The answer is always LOVE (or sometimes, "42"!)

The answer is always LOVE (or sometimes, "42"!)
My philosophy is LOVEISM...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How MARIJUANA helped save the Zulus from Extinction

Kelly, asking a council of Zulu Induna (tribal leaders):  “Why do YOU think all these ABELUNGU (foreign) doctors and medical scientists are out HERE, in NOWHERE, Hlabisa, all of a sudden?!”


Finally, Evelyn Mthembu (72 -year old Zulu Grandmother, Supposed-to-be-Retired Nurse and Head of Vusimpilo Community Caregivers):  “We are the Black Rhino.”

Back when I had “Save-the-World Syndrome” (circa 2001-ish), a British development agency brave enough to hire me, allocated me to a decaying, under-resourced, over-populated, rural hospital in an undeclared war-zone, serving an estimated population of 250,000 scattered, primarily Zulu-speaking peoples, with a 42.6 % HIV prevalence rate (*in simple English, that means almost 1 in 2 people were living—more so dying—due to HIV-related illnesses); high incidences of TB and Malaria—with a side of Cholera and Diabetes (Thanks, Col. Sanders!) A destination where no South African dare visit, much less work or live (by choice.) Otherwise known as the mountain-nest village of Hlabisa, “my home”, for 2 years.

Regularly, I visited rural communities consisting of solely Grandmothers and children; most of the adults (aka, “The Work Force”—you know…the teachers, nurses, bus drivers, farmers, shop keepers, etc.) were dead, in the process of dying from HIV-related opportunistic infections, or fled the villages for jobs in the city.   This means Grandmothers and sometimes teenage orphans were head of household:  Boys would often join gangs and resort to crime in order to procure food for their fellow orphans; Girls would resort to prostitution in order to help feed and cloth other children, just perpetuating the cycles of survival-mentality, poverty and disease.  If you do the math, the possibility of extinction was very possible.
Zulu (Orphan) Drum and Dance Troop
 We had no access to AIDS treatment options back in the early 2000’s, so the only health care options for people living with HIV/AIDS at the time (*throughout most of the world, I might add) were a mixture of limited “band-aid” drugs and some antibiotics; holistic therapies by local traditional healers; the prayers of family and shaman/church; decent nutrition; and improved living conditions—if we were lucky. So, basically, I was trying to respond to a local epidemic (which was part of a larger pandemic), with limited access to medications as well as human resources (you know, like doctors and nurses!); limited choices in food (they don’t have Trader Joe’s out in the bush!); poor water and sanitation systems; poor living conditions in general and high levels of stress and unemployment. Therefore, my primary health care team of community-based caregivers consisted of 28 Zulu Grandmothers and four Grandfathers. 
Goofy Guru blowing BUBBLES in the Hlabisa Hospital Children's Ward
 Out of desperation, I started researching holistic and alternative therapies and treatments—everything from Ayurveda to yoga.  I actively participated in this research, explaining to my Zulu neighbors that I was “praying in motion” when they discovered me practicing yoga in their cornfield.  I asked my staff of Grandmothers to create a master list of all the indigenous fruits, veggies, medicinal plants and herbs in the entire region—this MASTER FOOD/PLANT LIST quickly became our health-bible. 

“What is a dagga?”  I asked one of my Zulu Grandmothers and pointed at her list of local plants. She said something I could not understand (in Zulu) then started giggling and comically gesturing smoking a joint.

“Marijuana?” I blinked.

“Bob Marley,” she nodded. 

“Wait a minute!  There is marijuana around here?!  WTF?!  Why didn’t someone point this out earlier?!!!”  I roared, and then started immediately researching all the scientifically documented healing properties of cannabis—which much to my surprise, included the likes of PTSD treatment (very useful in these parts!); relief from depression and several other mental illnesses; nerve pain (neuropathy being a common symptom of HIV); nausea and lack of appetite (which was common in both patients with HIV and TB-- lack of proper nutrition prevents the absorption and digestion of medicines and ultimately, most people die of starvation); to multiple cancer treatments and therapy for Multiple Sclerosis (*which my mother happens to have.)

After much debate and many very informal experiments in my kitchen, 2 Zulu Grandmothers and I perfected a local affordable, easily accessible menu of medicinal edibles.  Therefore, whenever one of our community-based caregivers made a home visit, they would TEACH the head of household how to make their own edibles.  We were teaching people how to make their OWN MEDICINE.
Vusimpilo Community Home-based Caregivers DANCING at a staff party 

And we did not even need a “marijuana supplier” (FREE!!!!) because dagga grows wild in these parts! So our caregivers, with the help of hospital janitorial staff (*THANK YOU, Janitorial Staff of Hlabisa Hospital, for showing me I had “pot” in my own BACKYARD!  Hahahaha!) would VOLUNTARILY collect leaves and buds for us to distribute to patients in their homes.
In conclusion, I firmly believe this radical marijuana-based home health care plan kept the Zulus ALIVE and relatively well up until late 2000’s, upon the arrival of roads and Antiretroviral Therapy Drugs (“AIDS drugs”)  My proof:  Well, the Zulus are still alive and from what I can see—THRIVING!  

**And just IMAGINE what we could accomplish if we sent home-based caregivers AROUND the GLOBE some cannabis seeds to GROW their own MEDICINE, as well?!  You can start here at Sensi Seed Bank.

Kelly N Patterson (aka, the Goofy Guru)

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