Finetastic Adventures

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Can Make a Difference!

World Aids Day was Friday. Here I am in South Africa, the center of the pandemic of AIDS, and I can’t find a decent forum or event to attend in all of Polokwane. I mean, it’s a pretty big city, over 150,000, and the provincial capital of Limpopo. You’d think there would be something happening here. After a phone call to a fellow PCV who works in the HIV/AIDS office of the Capricorn Municipal District (of which Polokwane is part) left me with nothing, I searched (briefly of course) online – still nothing. The nearest event was the national one, taking place in Nelspruit, too far for me to travel, within Peace Corps lockdown rules or not. So, needless to say, I was really bummed. I did attend, at the last minute, an event at our local casino/entertainment center, which had invited some of the orphans from our organization’s children shelter. Several staff members were there, and a few others, and I must say, I am impressed by the center’s Aids awareness and policies, but it was a far cry from what I had imagined attending. Maybe next year.

We are also in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism. This is a national period in which concern is focused on the violence against women and children. I hope more is being done than just our wearing a white ribbon during this period. In today’s news, the African Peer Review Mechanism report (from the African Union’s elite watchdog group of which SA President Thabo Mbeki himself was a founder) called on South Africa to make the fight against violent crime its top priority. And the FIFA World Cup will be here in 2010; does this country have its work to do!

Anyway, this leads up to my excitement. When we got home late Friday afternoon, after a bummer of a World Aids Day, I opened a letter that we had picked up from our mail box that morning. (Actually, I should say “the” letter since it was the only one. And we never open our mail until we get home so we can savor it!) After reading the very nice note that Barb Truit wrote I turned my attention to the newspaper clipping she had enclosed. It made my day! The North Shore Herald from Milwaukee reported that the Bayside village board had approved reworking an intersection to make it safer for cyclists. This was a campaign on which I had spent many hours. (For those of you in the area, it involves the intersection of the I 43 Port Washington Rd exit ramp and the road itself, where too many bicycle-car accidents have occurred.) Many of you may remember that for the last couple of years I have written countless emails, made many phone calls and spoken to the Bayside Police and Village Board on several occasions. For several months prior to leaving the US for Africa I was told by the DOT that the best that could be done would be painting in a bike lane and installing another warning sign. I vehemently fought against this option, knowing it wouldn’t be enough, and frankly might make matters worse. I strongly advised them to consider spending the extra money to straighten out the curve, thereby eliminating the blind spot in which cyclists always get caught. Then I left for South Africa and really didn’t think about it again – until Friday!

Wow! What is so great is the fact that once this work is done, cyclists can travel through the intersection without worrying that they will come through unscathed (and alive). What’s also great is that the work should be complete in 2008, the year we return to Milwaukee, so I can use the intersection with confidence. But what’s really the best is knowing that one person can make a difference. Which is perfect with my now serving here in the Peace Corps. Though we’ve only been here a few months, I already wonder if my being here is really going to matter. Somehow, now I know it will.

4 Comments:

  • Dear Marti,
    I can imagine your frustration Fri and seeing very little was being done for Aids awareness. We pray that this will change and of course result in making a difference.
    But, I could feel the happiness while you were posting your comment. How wonderful it must feel to know that you really did make a difference! Hopefully this work will be done or almost done when you return home.
    Howie and I send you much love and we take so much pride in knowing that you and Dave are our friends. We really are proud of you and know that you are representing all of us here in accomplishing your mission.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:01 PM  

  • Good for you,
    Glad all your hard work has payed off with the bike project. I love reading your blogs. I sometimes feel like I am there. YOu are very good at conveying what it its like. Thanks for all you two do.
    Be safe. Miss you.
    Diane W

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:39 PM  

  • Congrats! Maybe we need to recruit you down in NC to help us get needle exchange legalized...You'll have to share some of your advocacy tricks with me when I come visit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:14 AM  

  • Marti
    I will keep an eye on the progress of the bike construction for you. You know that you are making a huge difference...remember every single person you touch..even the littlest gesture...is making a difference! I keep telling Steph that too! Have a wonderful holiday and give her a hug for us when you see her! Love these blogs! I save them all and send her copies!
    Bill and Anne

    By Anonymous The Frazier's, at 7:36 AM  

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