Looking Back on a Journey Through Africa

Photojournalist David Snyder is currently traveling throughout southern Africa on behalf of CRS. He writes from Johannesburg, South Africa:

Africa for one more day. Hard to believe it but I left Baltimore three months ago. I’ve been to eight countries in that time, a journey I chronicled in small part through these blogs. But as I sit here now, looking out over a sunset in South Africa, the trip is too much to get your head around in one sitting. You can’t summarize three months in Africa.

South Africa _ Dave Snyder _ AIDSRelief Clinic

Slogans painted on the walls of the Changamwe Primary School in Mombasa, Kenya, warn students of the hazards of HIV and AIDS. For 30 of the school’s students, orphaned or left vulnerable by the AIDS pandemic, they need no reminders. CRS is targeting those children with a range of care and support, including uniforms and books, which many would otherwise have a very hard time finding the money to purchase. Photo by Dave Snyder for CRS

From a work perspective this trip was mostly about HIV and AIDS, and the steps CRS is doing to combat the effects of the virus. Antiretroviral medications (ARV’s) provided through CRS as part of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are having a tremendous impact. Quite simply, thousands are alive who would be dead, and their children still have parents. I met many on this trip. The struggle now, everywhere, is for those who have regained their strength through the ARVs to find work to support their families. It’s the main theme I hear from nearly everyone I spoke with at the Home-Based Care centers and clinics dispensing ARVs: people are recovering their lives again after starting the drugs, only to face the burdens of finding food and work.

Wrapping up now at the end of this trip – sitting in a leafy suburb of Johannesburg – I’m already feeling that bit of disconnect you feel every time you come back to the US from Africa, every time you leave one world for another. You feel sometimes that you just can’t really ever explain this place – how it feels, how it sounds, how it smells; how it makes you feel. All the work of the last three months seems pretty small – a few thousands photos, maybe 30 or 40 stories about people I’ve met. It’s so small a part of what you see and feel and experience on a trip like this, it feels inconsequential.

But I was talking with a friend over the weekend, getting my head around the trip home and all I have to do catch up on things when I return, and we both hit on the same theme, at the same time. No matter how tiring, no matter the trade offs of a life spent traveling – and there are trade offs, as with anything – I’m still so lucky to do this work, to see what I see, meet who I meet and do what I do. That’s as fitting a summary of three months in Africa as I can come up with.

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