“I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war.”
― Abraham Lincoln
“…I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of Africa, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war.”
― Kelly Ranck
There is still much to be said about the individuals I met while training with World Concern in Kenya and South Sudan. A few beneficiary’s stories in particular have continued to stick with me. A couple of weeks ago, you met John, the toothy singing mechanic of South Sudan. Today, it is my honor to introduce you to one of Kenya’s most resilient women, Rukia Abdi.
Rukia lives with 4 of her children in Benane, an arid and drought-ridden Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) camp in Eastern Kenya. She and her family moved west from the Isiolo District after losing all of their livestock to inner-clan wars and the worst drought in 60 years. Like many of the Somali people of Eastern Kenya, Rukia has lived her entire life as a pastoralist. Though she was once the owner of 500 goats, 200 cows, and 100 camels, Rukia and her family are now left with merely a small plot of land, 10 goats, and 3 camels. Due to the depletion of her resources and livelihood, Rukia was forced to move her family west, without any knowledge of their end destination or future means of provision.
Forced to flee her migratory lifestyle, Rukia used the less-than-ideal resources that the thorn-ridden land had to offer and settled in Benane. Because of her continued lack of opportunity for income, 3 of her 7 children have since been adopted by relatives. Rukia’s husband left home over 3 months ago to go beg for assistance in a nearby town. Left with her 4 children, one of whom had chicken pox during the time of the interview, and Kenya Red Cross rations, Rukia still clings to God and remains a solid rock for her family. The sole caretaker of her home, this resiliency of Rukia keeps her family alive.
Like many others in Benane, Rukia is tired of living off of “well-wisher’s” donations and hopes to be able to generate a sustainable source of income- one that will allow all of her children to live in the same home; one that will pay for her children’s education; an income that will bring her husband home and give him opportunities to be a provider; an income that will bring Rukia and her family dignity. Rukia’s circumstances are entirely out of her control. Rukia deserves to do more than survive.
I have tried countless times to empathize with Rukia’s story, but I have never known what it feels like to lose all of my possessions, my livelihood, and my sense of worth. I am humbled (wait, humbled is not even strong enough of a word…) by the fact that it is not because of what I’ve done that I have not suffered such losses, and it is not because of what Rukia’s done that she has— I do not know why I’ve been given, in comparison to Rukia’s, such an easy life. What I do know, is that it is my job, as a fellow human and sister, to know, understand, share, and act on stories such as Rukia’s. World Concern is working to give people like Rukia opportunities to live with dignity and hope. In disaster-related circumstances, such as that of the drought, World Concern works first and foremost to bring relief (such as Non-Food Items [NFIs], food vouchers, and medicine), but it is their primary focus to remain in communities until they are able to help people move into a life of sustainability. World Concern works to see lives and villages transformed to the point of moving past surviving- to a point of thriving. Currently, World Concern is helping Rukia and the people of Benane with agricultural training- a significant step for a community that has lived their entire history as pastoralists.
I cannot wait for the next time that I am able visit with Rukia! It is my prayer and hope that she will be empowered to provide for her family through farming and job training. I don’t doubt that the work of World Concern, coupled with her resilient spirit, will give her the opportunity to live a life transformed. When I return to the field, keep on the lookout for updates on Rukia and her family!
Please consider partnering with me to share more stories of incredible women and men like Rukia by becoming a monthly donor. Help me serve as a voice those who’s stories of pain, resilience, and beauty deserve to be heard. Thanks for tuning in!
Also, it’s not too late to buy a ticket for the Jenny Simmons and Jonathan Young benefit show at the Q Cafe, Oct 19! It will be a night of good coffee, good community, and good music for a good cause!