Shirley gives us the "cholowa" fist pound. (This has become popular since the outbreak because people are more cautious about shaking hands.)
Shirley, a nurse, is also a student at the university and used to work at the university infirmary. Her boss there told her that she would lose her job at the university if she started working at the cholera treatment center, but she chose the CTC because she knew that her community needed help.Many other people spoke of their families being afraid for them to work at the CTC. Elio, one of our translators, often had to go to the gate or answer his phone while he was working because his sister was worried about his safety.
In some areas of the country, cholera patients have been hacked to death because their neighbors feared that they would bring the disease into the community. In other communities, people have killed witch doctors, accusing them of cursing their village with cholera. Some people we talked to said they would rather have HIV than cholera!
Fear is such a powerful thing. Acknowledging the fear of cholera that overwhelms this country makes me respect the staff even more. It takes courage to treat cholera.
In our interviews, the staff also bestowed upon us heaps of gratitude and blessings for our being here. This experience proved something Mom has said over and over again--when you serve like this, you always feel like you receive far more than you give. This is definitely how I feel. I never expected my first encounter with death to be so encouraging; I never expected treating cholera to be so much fun.
I am going to miss these people who welcomed me here--even though I am not a nurse.