Contributed by Sally Rich
Every morning as we met with our Nigerian brothers and sisters in preparation for a day of work, we would hear and express the traditional Hausa greeting, “Lafiya,” wishing the receiver health in body, mind, and soul. This greeting was especially meaningful as we met our second morning with EYN members living in camps for displaced persons at Masaka and Gurku. These brothers and sisters have recently been traumatized by attacks of Boko Haram on their homes and families in the Chibok region. Many have witnessed the brutal killings of husbands, wives, and even parents. While they can call upon spiritual strength and innate courtesy to offer us a welcoming smile, often beneath that smile lies deep pain and a sense of desperation about their near and distant future. They need Lafiya.
While some of us felt sad to just visit and leave, our leader, Markus Gamache told us our visit took their mind off their troubles for awhile, and gave them a chance to share their troubles with brothers and sisters from far away. It gives them hope to know that we know their situation. One of Markus’ objectives is to create work programs for the people of the camps that keep their bodies, minds and souls busy with useful work, as they begin the healing process. There it is again: Lafiya, health in body, mind and soul.
It’s even better when these programs provide an income that can be used immediately, as well as a skill that can be used in the future to create income. Programs where people learn tailoring, fishery skills, and new farming skills provide this kind of practical hope. The interfaith camp at Gurku is a pioneer in these areas, but other camps need the resources to create such programs as well.
Some of us on the work camp were dreaming about a new kind of “sharing” camp, where each participant would come prepared to share gifts from their own experience, even as we accept gifts from the experiences of our Nigerian friends. An organic farmer may share some of what he has learned, and together find ways to adapt that knowledge to the local conditions. A music lover may come prepared to start a choir among camp members, and in turn learn songs to take back to our congregations at home. A physical therapist may share exercises tailored to the aches and pains people may be having. You get the idea…what might your gift be?
I have a fair trade business selling jewelry and accessories made by women in Uganda. So in the spirit of a sharing camp, I went to Nigeria looking for a product or two that women there could make and I could sell. A friend from our church who works at our local Brethren nursing home suggested rice therapy pillows would be a great product to sell at nursing home gift shops. I was able to connect with a group of EYN women who are learning to sew, and they made me rice therapy pillows, walker bags, as well as scarves and headbands. At the Gurku camp, I met with a group of widows who had recently learned to make soaps and ointments from natural local materials, and I hope to have those by the time of Annual Conference, where I will have a booth. Look for me there! The name of our project: Lafiya! Of course.