Genesis: Where Life Begins
In a world where teaching resources are almost non-existent, an anatomical model creates a huge stir. Anyone who sees it will stop in awe and wonder. Tell me about this! Let me touch it! Is this real?
Two years ago we’d taken to Taru, our usual work area, a cross-section model of a woman’s pregnant abdomen. Baby tucked tightly inside, placenta clearly visible, the life-size model could sit on the counter. We named her Genesis. Genesis was to tell a powerful story to the secondary students who came to learn about her, over 200 at a time. Spurring curiosity, unlocking wonder, Genesis proved herself to be captivating. Using her as a catalyst, our interns talked about the beginning of life, with all its miraculous wonder. A microscopic sperm finding a microscopic egg. The spark of a human being. Eyes wide as saucers, exploding with questions, the students took it all in.
Genesis was first introduced to Madame Agatha, the deputy principal of the school of 1,000 girls where we’d been teaching. “Aw!” she gasped, holding the baby, still enclosed in plastic, “It is beautiful!” And she did what everyone seemed to want to do. She took the baby out and she held it reverently, not even aware that she was rocking it softly as she spoke. “The girls will love this. It is good!”
Genesis is accompanied by some tiny “babies”—rubbery, true-to-life-size, 3-month gestation embryos, at the stage where abortions most commonly occur. Students could hold one in the palm of their hand—this fully formed peanut of a child, complete with all the features they would have for life. “This is really a baby at three months?” they exclaimed. “How can that be?”
Madame Agatha helped set up class after class where Genesis could be introduced, once to a group of 400! (You can be sure that such teaching without a microphone is not easy.) The girls passed around the baby, cuddled it. Laughed. Kissed it. The tiny embryos, fifty of them, were passed around to the students, who responded with gasps and exclamations. Quieting them for discussion was nearly impossible. Here they were holding it: life. Comprehending, with awe, that they were once so small. And that someday, if they hadn’t already, they would likely be part of the creation of such a being.
Angie Parkin, mother of the four grown children that had accompanied us, walked up and down the aisles, talking about the sacred miracle of life. With her enthusiasm and her clear love and caring for her subject as well as the girls, she encouraged them to ask questions. And they did.
Later when the Parkin family took Genesis to teach at the boys’ school, the excitement and disbelief were equally palpable. Brett Parkin and his sons shared the message that a man can never forget that with the creation of life comes responsibility.
The reality of life for these kids is that most of them are sexually active by adolescence. Poverty demands very tight living quarters, where children sleep with parents, sensing how it all works at a young age. They are driven by curiosity and hormones, just like young people elsewhere. But poverty puts girls at extreme risk, as their powerlessness can make them fall victim to rape and early marriages. Strangely enough, pregnancies very often occur at funerals, which are often 3-day events where emotions run high and inhibitions are low. (That’s a topic for another blog.) But what these young people long for is education, a way to know what is myth and what is true. They long to understand their bodies, the dangers of abortion, the power of what they are capable of creating. It’s a big topic, that’s for sure, and is there a more important one? I don’t think so.
Thank you, Genesis, for being the catalyst for such learning. We have left you and the babies behind, locked in the closet at the community center. But you will be checked out, circulated, used at the HIV clinic, the health center, by the women’s group. And you’ll travel to many more classes, taking your wondrous message: no matter where we live or who we are, we are all part of this human miracle.