By Jessie Marsiglio
We visited IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps and were greeted so warmly that the women even had us join them in singing and dancing. At the Gurku site (this was the one Markus had started with both Christians and Muslims) we saw the solar system of water that had just been installed to provide constant clean water supply for the camp. Each camp needs a similar system.
All the children need the discipline, structure and education of a school. Prayers were answered the Friday we were at Gurku when Sarah Robert arrived to be the teacher of a school. She will be working with camp leaders to begin officially. We gave her our blessings and some school and recreation supplies.
We visited Favored Sisters School and were greeted with the children’s singing. Since school was out for the summer, we interacted only with the orphans who lived there. As much fun as we had with sports and activities, I noticed some somber-faced children standing apart from everything. One older boy was wearing a pink girl Jacket that was way too small for him but he would not remove it even though the day was hot — it was his security. He hesitated at first to join in any games but eventually his curiosity overcame his fear of us. He would not talk or smile until near the end and it was the brightest smile ever. One older girl hung back but kept watch on all activities. When I needed to go to the bathroom she was asked to escort me. I asked her name and she said Susan when I immediately told her a story of a Susanna and ended it with and “Susana grew in favor with God and was very beautiful” just as she (Susan) was beautiful.” She smiled for the first time and held my hand the rest of the day.
The best visit of the week for any purpose was when we revisited this school. The children realized that we were more than just one-timers and that we really did care about them. They had all increased their skills at the activities we left with them and were eager to share with us. My boy with the jacket still had on the pink jacket but immediately joined the group. Susan grabbed my hand and played with us. Such a change in these two just because we showed that we cared. I hope this change continues and they are able to overcome the horrors they must have faced.
My heart bleeds for the children and we need to do everything for them. But we also need to work with the women. My personal opinion, my hope and prayer is that we are able to teach the widows to be self-supporting and return them to their home area when it is safe. CoB has scheduled some work camp to help repair/rebuild homes for them. But unless the widows have means to provide for themselves the widows will remain helpless. At Gurku, the widows are tending crops and the catfish ponds which will teach agricultural skills. We visited two organizations who are training in computer, sewing, soap making, etc.; this is a help but each organization can only manage a few trainees at a time.
We need more facilities and maybe even more variety of jobs training. If these widows are not normalized soon we might face generations of dependency and we cannot afford it nor do the women want that.
I was sad to leave Nigeria and hope someday to return.