News flash: I’m not perfect.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Next to clean water, most of N’djamena’s residents would agree that education is the community’s priority need.
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.