From Kutara ; displaced but placed by God

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The kids in the camp

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It was one of those conversations you have with a friend, you remember the economic climate and the many job losses in the country and he suddenly says “Chijioke what of IDP camps”? This unplanned conversation ignited a fire that had gone dim for a while, thank you Gbenga. That same week I had gone to visit a friend and found out an IDP camp was close to his house. Oh! I was extremely excited, told my aunt and we took our first set of relief items in the form of clothes and shoes. But the visit left us disappointed, it wasn’t organized, we saw a lot of bags of clothes in a particular container, apparently they didn’t have a proper system for sharing.

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The arrival at the camp
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Tim getting acquainted with the kids. After they had sung their welcome song
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Rachel leading them in the greeting in Hausa language
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Tuboson, Rachel, Ejike and Tochi capturing the moment

I still knew there were more IDP camps and I went further to get a more detailed list of IDP camps at the outskirts of town. Thankfully I found about seven (7) camps and I chose Kutara Camp. Meanwhile a mentoring group I’m part of decided to carry out Charity work with an emphasis on IDP camps. I had posted a status on facebook without asking for help but causing people to think of how they could help towards the displacement crisis in Nigeria and I got private messages as well as comments on how they can get involved. You see when you have a desire to do something God causes the earth to respond. The journey to raise funds for the visit to Kutara started.

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Solar panel for the bore-hole
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The bore-hole

 A little N2,000.00, few baby clothes and it kept coming. I was getting overwhelmed with people’s donations within and outside Abuja. A colleague overheard my conversation over the phone and asked how he could get involved. I explained the needs and he gave $100 and further made others to give $200. Oh! My heart was bursting with excitement, my friend Melford said my excitement was infectious even over the phone. While I was sorting out the clothes, shoes and textbooks I couldn’t believe all the things people sent. They were all new and laundered clothes, I saw the prettiest aso-eke for a little baby girl and I saw tampon too. That definitely made me smile but reminded me I needed to buy sanitary towels too.

I was awake by 3.00 a.m. on that Saturday and couldn’t sleep, not sure if it was anxiety or excitement but I was glad to be up to know a little thought was about to come alive. We were eleven (11) on the trip, three colleagues, six friends and the camp coordinator Adamu. We headed to Kutara in three (3) cars with lots of emotions running through our minds. Only one of us who is a doctor had been to several IDP camps. The trip became pretty interesting when we veered off the major road and kept on driving for another thirty (30) minutes and the camp was nowhere in sight. At some point my friend Efe who was in another car called to ask why I didn’t ask them to bring their passports cos’ it was clear we were leaving the borders of Nigeria. We finally got to the camp situated in the middle of nowhere and beheld the sight of many little children waiting for us at the entrance and singing a welcome song.

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Tuboson and Adamu the Camp coordinator who doubles as their respected leader
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Yea Peace to the world… watch out for that kid
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Women and Children…

When we all came down no one remembered the distance we covered to get to the camp. They are displaced persons from Adamawa and Borno who were attacked by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The name of the camp is Kutara in Masaka, Nassara state. The camp is made up of seventy (70) families, sixty (62) men, sixty (60) women and two hundred and twenty-eight (228) children and they all live in houses provided by the Church of the Brethren Mission in Switzerland through EYN Church Headquarters in Mubi, Adamawa State . The same church owns the land they are occupying. There’s a solar-paneled bore hole in the camp. We all went to various areas in the camp. Tuboson who’s a doctor had a session with the public health worker in the camp, Rachel had a session with the kids where she recited the alphabets and sang the National Anthem in Hausa language, Efe, Ejike, Tochi and I went to view the make-shift school.

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The walk to the school
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Getting information from the teachers. Me, Efe, Ejike, Tim and Tochi in the classroom.
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The make-shift classroom
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One of the teachers
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Tim giving the kids their football. He was supposed to play with them but time was an issue.

There are three (3) structures built with Zinc with a black board gotten by painting wood with charcoal. They have five (5) volunteer teachers who cover from per-crèche to primary three (3). The remaining kids go to private schools in neighboring villages which is funded by the produce from their farms. They are predominantly farmers. Tim had fun with the children while Iztok and Guy were busy strategizing on the next steps. Not to forget Chioma who was gracious enough to document our experience with her camera. I can’t forget what the young lady said when we handed the sanitary towels to her, she said the women in the camp use rags and wash it to re-use. Yes in the 21st century we still have such practices.

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Rachel reciting the alphabet in Hausa language
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Rachel in her element
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They were reciting the National Anthem.

The heads of various groups spoke to us and the head of the camp who we observed to be highly respected said something very profound, “We were displaced by Boko Haram but God has placed us here”. They have made Kutara their home and when I asked him if he will like to go back home, he responded by saying TO WHERE! I can’t say we met all their needs but a child went to bed that day with a new dress on, one had a chocolate drink, another ate noodles while another child used a toothbrush and a bathing soap in the morning not to forget the new shoe a man will put on and the woman who will be using a sanitary towel that day. Or the volunteer teacher who took back money in envelops as a reward for their help in molding the next generation. You see, we all wished we could do more but at the end of the day we were glad we changed one life after all it starts with one.

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Dr Tuboson discussing the medical needs with the health professional in the camp.

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Our amazing driver Stephen who was extremely patient with us and Efe off-loading the relief materials

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Beyond what we gave them, they were excited that we crossed all the seven rivers and mountains to spend the day with them. They said people hardly visit them cos’ of the distance and the few people who visit them make promises but never come back. Although we didn’t make any promises but we’ve decided to be a little different. We have met after the visit and talked about what we can do for them. So here we have it: –

  • A proper school – We plan on constructing up to six (6) classroom blocks with desks and chairs.
  • A better health post
  • Medical supplies – Malaria is the major disease in the camp
  • Mosquito Net
  • Sanitation facilities
  • Fertilizer for the farmers
  • Skills acquisition and initial start-up for them
  • Solar panel for electricity for the camp
  • Improved accessibility for local transportation
  • Publicity – We want to do a documentary to share their story with the world
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The oldest man in the camp
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Not sure what I was saying
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Efe, Rachel and the youth leader behind them

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That moment our great philosopher Tochi gave a talk on the audacity of the youth. He gave a good pep talk

If there’s anything we all noticed there’s transparency in the sharing of relief materials they receive. We plan on empowering them in making them self-sufficient so they don’t rely solely on aids. So like I asked in my Facebook post, what do you have in your hand that can help? Whatever it is, let us know and we’ll take it up from there. Yes we just made a difference last week Saturday but we are about to change the lives of many people to translate to many generations. After all said and done we live to leave a lasting legacy and at the end we all have the same color of blood and that’s all that matters.

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She’s 3 years old and bold…watch out for her
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Who knows, maybe Efe just carried a future president of the country. You just never know
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Did Rachel just take a picture with a future World Bank President? You just never know

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She’s just two weeks old
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That moment Tim led the closing prayer with all our hands clasped together.
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And Tim raises his hand, not sure what he was saying

Loads of Love

Friends of Kutara

 

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Moses and Scrabble; lessons learnt along the way

I have a couple of fond memories as a kid but I think one of my fondest was playing Scrabble with my dad and sister. He was obviously better than the two of us but he would always give us an additional fifty (50) points at the beginning of the game to place us ahead of him. But I guess you know who always won… yes you were right – My Dad. Regardless of the numerous losses as a kid, he increased my capacity to know lots of word. I would often and still do it now, try to form words from a word I see from bill boards, to car stickers (the thought just makes me smile). I can say some sort of confidence was built over time in playing Scrabble. I took that confidence to the National Youth Service Corps  (NYSC) orientation camp. Initially I was really humble watching the guys play the game and boy! they were so good. The first time I played with them, I won after the elimination stage, they were all shocked.

And that was how our little group of Scrabble players started to increase. I went on to win more games and soon represented my platoon in the camp games competition. I did well at the elimination stage, my all male squad was there to cheer me on. Oh it felt really cool but there was another player in the female category who was also very good. My platoon and her platoon made it to the final stage but something happened. The day of the finals she wasn’t available and it was a game of two (2) people each for a team. The coordinators had insisted we play 2 against 1 which would have been unfair so we decided to have a level playing ground for the two teams. But the other lady was scared of playing with me and insisted on us waiting for her partner, time was running out, I was feeling myself as “she who is the greatest champion”. She eventually agreed to play against me, in a turn of events we were at a tie midway into the game and then she started to have some more points ahead of mine. Men and brethren she won, one of my cheerleaders whispered to me later “you know you were better than her” and in retrospect I think I was too confident and that for me was a life’s lesson.

Incidentally many of us have passed through such scenarios, which may have had dire consequences, thankfully mine was just a game. I’m currently studying the life of Moses in the Bible and I’m amazed at how a regular child turned out to do extra-ordinary things cos’ God chose him. He probably wasn’t the best child at that time, but he sure had the best as a child. From been listed by Pharaoh to be killed to moving into Pharaoh’s palace as a royal child and then getting his mother to nurse him while she was been paid. Let’s applaud God’s huge sense of humor.  His’ was surely a fairy tale but the story doesn’t end there. God started working with Moses with his rod to save the Israelite, from the rod changing into a python, to using that same rod to divide the Red Sea. In most cases he didn’t speak, the rod did the speaking but you know, you can never fully understand God’s ways. We can never get used to His way of doing things neither can we let familiarity creep in on us.

The Israelite had complained again against God and Moses that they had no water, God instructed Moses and Aaron “Take the rod, and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock in front of them…Moses said to them listen now, you rebels must we bring water out of this rock? Then he raised his hand in anger and with his rod he struck the rock twice… and the water poured out abundantly” Numbers 20 : 8 – 11. Did you notice any similarity with Moses’ previous works – the rod was always in his hand. But while in other cases God asked him to stretch forth the rod in this case he was instructed by God to speak even while holding the rod. Is it convenient to say Moses assumed it was business as usual, he had applied the same principle in the past and it always worked therefore this particular one wasn’t any different. Can we also assume I had always won previous Scrabble games and didn’t pay attention to really see how my opponent played to predict the best moves?

How often have we missed out opportunities cos’ of assumption or familiarity, for the Bible scholars you remember this singular act of Moses prevented him from entering the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. God is a good God but His methods of expressing His goodness changes. At some point He’s mixing spit and clay to open blind eyes, at another point He’s speaking. Imagine if Abraham’s ears were closed to God, he would have sacrificed his son Isaac and still tell his wife that was God’s instruction but God said something after the first instruction. The issue isn’t if God is speaking rather are we listening or do we go to God with our already pre-conceived familiar idea and act upon it. I pray our ears and hearts are really open to hear that still small voice direct us.

Loads of Love

JMAD