'Compassion in hell,' Northern Rwanda  by Melinda Kerr

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'Compassion in hell,' Northern Rwanda by 

I was in northern Rwanda in April 2007 as a volunteer with an aid group and we had stopped to talk with people at a local church. The town was Rhuengeri, it sits close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and has the unfortunate reputation as having been home to a number of those who perpetrated the horrific genocide of 1994.
The atmosphere in Rwanda is one of pervading ‘brokeness.’ Millions of orphans live side by side with those who tortured and massacred their families 14 few, short years ago. Millions more suffer the newer enemy – HIV Aids and countless others wander ghost like in a state it seems of perpetual shock, haunted by the past and overwhelmed by the concept of a future.
This was April. The official month of mourning. When people publicly face what privately never leaves them.
I was sitting on a step tired and desperate for fresh air when I looked into the crowd that inevitably gathered wherever we were.
This woman, is by my guess perhaps 30 and she is as are most, dirt poor.
I was absolutely transfixed by her and her child.
She seemed to me to sum up so much of what I saw.
Love and desperation and yes, compassion.
Her breast is bone dry and cracked and yet she tries to feed her baby. Perhaps it is the hope inherent in the action which feeds her.
At the same time, she looks totally preoccupied by her struggle for survival.
What is she thinking as she gazes into the middle ground?
My thought is, ‘where is the next meal.’ Where will she get it from? How will she share it? And upon finishing it, where will she find the next one?
I was overwhelmed by seeing the reality of those who live literally from hour to hour, day after exhausting day.
It confronted me then.
It continues to confront me now.
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G’day all, my name is Melinda but my mates call me Mel, so feel free. I live by the beach in Elwood, Victoria, Australia. I contribute to a few charities as a Photojournalist, namely HEAL Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Any of my Africa stuff’s profits go to them. So far the sales have bought 7 operations and heaps more so thanks for everyone’s support. I also take a mean beach shot (well try to).

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  • Mark German
    Mark Germanabout 7 years ago

    Great shot, Melinda. Really a poignant slice in time.

  • Lisa  Jewell
    Lisa Jewellabout 7 years ago

    I find words difficult…

    Just know, I think your image and words…..need to be heard.

  • Paul Louis Villani
    Paul Louis Vil...about 7 years ago

    Her stare in intensely concerned. For the viewer there’s a fear of making eye contact for the feeling of helplessness that is sure to ensue hurts way too much. Your usual emotive and powerful work Mel, always a pleasure to behold! :)

  • Susan Zohn
    Susan Zohnabout 7 years ago

    Wonderful shot. It tells it all.

  • PhotogeniquE IPA
    PhotogeniquE IPAabout 7 years ago

    heart-rending image

  • rebecca zachariah
    rebecca zachariahabout 7 years ago

    this is great melinda. Ah…how i wish I was back there. how far apart are our two worlds to alllow such poverty to exist. A drop of water in a day of dryness….just a drop of water. If our world can share with theirs…how much better would everybody be.

  • geri402
    geri402about 7 years ago

    powerful shot, sad. you really captured the feeling.

  • Penny Edwardes
    Penny Edwardesabout 7 years ago

    Incredible work…so sad! It really makes you feel lucky to live where you do, to have the lifestyle that this woman can only dream of having. Beautiful heartwrenching work!

  • aljen01
    aljen01about 7 years ago

    Beautiful, I feel bad saying that. Not because it isn’t beautiful, but because these people are suffering so badly. I can’t believe not being able to feed my child and wondering if or when….always wondering.

  • H Maria Perry
    H Maria Perryabout 7 years ago

    So painful to witness. Thank you for your contribution to help end such suffering.

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