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.
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 refugee 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.
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.
When we all came down no one remembered the distance we covered to get to the camp. They are refugees 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Loads of Love
Friends of Kutara