I met Adel from World Vision Africa yesterday, along with mumblogger Kim from South Korea and radio announcer and writer Stephy from Germany. We were briefed about the country of Niger, the origins of the food crisis, as well as what aid World Vision were doing in the area.
I sat there listening and started to get so tired. You know how people talk information at you and you struggle to contain it and your head does a circus dance like Homer from the Simpsons? That. I struggled so hard, to listen to what these AMAZING people were saying. They are the goddamn heroes, man. Working here every day, strategising and making a difference and using their smarts.
The first signal of this crisis came at the end of August last year .. with displaced people on the move due to failed crops, no rain, too much rain at the wrong time. 80% of the men in Niger are farmers, so the people here depend heavily on the strength of each harvest.
Basically, due to a lot of varying factors, people are hungry and homeless. I should get more in-depth about that and link to some articles and I will, but right now I have to finish this quickly before the hotel internet gets too slow. I'm also hungry and it's hard to focus. Poor Eden is hungry and can't concentrate. Each meal I eat here is pretty average and SO expensive. (That's just an observation, not a complaint AT ALL.)
When I am hungry back at home, I get INCREDIBLY cranky and must eat as soon as possible. My sisters are the same. We crack it bad if we can't eat right then and there. Woe betide us.
Next we had a security briefing that I won't tell you about until I'm safely back home. Then we went for a drive to a nearby camp that's been set up by the steady influx of people who are on the move. Displaced.
When I say, "set up camp" .. I actually mean, using pieces of what looks like garbage and debris and trying to make some kind of structure out of them. As soon as we got out of the car we were swamped by children. The children came running. From that moment I internally froze, my brain not entirely willing to compute what I was actually seeing here. I thought it was going to be a bit of a lush kind of camp near some trees and a river. It's kind of a filthy dustbowl, with tattered bits of material strung together. A lot of the children were half-dressed. With runny noses, sneezing. And a look in their eyes that was too old for them.
I had nothing to give them. When I was back in Australia, I thought about buying stickers or balls or toys, but I just knew that none of that crap was enough. You can't eat a pencil ... and if I couldn't give all of those kids a pencil it wasn't fair to give any of them one.
I wanted to leave straight away, to retreat back into the car and drive off. We walked further in to the "camp." My mom blogging homies snapped photos .. the children wanted their pics taken and got really excited when you turned the camera to them and showed them their own picture.
I had the brightest idea of scrolling through my iPhone and showing them some of Rocco and Max's fun apps.
Cue to me crouching in the middle of some hellish, dusty place in West Africa, surrounded by a crowd of young kids with no shoes on and probably hungry, trying to get my 3-year olds favourite dinosaur phone app to work. I roared at it and it didn't roar back and I was the stupidest white woman of all time. The kids looked puzzled.
I had nothing to give them. I struggled with that as I stood there trying to be all cheery and fun. I do not like seeing this stuff on television, let alone in the flesh. Sometimes I'm back at home stuffing myself and an aid ad comes on and I change the channel so I can eat in peace .. you know, so it doesn't ruin my meal.
See Adel in that vid? She is our kind of host on this trip. I could tell after ten minutes that she is bloody beautiful and smart and kind.
In an hour we are meeting to go in the car and drive about two hours from here to a place called "Tera." It's pronounced "terror" - which I'm sure will be entirely appropriate. I have a feeling that what we saw yesterday was just a lead-up, an entree. Just checked my emails and Joy from World Vision Australia sent me through a checklist of "The signs of malnutrition in a child under the age of five." I'll read it after I've eaten.
In conclusion, I'm quite confused about what I'm here for, what any tangible results I hope to achieve from this whole thing. I am ADORING the support online about this - the conversations happening, and that three (THREE) more people have told me they signed up to sponsor a child in the last few days. I think I'll set up a list or linky about it .. some of you are writing posts about this and I don't want to miss reading any of them. To have them all in the one spot somewhere would be good. I guess that's the whole point of why I'm here.
Before we left the camp yesterday, the children came running over to our car shouting goodbye. And wanted to shake my hand. I stood there and shook all of their hands ... sometimes it was just a touch. As I did, I made sure to look all of them in the eye. So worried that I missed one ... some shy ones stood at the back, so I went over to them and touched their shoulders and said goodbye. Their glee was disproportionate to the simple act I was doing.
It's important to me that they know that I care - that WE care. I am You, sitting back at home, reading this blog.
World Vision Australia website.
When I stepped inside my hotel I scrubbed my hands clean so hard then had a shower and slept for twelve hours straight. I don't think I dreamt at all.