I first visited Africa four years ago, through my work as a writer for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF for short). Many of my assignments involved visiting health clinics and schools in various African countries, meeting beneficiaries of EGPAF’s programs and writing stories about the people and places I visited. These assignments changed my life.

Joe took this photo of me at a rural primary school in northern Tanzania, on my first trip to Africa in March 2007. I had just discovered the joy of the photo-share.

I’m no longer a full-time EGPAF staff member. But every now and again I attend an EGPAF event that reminds why I came to Africa in the first place. Ten days ago, Joe and I went to just such an event: a ceremony at a rural primary school where EGPAF made a donation to a local community-based organization (CBO for short), which helps people affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses.

The CBO, called Badirammogo, is a group of people who have banded together to provide health-related assistance to the community. Badirammogo members visit the homes of people with HIV and TB and make sure that they take their medications every day. They track down people who miss their appointments at the health clinic. They educate the community about HIV and encourage people to be tested. Badirammogo is helping this community stay alive. EGPAF is helping Badirammogo by donating medical supplies, kitchen appliances, food, school uniforms, and other goodies to be revealed later in this post.

Here’s some of what I saw that day.

A barren schoolyard at Mogajane Primary School in Northwest Province, two hours and a world away from Joburg. HIV is prevalent here, and many of the children in the area have lost parents to AIDS. Some are living with HIV themselves. Badirammogo is based at the school.

My camera has been spotted. Time to play photo-share.

The onslaught arrives.

The donation ceremony took place in the main hall of the school. The hall was packed with school kids and people from the Mogajane community.

This event was called a “hand-over ceremony”, but nothing was actually handed over at the ceremony itself. (The donations were already neatly organized in the CBO office down the passageway.) The ceremony was more of a celebration – an opportunity for the community to come together and thank EGPAF for its support. There were speeches – lots and lots of speeches – delivered in the local language of Tswana. (If you’ve ever been to any kind of ceremony in Africa, then you know what I mean about the speeches.)

There was also lots of singing, which was the best part.

The Badirammogo ladies can SING. Their perfectly harmonizing voices gave me chills.

After the singing and speaking ended, Joe and I went to the CBO office to check out the most exciting EGPAF donation to Badirammogo: a fleet of bicycles.

These women have to travel long distances between the homes of their clients. Up until now they had to walk. Imagine what a difference the bikes will make.

CBOs like Badirammogo operate on grants from the South Africa Department of Health and donations from non-profits like EGPAF. But the Badirammogo staff are paid little, if anything, for the lifesaving work they do.

At the end of the day, all the school kids and community workers gathered in front of a mobile health clinic, also donated by EGPAF, for a group photo.

Click for an enlarged version if you want to see all the funny expressions on the kids’ faces.

This event brought back great memories, as Joe and I first got to know each other when working together on assignments like this. Thanks to EGPAF and the Mogajane community for inviting us to be part of it.

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