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June 14 & June 17: updating from South Africa - Haiti - Mexico - Afghanistan - Democratic Republic of Congo

From our correspondents around the world...


South African musician Larry Joe performs with his friend and producer Aron Turest-Swartz, in the Netherlands. (courtesy: Cool Fresh Int.) 

Redemption songs. A con turns pro on the South African music scene, delivering on the promise his friend saw in him.

A story of toothsome tourism. Why some Americans are going south for their dental care.

Then, the peace after Jody's War. We catch up with the Canadian sniper who lost his feet in Afghanistan, but found hope at home.

The Conflicted Samaritan:  A Canadian physiotherapist questions his time helping injured Haitians when no one's improving the conditions they'll live in.

And the rise of narco-rap. Mexico's drug culture infiltrates another musical genre. 

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It's our second-to-last programme before we we leave you next week, as a consequence of budget cuts here at the CBC. 

But we've still got stories to tell you, and we'll catch up with some of the inspirational people we've met over our 12 seasons.  

South African musician Larry Joe, as he leaves Douglas prison in December 2010.

Larry Joe's songs of redemption

We start with Larry Joe, who we first heard two years ago, when he was locked up in a South African prison for burglary.

He was a troubled convict hoping for a music career when he met a restless music producer unsatisfied with his own.

Aron Turest-Swartz was a co-founder of the popular South African group Freshly Ground. And when he heard Larry sing, he dropped what he was doing and turned the jail cell into a recording studio.

When we last heard from them, Larry was about to be released and so was his first album. And we wanted to know where their story has gone since then.

Larry Joe joined us from Cape Town in South Africa and his producer and friend, Aron Turest-Swartz, was in studio with Rick.

Listen to Rick's chat with them

Listen to Corinne Smith's documentary about Larry Joe from March 2011 

You can see video of Larry recording with Aron in Douglas prison and hear his music at Larry Joe Live!

An American man receives dental care at a clinic in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Thousands of Americans are heading to Mexican border cities for cheap dental treatment. (Photo: Reuters/Tomas Bravo)

Toothsome Tourism

Improving your life sometimes means leaving it, to try something new. Sometimes it's just practical.

Seems that's the case for some Americans, facing expensive dental work.

In California, CBC Correspondent Jennifer Westaway followed one on his way to try something new, south of the border

Listen to Jennifer's dispatch 

Donkeys roam the stables at Montebaducco Farm, in Italy, where they're kept for their precious milk, which is far less allergenic than cow's milk. (Photo: Emma Wallis)

The measure of a dispatch: the "Who Knew?" factor

Stories like Jennifer's make us sit up and say, "Who knew?"

It's something we like in a yarn. Discover something new. Maybe a little wingy.

A lot of them grabbed our attention over the years; we were pretty sure they would grab yours.

Like a refugee theme park. A bank for cheese. Donkey milk. Who knew?

Here are some of our favourites

Blessed are the cheesemakers!  But who knew back in 2009 when we first aired that story that many of those giant wheels would be destroyed in earthquakes this year?

It plunged the industry into crisis. Authentic Parmesan must be aged IN the region. But cheesemakers are now asking for an exemption so they can move intact wheels somewhere else. Meanwhile, some do buy fragments of broken ones. They call it, "Solidarity Cheese." Who knew? 

So what Dispatches stories had that "Who knew?" factor for you? Next week, as we put together our last program, our website will start to feature pieces that you have something to say about. We'll post your comment and a link to the story -- for posterity. Tweet it to @cbcdispatches. Or check out our Facebook page. Or email dispatches@cbc.ca.

Master Corporal Jody Mitic prepares for the Achilles 5k run in support St.John's Rehab Hospital in Toronto on Sunday, March 15, 2009. Mitic lost both his legs in January 2007 after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan. (Photo: CP/Chris Young)

A soldier's story

Five years ago, Canadian sniper Jody Mitic fell, for a very long time. On patrol against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Master Corporal Mitic stepped on a land mine, and lost his feet.

A week later and a world away, Rick sat by his bedside in sterile mask and gown, interviewing him as he awaited surgery.

The room was dark, his regiment banner on one wall. Against another, a buddy from his unit loomed protectively, as if to ensure no disrespect came to the heavily-medicated man in the bed, telling his story for the very first time.

Listen to an excerpt from Rick's 2007 interview with Jody  

Jody gave a powerful and moving account, and a jury at the New York Festivals radio competition thought so too, awarding Dispatches a silver medal for storytelling.

But his story since then, is no less remarkable. And we wanted you to hear it firsthand. Jody Mitic joined us from Ottawa.

Listen to Rick's update chat with Jody 

Master Corporal Jody Mitic now lives in Ottawa and will soon be retiring from the military. So if you're looking to hire a military consultant, a radio announcer or an inspirational speaker, he's your guy.

You can hear Rick's original full-length Dispatches story of Jody Mitic here 

Irmela Mensah-Schramm (left), the woman trying to clean up Berlin's Nazi graffiti, and Sam Childers (right), the Machine Gun Preacher. 

Dispatches over the years: Characters we've met

One of the things we like to do on this program is introduce you to people caught up in all kinds of situations. We take you inside their homes, their lives, their heads.

You do that for a dozen years, you meet some real characters.

Maybe you remember some of them?

Listen to a collage of some of the people we've met

Here are links to the full original Dispatches:

Dennis Porter reports on Sam Childers, the so-called Machine Gun Preacher of South Sudan

Jennifer Westaway visits the women of Watts, California, two grandmothers who've spent their lives putting local kids through school

Borzou Daragahi's dispatch from Yemen on a ten-year-old bride

Saroja Coelho's dispatch on Irmela Mensah-Schramm, the woman single-handedly trying to clean up Nazi graffiti in Berlin

Dominique Jarry-Shore reports on the Misplaced (chicken) love of Marvin Pinto

Mike Landry helps carry a former patient to her home. But is it her new "prison"? (Photo/Fiona Stephenson)

The Conflicted Samaritan

Another person whose story resonates with us is Canadian physiotherapist Mike Landry. He let us mic him as he volunteered in Haiti after the earthquake of 2010.

It was important, samaritan work. Yet Landry was conflicted by the idea of helping the poor get better, knowing the conditions they'd live in never would.

So we asked him what giving voice to his quandary on this program has led Mike Landry to do.

Listen to Mike's reflections on his experiences

Mike Landry is a physical therapist and professor at the University of Toronto, and a scientist at the Toronto Rehab Institute. He's worked emergency missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, and Haiti.

Listen to Mike's original dispatch from Haiti (October 2010)

Musician and activist Samite Mulondo uses music to work with former child soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo. (photo courtesy samite.com)

The mender of lost hearts

Musician Samite Mulondo knows something about searching for meaning in conflict. A few years ago we had him on describing how how he uses song to rehabilitate damaged child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We called him "The Mender of Lost Hearts."

Listen to an excerpt from our piece on Samite Mulondo

Samite Mulondo, a musician and activist, works with former child soldiers, as he says, "to bring them closer to a place that's been taken away from them." 

Listen to our full original piece on Samite's work

Anti-Narco music

Sometimes though, it's the songs that are corrupted. Several years ago, we heard a dispatch from Connie Watson about the narco-corridos of Mexico, often commissioned by drug gangs to glorify their own history.

They're hijacking the tradition of the "white corrido," story songs begun in the early 1900s, celebrating heroes of the Mexican Revolution.

But a new generation is hearing about the Narco life through the prism of rap. Hector Diaz, age 24, has written several. The drug trade has claimed many of his friends, so rapping about it he says, is risky.

Listen Hector Diaz talk about his music, as told to Dispatches contributor Myles Estey

Write us with your Dispatch!

This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally. With technical producers Nima Shams and Tim Lorimer, senior producer Alan Guettel, and Rick MacInnes-Rae.

We'll bring you the world!

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