Monthly Archives: November 2013

Lafayas in Amkharouba // Salouakatteer

Pulling up to Amkharouba village, our first stop of the day, I hang back in the Land Rover while my colleagues pile out to greet our eager hosts. Sitting on my lap is a beautifully geometric patterned lafaya, a traditional Chadian wrap borrowed from a colleague who worked in the area for an extended period of time.

The lovely women of Amkharouba wrap me in a lafaya, otherwise known as a Kelly burrito.

The lovely women of Amkharouba wrap me in a lafaya, otherwise known as a Kelly burrito.

Glued to, and sweating in, my seat, I stare at the large piece of fabric – bewildered as to how I will be able to perform my normal photographer duties while wrapped head to toe like a human burrito in the Sahel.

Reluctantly making my way out of the car, I’m immediately surrounded by a group of curious onlookers. Noticing the lafaya gripped in my sweaty palms, they grab the fabric and proceed to give me a Sila Region makeover.

Despite the women’s lafaya wrapping expertise, it was just as uncomfortable I imagined. Let’s just say that though I may have looked like a local (okay, as much as a white woman could), I sure didn’t walk like one. Throughout the afternoon, tripping became a normalcy.

Okay. I'll cut myself a little slack on my tripping quota.

Okay. I’ll cut myself a little slack on my tripping quota.

Fortunately, I was not the one in front of the camera – and the people of Amkharouba seemed to deeply appreciate my willingness to dress as they do.

And as clichéd as it may sound, my day as a Chadian burrito became noticeably less uncomfortable as I sat and listened to the community’s daily discomforts. I was trying to restrain from ripping off my lafaya for a single afternoon; the women of Amkharouba rock their lafayas all day every day all the while dealing with significant discomforts.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

// Saloukatteer //

“I’m hoping that one day we can get water and a school and food to eat every day.”

Brushing back her neon yellow lafaya, Salouakatteer solemnly describes life in Amkharouba, a village in the rural Sila Region of Eastern Chad.

Located close to one and a half hours from the nearest water source – both the land and the people of Amkharouba are dehydrated.

Describing her daily activities, Salouakatteer explains that “the water we are getting is very far from here”.

Often, she spends the majority of her morning on donkey back traveling to and from the water collection site – an old well.

“I go every day, unless sometimes my brother or sisters go instead. The water we are getting is not clean,” Salouakatteer tells me.

Though unsure of her age, Salouakatteer appears to be around ten years old. No matter, she is old enough to know that people in her village are dying from hunger and a lack of clean, accessible drinking water.

Referring to her six siblings Salouakatteer says, “We eat one to two times a day. Yes, we are hungry everyday – sometimes we even cry.”  She solemnly recalls a few people in Amkharouba who have died from such causes.

World Concern staff meets with the Amkharouba under a tree.

World Concern staff and the Amkharouba community meet under a tree.

World Concern recently partnered with the people of Amkharouba through an incredible program called One Village Transformed.

Thanks to private donors who have committed to three years of support, the people of Amkharouba are working alongside World Concern to establish what many of us would consider as basics: accessible clean water, agricultural empowerment, hygiene awareness, and education.

Though Salouakatteer’s childhood may have been cut short by her surrounding environment, she is clearly still a child at heart.

“School is far from here so no one attends. But I want to learn about what kids learn about in school.”

Just the mention of education reveals a bashful grin on Salouakatteer’s previously stoic face.

“I’m hoping that one day we can get water and a school and food to eat every day.”

** If you are interested in participating in World Concern’s One Village Transformed program (seriously, this is an amazing opportunity), check out this link.
***Over the next few weeks I plan to frequently update the blog with beneficiary stories from all over East Africa. Tune in to read more about World Concern’s work. Use this blog as a medium for connecting to a people, place, and story that is not frequently talked about in the standard news.

 

Issaka of N’djamena Village // Old Enough to Know

News flash: I’m not perfect.

Shocking, right?

This means that after a long day in the field (meaning the rural locations where World Concern works), I tend to grow grumpy, exhausted, and impatient. And as hard as I work to suppress such feelings, some days the heat is just too much, my stomach is just too grumbly, and all I want to do is sit by myself in the corner of a dark cool room with a glass of iced tea.

Though I don’t often vocalize these selfish thoughts (as I am now), there are days when I find them running through my head in a broken record-like fashion. And as silly as I know they are, particularly because in a matter of hours I will have water in hand, food in my belly, and a pillow under my head, they can persist like a trick birthday candle, impossible to snuff.

The World Concern Chad staff and myself had been out in the field since 7 am. The time was nearing 4 pm. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast, drank only a few sips of water, and were sore and sweaty from the ever-jostling journey.

It was one of those trick birthday candle kind of days. I was beyond ready to hop in the car and chug my long-awaited water when I was hesitantly greeted by a reserved boy named Issaka. That trick birthday candle of mine was quickly was snuffed.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Wearing a tattered yellow shirt, Issaka stands on luscious bright green grass in front of a sparkling wadi (a natural water basin that fills only during the rainy season); the challenges of life in N’djamena are easily masked by its vibrant environment.

Issaka. // N'djamena Village, Chad.

Issaka. // N’djamena Village, Chad.

Though ten years of age is an educated guess, Issaka is old enough to know, but young enough to have forgotten, about the horrific Janjaweed attack that occurred in his village over seven years ago.

Sieging and destroying many nearby villages, this local militant group destroyed both life and property in N’djamena, a small community in the Sila Region of Chad.

With no option but to flee for their lives, the Janjaweed forced most of the people of N’djamena to run to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Gassire, a town about an eight-hour foot journey away.

“We came back to N’djamena to farm because we were unable to do in the camps,” explains a shy Issaka.

In 2011, after years living in the camp, Issaka, his mother, and his remaining siblings returned with many others their home village. Unfortunately, out of his ten siblings, only five are still living.

“Five of my siblings died. Now we remain four boys and one girl,” Issaka quietly shares, looking over at his friends. “Some of them died from stomach pain. The others we don’t know why.”

One of Issaka's friends in the village.

One of Issaka’s friends in the village.

In addition to dealing with the difficulties of re-building their destroyed village and restoring what was once a place of safety, the people of N’djamena have never had a clean water source – let alone any sort of infrastructure, for that matter.

“I was feeling bad when I was seeing my brothers dying. Maybe it was because of the dirty water.”

Since returning to N’djamena, Issaka spends most of his days grinding millet, fetching drinking water, and assisting his mother on the farm.

“I went to school in Gassire,” says Issaka. “But there is no school here. I want to go back to school.”

N'djamena's wadi. The local water source that is only full after rains and is never clean.

N’djamena’s wadi. The local water source that is only full after rains and is never clean.

Next to clean water, most of N’djamena’s residents would agree that education is the community’s priority need.

World Concern recently partnered with the people of N’djamena through an incredible program called One Village Transformed.

Thanks to private donors who have committed to three years of support, the people of N’djamena are working alongside World Concern to establish what many of us would consider as basics: accessible clean water, agricultural empowerment, hygiene awareness, and education. 

Dreaming of his future, Issaka coyly grins, momentarily pauses, and says, “I want to be a teacher.”

** If you are interested in participating in World Concern’s One Village Transformed program (seriously, this is an amazing opportunity), check out this link.
***Over the next few weeks I plan to frequently update the blog with beneficiary stories from all over East Africa. Tune in to read more about World Concern’s work. Use this blog as a medium for connecting to a people, place, and story that is not frequently talked about in the standard news.

 

 

Nairobi Nuances

When someone says Africa, what is the first thing that crosses your mind? Be honest. Brutally honest.

You don’t have to say it. I already know.

It’s what you hear on the news, see in images on NGO websites, and watch in films. It’s ‘Blood Diamond‘, children covered in flies, ‘Hotel Rwanda‘, K’naan, refugee camps, Al-Shabaab, beastly lions, jumping Maasai warriors, spewing wells in rural communities, mamas balancing baskets on their heads, joyous choirs & lively dancing, corrupt leaders, and ‘The Gods Must be Crazy‘ (Parts I and II). 

Yes, some of these things are true to Africa. And then some are a stretch/stereotype/generalization.

But none of them are Africa.

How can one summarize a whole continent when a single country within that continent could be made up of over 40 tribes and dialects?

If the aforementioned is what you know of Africa, I’m not saying it’s your fault. You know these things about Africa because this is what you are fed. But, oh my word, Africa is so, so much more.

Crazy as it is, even within Nairobi’s city limits, I remain in a constant state of surprise. My perception of life and culture in Nairobi is continually tested and molded. And this is just Nairobi. Knowing this, imagine how much I have to learn about Kenya. Now consider East Africa. And, whoa, what about the entire continent of Africa?

You picking up what I’m putting down?

It’s the day-to-day nuances that make a people and place what they are. And most of these nuances can’t be known unless one has lived and breathed and touched them.

Now, it’s not usually my thing to publicize my obscure, daily activities (not that there’s anything wrong with doing so), but this doesn’t mean that I don’t capture these moments for myself.

My hope is that by sharing a few of my day-to-day documented memories, you can be exposed to some of the nuances of East Africa (I cannot claim all nuances, only some – for I can only share what I’ve personally experienced) – the ones they don’t show in the movies or World Cup advertisements. 

So here’s to the joys. delicious foods, embarrassing moments. long commutes. jaw-dropping sunsets. orange-dusty feet. mosquito nets. power outages, three week friendships, and simple beauties that make up my every day life. I may be thousands of miles away from my west coast roots, but the often overlooked, always priceless, bits and pieces of my life here serve as a reminder that 9,000 miles isn’t so far after all.

 [The following photos span over the last 11 months. During this time I have been living in East Africa and working for World Concern. Some are new, some are old, but they all make up my life as a 26-year-old west coast girl living in Kenya, Chad, South Sudan, and Somalia.]IMG_0082 IMG_1209 IMG_1205 IMG_1203 IMG_1201 IMG_1199 IMG_1191 IMG_1187 IMG_1184 IMG_1179 IMG_1178 IMG_1174 IMG_1173 IMG_1172 IMG_1171 IMG_1166 IMG_1159 IMG_1156 IMG_1149 IMG_1145 IMG_1141 IMG_1133 IMG_1127 IMG_1122 IMG_1102 IMG_1099 IMG_1096 IMG_1093 IMG_1091 IMG_1088 IMG_1079 IMG_1078 IMG_1070 IMG_1054 IMG_1042 IMG_1027 IMG_1021 IMG_0972 IMG_0949 IMG_0946 IMG_0940 IMG_0938 IMG_0936 IMG_0932 IMG_0928 IMG_0925 IMG_0924 IMG_0803 IMG_0794 IMG_0787 IMG_0785 IMG_0773 IMG_0770 IMG_0740 IMG_0730 IMG_0725 IMG_0659 IMG_0635 IMG_0560 IMG_0551 IMG_0534 IMG_0470 IMG_0408 IMG_0403 IMG_0392 IMG_0380 IMG_0373 IMG_0368 IMG_0364 IMG_0346 IMG_0344 IMG_0342 IMG_0329 IMG_0319 IMG_0299 IMG_0287 IMG_0189 IMG_0183 IMG_0178 IMG_0169