hand hewn “boats” carved out of huge tree trunks that are used for making local beer on the other side of the house. With the rescue over, the father soothes the naked child in his lap as he continues the interview with the students. It is a lovely picture. I have my third photo of men comforting young children in a single day.

Photos: father with daughter at hospital; Apuli with child; Father comforting child post drowning; Sunken drum in yard; Pombe boats



Blogger Ruth said...

The picture with the father comforting the child in the last story is very special indeed. "Mother and child" is still far more common than "father and child" in most cultures.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Bo... said...

What a wonderful post---now that's what I call home health care. Makes me miss the visits I used to do on my territory, although I was only in Texas.

10:27 AM  

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