We are happy to report that the Mayo Clinic team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived home safely late yesterday. We will continue to post their updates from the trip throughout this week.
"Behind the operating rooms is an expanse of grass and circular shelters consisting of a thatched roof without walls and a fireplace in the center. This is the heart of Panzi Hospital. It is where the women and children who have survived rape live together, some for months and some for years, to await the time for their fistula repair. Where despair and defeat should pervade, there is color and singing and dancing and praise. These women and children are a family to each other, and Esther is the one who nurtures them and brings them back to life and safety. Every morning, she leads them in a ritual of chanting and swaying and stomping and clapping that erupts into laughter, catharsis and play. Young mothers dance as tiny feet peek around their waists, their babies swaddled to their backs. Children rush to take your hands and dance. Old women join in the circle.
We head back late in the evening for dinner with Eve, Christine, and Elaine. Elaine has just arrived from San Francisco. She is a trauma therapist who will do training workshops with the ten Congolese women who will become the staff and counselors at City of Joy. City of Joy is due to open in February, and there is much to be done, both in terms of training and construction that has been delayed by shortages of basic building supplies. Eve and Christine are routinely working 14 hour days. Our evenings together are dizzying exchanges of questions and ideas, and the jumble seems by morning to lead to measurable steps forward. We have had many conversations with residents of DRC about the complex political and economic forces that have led to this 12-year war. The U.N. is spending over 2 million dollars a day for peacekeeping forces, and yet the violence continues. But it would likely be far worse without these forces. It is hard to see any end in sight without a radical shift in the political structure and the distribution of profits from the rich mineral deposits."