EVE Foundation Donates Sunshine Boxes
Sunshine in a Box
The commune of Rusaka is a commune of Mwaro Province in central Burundi. The capital lies at Mwaro. An agricultural commune, in recent years forest development in the commune has resulted in arid soils in parts. Burundi is a small, low income, densely-populated, landlocked country.
Awesome Adventures in Africa with EVE
True stories about EVE by JD
I was sitting in a sunny room with hardwood floors, exposed brick and a Power Macintosh 7600 in front of me. It was 1996.
I’d just joined EVE, a rogue band of fellow high school/college dropouts learning to code and make cool videos. In a few short months, we would start our own youth program. The Infostructure Project, bringing our new found media skills to undercapitalized areas and underprivileged youth in Toronto.
An exciting time for someone like me, coming from a conservative family of climate change deniers with an ugly streak of anti-intellectualism. To strive and learn was to insult their existence. I didn’t have my own computer back then either, and was still waiting in line to check my email on shared machines at the public library. Simply being surrounded by like-minds was in itself a revelation.
I didn’t know it at the time, but EVE would come to influence almost every aspect of my life moving forward. Big life-altering decisions like career, and what city or country to live in. Their message — anything is possible — became deeply engrained. And after traveling through East Africa with them, living the lives of the locals (as much as one can from behind a camera) and becoming emotionally connected to the youth in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, seeing up close what can be accomplished with so very little to begin with, I can’t help but believe. Anything really is possible.
A View from the Sky
This is a fuzzy picture of Mount Kilimanjaro that I took through the window of an airplane heading to Tanzania. I was having terrible anxiety. It was the farthest from home I’d ever been, and once you get on a plane, there’s no turning back. No last-minute canceling. No sneaking out the back door to a waiting taxi. You are in the sky.
I’ve skipped ahead. Allow me to rewind quickly. Once I’d graduated from EVE’s youth program, sharpening my coding skills and entrepreneurial instincts through our labour of the love, the Infostructure Project, I was head-hunted by a recruitment firm to the CIBC, where I’d been working as a Web Developer for a couple years, when I got an email from Jay (EVE’s founder). “How much time do you need to get on a plane?” Intrigued, I replied, “When do we leave?”
And thus begins my African adventure…
Jay recruited a Film & Tech crew + one doctor, to make the trek through east Africa’s hot zones, (areas with the highest reported rates of infectious disease) to shoot a documentary about Malaria. There were nine of us, myself included, hauling sixty-pound backpacks filled with camera gear, batteries, laptops, flash lights, first aid kits, antimalarials and other medications, sterile syringe kits and point-of-care RDT (rapid diagnostic testing) dipsticks, among other necessities. Pro travel tip: one can never have enough Ziplock bags.
Another shot from the plane window. A view of the slums in Nairobi, which I took just to better illustrate how obscene it is that only eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. Once you’re on the ground it’s even more evident, just based on the number of people you see on the street with birth defects, and the stray cats that are so thin, they’re practically two-dimensional.
These are five of the crew members with our guide and translator, Benjamin Ngakuka, (left) stopping for rest and tea. You can tell from their faces, the heat was suffocating and after several hours of hiking, the sun, so much brighter and closer than I’d ever seen it, became oppressive. This was only our first day. It would take several more to acclimatize to the weather.
On the Ground
During one of our first experiences with local culture, we visited a small dispensary (clinic) in Ngalimila, where the doctor there was also the dentist, the optometrist and the OBGYN. This photo was taken in the birthing room. One of the locals we met along the way, who’d been complaining of a toothache, came with us for a tooth extraction. We paid for the service, (if memory serves, it was something like 300 shillings = 5 Canadian dollars) in exchange for permission to film it. In the end, he was so relieved the tooth pain was gone, he offered a live chicken to repay us. Of course, he would’ve been offended if we didn’t accept it, so we ended up carrying this live chicken all the way to the next village, where we donated it to one of the farmers.
This is one of the kids from Ngalimila with our chicken. The people of Tanzania were very generous and welcoming, and (unlike myself) more than happy to have their picture taken.
The children we met while staying at a Catholic mission in a neighbouring village called Mpanga. There was a yard in front of the mission where the kids would play soccer; twenty minutes went by before I realized the soccer ball they were playing with was really just a pile of plastic bags all bunched-up and tied together with elastic bands.
Sister Mabelize, one of the nuns from the mission. A gentle care-giver to the children and a generous host during our stay.
Watching these kids build a proper canoe from a tree they’d chopped down themselves, was one of the many moments I was left feeling more than a little ineffectual with my own Girl Scout survival skills.
And alas, before I could even finish my lunch — rice and boiled cassava — the canoe was built and ready to take out on the water.
This was a Duty Free Shop we came across at one of the small air-strips we stopped at on the way to Masai Mara. I didn’t have time to go inside at the time, our plane was about to take off again, one of those little 2-seater Cessna’s, but I was told they sold cigarettes, palm juice, powdered milk and even flip flops.
This was a market in Ethiopia where I was offered Khat (also pronounced “chat” or “qat”) leaves. I was advised by one of the other crew members, this was a very bad idea, and later learned that when you chew on the leaves, it gets you super high.
We just happened to be traveling in the middle of monsoon season; several of the locations we hiked through were flooded, making the journey longer and more arduous. One of the camera operators was taken out with a broken ankle and had to be left behind at one of the villages where we stopped for rest and food.
One of the locals making his way through the flood waters in one of the hand-made canoes I mentioned earlier.
Ben, one of the crew members with our guide and translator hiking through, often times waist-deep flood waters.
When we finally reach a destination where we can begin filming and having real conversations with the locals, it took a bit of time to negotiate the language barrier, even with the translator. For example, you couldn’t just ask if the child died from malaria. They would answer no, the child died from “degedege” — the Swahili word for convulsions, not understanding that it was in fact malaria that had caused the convulsions.
Another sick child in the village of Ngalimila. The children were so sweet, they kept following me around and holding my hand. It was impossible not to be completely heartbroken by it all.