What would you do?

Posted by on February 15, 2013 in Blog, Uncategorized | 1 comment


A grandmother in her late 40’s is seeking help frantically.  Her first daughter of 8 children is in labor with her first child.  She’s in the home of an extended family member, hemorrhaging with no medical attention– no doctor, no midwife.

This daughter lost her husband to murder just 2 months prior.  She grieved deeply, she stopped eating, she stopped taking care for the life growing within her womb.  She was living 2 hours away from our city at the time.  The midwives in the town were concerned with her unborn baby who wasn’t in a position suitable for delivery.  The midwives advised her to come to Mahajanga for more medical care.

Fast forward two months and this daughter’s life is bleeding out before her mother’s eyes.  They desperately need to go to the hospital but the bus won’t allow a woman hemorrhaging like this to get on the bus.  They find a taxi but don’t have enough money for the taxi fare to the hospital.  The equivalent of less than $5.  The taxi won’t leave until he knows they have the fare and so the grandmother desperately searches.

What would you do? 


The daughter required surgery.  The baby didn’t make it.  He or she died within the mother’s womb.  The daughter lost a ton of blood due to the hemorrhage and needs a massive transfusion but the hospital won’t give the blood until it’s paid for and replaced with more blood.  The grandmother is again desperately seeking financial help from anyone in the community that can offer it.  Her daughter’s life depends on it.

What would you do?


The grandmother is seen walking solemnly through the community.  When approached she begins to wail… “my daughter died, she didn’t make, she’s dead now too”.

What would you do? 

As is custom here, to prevent the smell of rotting flesh, the body is injected with formaldehyde soon after death.  The days are hot and the body needs to travel the 2 hours back to the town for a proper burial in the family tomb.  After the cost of the hospital, the blood, the doctor’s fees, the surgical fees, the medicine, the grandmother doesn’t have the money to pay for the formaldehyde and the fare to take her daughter’s body back to her “homeland”.  The way people are cared for in death is just as important, if not more so, than how they are cared for while alive.

What would you do? 

We helped.  All three times.  We prayed with her.  Our hearts grieved with her.  We engaged our close Malagasy friend for cultural wisdom and understanding.  This same Malagasy friend was present 2 of the 3 times we talked with the grandmother.  We took her to talk to our pastor when she asked where we went to church and when she told us she was ready to turn back to God.


The grandmother was back from her “homeland”, just 2 days after her daughter died, just 1 day after her daughter was buried in the family tomb.  And at that moment it dawned on us.  The whole thing was a lie.  One big, ugly, horrendous I-can’t-believe-someone-would-lie-about-this type of lie.  A total con.

What would you do? 

This same Malagasy friend told us later that day that she had found out that this same con has been used on others in the community in recent years.  Sad to say but truth be told, we were relieved to find out that we weren’t the only ones targeted and not the only ones that got conned.

Life is never dull here.  On a daily basis the need around us is tremendous.  It’s difficult to know when and who and how to help.  There’s always a lesson to learn.  We learned a few with this one.




There’s several books written about this topic— here’s two good recommendations:  African Friends and Money Matters and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor.

***the image above is not “the grandmother”… rather a really wonderful employee of Eden Projects.





1 Comment

  1. Alissa,

    I totally would have responded as well. How devastating to learn that your trust had been taken advantage of….
    I almost got hit in a smiliar way except by internet. I got an email from my aunt Doris who said that she was traveling in the Philippines and that her passport had been stolen and she needed money. Said she’d pay me back as soon as she got home. I was ready to get my purse out right then, but my husband walked by and read it and said it was a scam. I was that close… so I totally would have trusted a person in front of me to be telling the truth.

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you, and I pray that you will continue to have a soft giving heart as I know you do.


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