Rutha Androsi

 

Rutha Androsi
Rutha Androsi

Rutha Androsi was forced to flee her home last August when rebel troops attacked her village. The rebels began to group the villagers into small groups of 5 to 10 people. As they were getting grouped they heard more gunshots in the distance. The rebels, thinking it was military troops arriving, ran into the forest to find cover. As the rebels ran one way, Rutha and her family took advantage of the moment and ran the other. They spent the rest of the day walking through the hilly and forestry terrain before sleeping outside a small village about 15 km from their own. The next day they continued on another 20 km to reach Gety where they have been living ever since.

The first few nights at Gety were spent sleeping outside on the ground because there was no where else to stay. Realizing they wouldn’t be able to return to their home quickly, they started looking for ways to survive. They set up temporary houses made of reeds and volunteered to work in other people’s gardens in exchange for food. This is how she has been living for almost 11 months now.

Her husband is too frail to work because of breathing issues, so most of the responsibility falls onto her. Besides her own two kids that she looks after, she has taken in another 5 orphans meaning she has nine mouths to feed on any given day.

Recently she and her family were selected to be participants in an agricultural project run by Samaritan’s Purse. The project is targeted at long-term displaced people, like Rutha, who want to return home, but haven’t been able to for a long period of time. The project will provide her and her family with agricultural tools like hoes, machetes, rakes, watering cans, files, etc… She will also receive help finding land. Once the fields have been prepared, SP will also give seeds. This upcoming season will be beans, corn, and peanuts.

Throughout the project she will also receive monthly training from qualified agriculturalists in order that when she does return home she is not just returning with physical tools but also with knowledge that she can use both now and later on.

She told us that she hopes to use the harvest to first feed her family and then secondly to pay for her kids schooling. The school fees for primary kids is 1500 CDF, or about $1.5/month and for secondary school it is 4500 CDF, or $5/month. Despite these low fees, they remain too expensive for her right now.

Village Life: Another Day in the Office

It’s been awhile since I’ve written any posts and I apologize for any that were desperately waiting for one (Grandma…), so I figured I’d try to start up again – we’ll see how it goes. In my defense, I have actually been making a list of topics that I’ve been meaning to write about but just haven’t gotten around to doing it. A lot of that is because of how busy I’ve been with my project activities (that’s one of those topics I want to write about), but also probably a good solid portion of laziness.

field assistants

With so much to talk about it was difficult choosing a topic to re-open my blog with. In the end, I decided to write about where I currently find myself. Not in the abstract sense of “where I find myself in life,” but in the very literal sense of where I am sitting, which is most accurately put as the back of a motorcycle. Granted it’s not moving and I’m facing the wrong way, using the passenger foot pegs as foot rests and the baggage rack as a table. However strange this might sound, it’s really just another day in the office.

office

The project I’m working on is based out of village in northeastern Congo called Gety. One of the first things we had to do was set up a sub-base (another one of those topics). Two months later that is where I am, working from the back of a motorcycle. On my right several field-assistants work on reports from seed distributions that have been happening the past few days. The sound of hammer on nails rings through the base occasionally as a man works on constructing a hangar for the motorcycles. Voices from the small office in the house fill in the quiet gaps between each hammer ring. Behind the house are more voices talking as the cleaner does the day’s laundry by hand in a basin and the cook works on the meal for noon using charcoal grills. Most likely the meal will be beans and rice, a staple here in Congo. Nearby our cat takes a nap in the tropical sun.

Raj

Village life is hard to explain, and even this blog post won’t do it proper justice. For many visitors they only spend a few days out here with us and they find it usually one of two extremes, either mind-numbingly boring, or incredibly stressful/busy. However, neither of these extremes captures the true essence of what village life is. It moves at a different pace than the rest of the world. Time isn’t dictated by a clock on a wall but more by the movement of the sun. We might say a meeting will start at 10, but if it rains it’s understood that it’ll start later. No one is surprised when someone shows up an hour late. Work never really stops, but because of that it also never really starts. You have the opportunity to take in the moment.

laundry

For example, our seed distributions would often take 12 hours of day. We would begin conditioning kits and loading trucks at 6am and wouldn’t get back to the base till 6 at night. Long days to say the least. Today there were no distributions so for the past few hours we have been working on reports, but at the same time telling stories and laughing. Like I said, it’s hard to explain, I think you have to live out there for a while to really appreciate the pace of life, to not get frustrated at how inefficient it is at times (very western mentality) and learn how to see the value of relationships, the value of talking, and the value of listening instead of being caught up in the rush of life.

cook joy

I’ll leave it at that for now. Sorry if this isn’t the most interesting or informative post. Perhaps it is more just me reflecting on how amazing it is to get to travel, work, live in Africa with such amazing people. Maybe the take-away is simply to look from the computer, the phone, and see the people around you. See them and interact with them. Try to live some days as though you’re in the village. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

rice and beansOn a completely separate note, if there were ever a time I would have to request a last meal before dying, it would be the one pictured above: beans, rice, and an avocado on top. I would die a very content man.

 

Tournaments and things

The Team before game 1
The Team before game 1

“It seems that soccer tournaments create those relationships: people gathered together in pubs and living rooms, a whole country suddenly caring about the same event. A World Cup is the sort of common project that otherwise barely exists in modern societies.” 
― Simon Kuper

I don’ t know if you’ve heard or not, but there’s tournament going on right now (it’s called something like the “World Cup,” or some epic name like that), but apparently it’s somewhat of a big deal (note sarcasm – always harder to convey in writing).

The field
The field

In honor of this once-every-four-year event, I decided to tell you about a tournament I myself participated in recently. Several weeks ago it was proposed that all the international NGO’s in Bunia (the city in northeastern Congo where I’m currently living/working) should come together for a soccer/football tournament.

After much debate, several interesting training sessions, and an official “drawing” for who would play who, the day finally arrived. The rules were fairly simple: play soccer (in a respectable fashion), total time per game was 30 minutes, if it’s a tie you go to penalties, and if you lose: you’re out.

A total of 8 teams showed up to play. Our first match was against an NGO called Medair. Thirty minutes of playing in grueling heat brought the match to a close with a nil-nil score line. It therefore went directly into penalties (not ideal, but definitely creates a nail-biting situation). IMG_5022

We shot first. Bruce put it cleanly in.

Medair stepped to respond, but under the pressure the shooter cracks and places the ball directly down the center, right into our keeper’s hands.

Getting ready to shoot
Getting ready to shoot

Heritier, I and Jonas all shoot and score, but for each one we make, Medair responds with one of their own. Finally Serge steps up to close it out for us. He shakes himself to loosen up, waits for the whistle, takes his two-step stride and laces the ball to the upper right corner.

GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Serge gets lifted up
Serge gets lifted up

All the Samaritan’s Purse fans rush in yelling and celebrating. Before we even get a chance to blink Serge is picked up by the crowd and carried around with everyone dancing and cheering. Even our Country Director was picked up and carried in celebration!

Doug gets carried around in celebration
Doug gets carried around in celebration

After that we get a break while several other games happen. Then the next match is scheduled: SP vs. Save the Children.IMG_5014

By now it’s about 1pm in the afternoon. The tropical sun of central Africa is doing it’s job and everyone is exhausted even before the game begins. But nonetheless, we go out proudly to represent our organization.IMG_4846

The first half is a hard-fought battle as each team has several attempts on frame. It almost seems as though it might go into penalty kicks again until about five minutes from the end when Save the Children get a break away and slot one in.

We tried our hardest, but the game ends 0-1 and we were eliminated.

IMG_4994

It was an amazing day though, getting to hang out with the SP staff, getting to have highs (celebrating a win) and lows (losing) together. Even the people that didn’t play came and supported us – so I have to thank them for their support!

 

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IMG_5047

Hopefully in the near future I’ll try to catch y’all up on what I’ve been doing in life (like the actual “work” side of things). But that’s a story for another day.

IMG_5108

That’s all folks.

 

There was no turning back

First FallsThere’s nothing. . .absolutely nothing. . .half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats. 
-Kenneth Cole, The Wind in the Willows

The waves rose high above us, like ever growing shadows, as we plunged down the valley towards its base. Beneath us the thundering river pulled us forward to an invariable doom. Above the sound of roaring water I could barely hear the sound of our guide’s voice yelling, “get down! get down!”

There was no turning back. No Turning Back

I grabbed the rope in my left hand, locking my paddle under my arm, while scrambling down as fast as I could into the bottom of the raft, slipping into the small space beside the other paddlers. Just as I was about to reach the floor, I felt the raft lurch under me and the nose rise up as the whole boat went vertical. Time itself seemed to stop, or at least slow down, as we were suspended in the air. But before the moment could be fully appreciated, another wave crashed against the now exposed bottom of our raft throwing us unmercifully into the foaming depths of the river’s mouth below. the wave hits

My hand was torn from the raft’s rope before I even hit the water, but I somehow managed to still be holding onto the paddle as my body hit the surface. It felt as though a heavy-weight boxer had punched my stomach and all the air I had in me was knocked out. As my body became fully submerged I felt the paddle be savagely pulled out of my hands by the angry current, twisting my shoulder before I had a chance to let go. The force of the river continued the wrenching of my left shoulder and I felt it slip out of its socket, becoming dislocated.going over again

All I wanted to do was scream as my body was thrown head over heels under the water, getting tossed around like a rag-doll. I tried to pull my body into a ball so as to reduce the chance of hitting the boulders beneath me, but the river was too strong and I couldn’t bring my left arm in as it was still out of place. I had lost all sense of direction and had no idea which was up or down and although I’d been under only for a few seconds I had already run out whatever air I had. The only thought going through my head now was “I wonder how much oxygen I could get out of gulping down a mouthful of water.”going over 1

The life-vest, clipped firmly around my body, began to tug in a direction which I concluded must be ‘up.’ With all the strength I could muster, I began to kick as hard as could in that direction, hoping to break the surface, with my left arm dangling behind. My head popped out and for a brief moment I could see the large waves dancing around me. I tried to gasp for as much as air as possible, but before I had the chance my head was forced under again as a large wave crashed down directly on top of me and I felt my body twist again as I was pressed further and further down.getting better

I was spinning again in circles, completely disoriented. The little air I had been able to gulp down helped, and my mind cleared enough to cringe and panic again as I thought about the rocks I was most likely to be presently hitting. I knew enough to know that I was going deeper and deeper which was not good. Once again I was running out of air when I sensed a new current flow pushing on my back. Suddenly my body got pushed violently upwards again by the current which at the same time rammed my shoulder back into place. The pain decreased significantly and I thrust out with as much effort as possible and began swimming upwards, following both the river’s pull and the life-vest’s tugging.and again

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, my head burst out through the water’s surface and I gasped for air, sucking in as much as I possibly could. The waves continued to beat against me, but with much less ferocity, as though I had gone through their trials and passed – even if just barely. Before I could even get a second or third breath, a safety kayak appeared next to me, offering me to grab on. I grasped the two handles on the front and swung my legs around the small kayak’s body, as though I was hanging from the limb of a tree. The kayaker began to paddle and within a few minutes we were once again in calm waters. He brought me next to the raft, which had been righted by the guide, and I swam over.

Getting up took about all the strength I had left in me. To do so I had to grab the rope, which is about two feet out of the water, and then basically do a gymnastic pull-up to get my body up over the edge of the raft – not an easy task with a sore shoulder. As I kicked to get momentum going up the guide reached over the edge and grabbed my life-vest and lifted me out of the water, dropping me into the raft like a sack of potatoes. I lay there, sprawled out, panting.it's still fun

We were only halfway done and this was just one of the nine rapids that we went over that were classed as either grade 4 or 5. In case you are unfamiliar with the classing of rapids, here they are:

-          Grade/Class 4: Very Difficult – steeper, longer drops, looming obstacles, technical turns, precision movements, occasional “swimmers”

-          Grade/Class 5: Borderline Rafting – transcended to the limits of control. Crews must be agile, aggressive, and follow commands instantly. Should be physically and mentally prepared for adventure and inherent risk. While not absolutely required, it is strongly suggested that everyone has happily experience class 4 rapids before tackling class 5. Make no mistakes…this is big, tough and difficult water

-          Grade/Class 6: (which we got out and walked around): Un-runnable, or, at the very least, survived only with a choir band of angles perched in your lap! Hiding under the bed is safer! (1)group pic

A group of us had decided to take a day trip out of Kampala (Uganda), where we had been attending a training seminar, to Jinja, about 80 km to the east. This is also the alleged location of the source of the Nile, flowing out of Lake Victoria. We decided we had to go on an adventure because rumor had it that Jinja was somewhat of the adventure capital in East Africa (it offers bungee jumping, off-roading, rafting, horse-back riding, etc…). And it’s just not ethical to skip an “adventure capital” when it’s that close.

So we went.

It was an adventure to say the least! My boat was labeled the “extreme” boat and as result this meant we had to tackle the larger portions of the rapids. This, by definition, also meant that we flipped much more often (I believe at least five times), and each time was somewhat of an experience. Granted, they were not all so dramatic as the one above. Some you got tossed around by waves, others you ran into other people (or got hit by their paddles), and others you barely made it through on the raft (often less exciting – but still heart stopping at moments).caught in the river

In the end it was well worth the experience. We definitely bonded as a team, both because of the intensity of the situations we faced, but also just the casual conversation as we lazily drifted down the river in between rapids.

And, at the very least, they fed us a huge meal at the end of the journey – so no complaints there.

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”
– A. A. Milne, Pooh’s Little Instruction Bookscared

p.s. for those of you who are interested, we went with Nile River Explorers (raftafrica.com). I highly recommend this outfit. They were well organized (even to transporting us to and from Kampala), had food (breakfast, snacks, and lunch), had well-trained and confident guides, had safety kayaks that picked you up immediately, and a photographer so you get to see all your expressions as you plunge down the rapids. The cost for all that was $125 – so a very reasonable price. If you go to Jinja – do it! Just know that: “There is a very high chance of falling out of the boat, but this is often the highlight of the day and our safety kayakers are always close by.”

p.p.s. for those of you worried about the wildlife on the river: “In 15 years of operation there have been no crocodile related incidents as they do not like populated areas so are rarely seen. There are no hippos on this stretch of the river.” (we didn’t see any of either on this voyage)

p.p.p.s on another note, for those of you with more motherly instincts, my shoulder is fine (it has slipped out before) and I survived even flipping several more times down the river

1 – http://gotrafting.com/ratings.html

2 – http://raftafrica.com/site/grade-5-rafting/grade-5-full-day-rafting/trip-details.html#main

Chef des Stagaires

I’m somewhat of a quote “fanatic” – quoantic? It seems to me that if you look hard and long enough you will find that someone, somewhere along the lines, has said something about whatever it is you are examining. In short, there is a quote to fit almost all situations or subjects.

That being said, a few weeks ago, I found myself doing a self-examination. That is to say, I was reflecting on where life had brought me so far and where it might be taking me in the future. This may appear as a profound, or philosophical, process, but in reality it was more of a passing thought.

However, what struck me, to the point of remembering it weeks later, is the quote, “God laughs at the plans of man¹.”

I’m getting ahead of myself though, so before explaining why that quote stuck with me, let me build some backstory.

When I first arrived in Bunia, I came as intern, which is at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak. African culture (at least the cultures I’m familiar with) love to have official titles and a clear structure of hierarchy, and so they use these same titles when they introduce themselves. Here, whenever new people are present, everyone goes around say the room saying their names and giving their title. The first one or two times I simply said “Andrew – Intern.” But this just seemed to lack the luster of an official title like everyone else. So one day, as we went around the room I introduced myself as “Andrew – Chef des Stagaires,” which literally means Chief of Interns.

Keep in mind that there were only three of us, and there is no hierarchy whatsoever between the three of us. Needless to say, this self-assumed title was completely made up.

But it stuck.

Soon everyone in the office just started calling me “Chef” (much to the irritation of the other interns…insubordinates) – even though I wasn’t a real “Chef” by any means.

Fast-forward two months and I now find myself in a new role, with a real title, the Chef de Projet (Chief of Project). I originally came to Congo to be an intern for five months under Samaritan’s Purse. However, halfway through that time a new project was approved and they needed a manager for it and approached me.

The project is an agricultural project to help displaced people. These people have become, in essence, refugees in their own country because of rebel groups. In fear for their lives they have fled their homes. Now, with little to no belongings or livelihoods, they are struggling to survive. The goal of the project is to help these people find safe land to farm while coming alongside them and offering better/improved agricultural training as well as tools and seeds for two planting seasons. It is putting into practice the phrase: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Hopefully this will help the people survive in the long run and rebuild their lives. After a season or two they may be able to return home with their tools and seeds they themselves raised. Or, if it is still not safe enough to return, they can continue farming on the land and find stability.

Instead of five months, this will be a yearlong project with Samaritan’s Purse and I will now be here for 15 months overall. This, then, is the backstory to what I was thinking about before remembering the quote. I had been chuckling to myself about how much effort I had been putting into planning for the future and how often it seemed to change.

I then remembered:  “God laughs at the plans of man.”

Two months ago I was planning on being in Africa for 5-6 months and then go back to the States for a bit while I figured out the next stage of life. In the space of a week and a half that all changed. I suppose you never really know where God will take you in your life – but that’s half the adventure, isn’t it?

¹ – I have no idea where this quote is from. I looked as well as I could and found several renditions attributed to various people. For example:

  1. “If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans.” – Woody Allen
  2. “Man makes plans….and God laughs.” – Michael Chabon
  3. “Man plans. God laughs.” – Harlan Coben (also considered a Yiddish phrase)

A Day in the Hills

“A lone peak of high point is a natural focal point in the landscape, something by which both travelers and local orient themselves. In the continuum of landscape, mountains are discontinuity – culminating in high points, natural barriers, unearthly earth.” - Rebecca Solnit
“A lone peak of high point is a natural focal point in the landscape, something by which both travelers and local orient themselves. In the continuum of landscape, mountains are discontinuity – culminating in high points, natural barriers, unearthly earth.” – Rebecca Solnit

NAAAASTBYENYABBAAHISTABAWA

It was 5:50 am and my alarm was singing, more like yelling, the opening scene of Lion King.

It was time to get up.

The weekend had begun as any other with the group at the staff house watching a movie Friday night. Last night’s had gone until midnight and now, only six hours later, I was rolling out of bed go to soccer practice. It was with an effort that I threw off my covers and sat up. It was going to be a rough day.

Bleary eyed and yawing, I stood up and pulled on a pair of shorts and struggled into a shirt. Grabbing a small backpack I began to gather my cleats, phone, water bottle, and money for the taxi-moto home. Within 15 minutes I was saying good morning and shaking hands with our guard in the courtyard below.

The sun was creeping up over the mountains to the East, sneaking a peek on the awakening city below, as I stepped out of the gate. I began walking towards the training field, about two kilometers away. As I walked along the dusty, torn up, trashed filled road, two kids ran by, kicking an old plastic water bottle as though it were a ball. Other people were beginning their days as well. A woman was sweeping the ground in front of her shop. Another man was brushing his teeth on the steps to his house. Several motorcycle taxis were already out delivering people, swerving and honking as they buzzed past me. Music was blaring from some building nearby at a deafening volume. People were out in numbers by the time I crossed the main road and walked past the outskirts of one of the city-markets where there is an inter-city bus stop. Several cars were already fully loaded with ten people inside five-passenger ’97 Toyota Corollas.  On top, tied down by long black rubber straps, were huge baskets full of various articles ranging from clothing to cabbage.Bunia

I was blinded by the sunlight as I continued to walk eastwards through the city. Now in full boldness the sun in the distance was staring down, silhouetting the mountains which it had hid behind moments before. I glanced up and noticed one particular stone peak jutting out above the others, showing up like a scar on the sun’s round belly. “I wonder if I’ll ever get to that peak,” I thought, as I turned left to head down through the small valley separating me from the field. It was a thought that often crossed my mind in the morning. However, it was soon forgotten as I slipped on my cleats and began training. The peak continued to stand proudly, watching over the city, very much like a lamppost as the sun rose above its summit.another view

Later that morning, after two and a half hours of sweating under that same brutal sun on a dusty field and catching a motorcycle-taxi home, I sat on our porch sipping a cup of dark Congolese coffee. Around the table sat various other members from our team, some eating, some working, and some just chatting. Nothing out of the ordinary was really happening when someone’s phone rang. On the other end were some more of our team saying they had decided to go to the Eastern hills, the same ones I had been longing after that very morning. It didn’t take much to persuade us to join them and soon after we were all bouncing around in the back of land cruiser as it navigated the deep, water filled potholes of the dirt track towards the hills.Walking

The city was quickly left behind and we were soon in a vast, open country-side, only shared with several herds of cattle wandering to and fro as they fed on the rich, green grass. Several falcons circled above, hunting for mice or rats below.Cowsfalcon

After about an hour of driving, the truck finally crested the ridge line and we stopped. Sprawled out, far below, was the city of Bunia. It is not a huge city by any means, but the tin roofs reflecting the sun gave the impression that it was alive and constantly moving, like the ripples on a lake. As we piled out of the back of the truck our clothing and hair were whipped around as a strong breeze whistled by us. In the city you rarely feel the breeze and I think all of us had to pause for a second or two and just take in the feeling of cool wind on our skin. Instead of burning trash and loud noises, the hills greeted us with fresh air and a sort of quietness only found in nature.View 1

We took a short walk before scrambling up the rocks to finally reach the summit. Looking west we could see far out past the city to the farmlands and forests that make up most of Eastern Congo. Behind us, towards the east, stood more rolling hills hiding Lake Albert from our view.Scrambling

We were on top of the world.Top of the World

After a bit we decided that we couldn’t stop without seeing the lake. We squished back into the land cruiser and continued on, climbing over the hills. We finally got the point where the road, if it could be called a road at this point, faded out. Jon, who was driving, shifted down into first gear and we began to climb the last steep hill, weaving between boulders hidden beneath the grass, hoping not to hit any or bottom out.squished

Soon, we decided that it would be best to abandon the car at this point and continue on foot along the ridge to get to the furthest point we could so as to best see the lake.Tourists Walking

It must have been a ridiculous looking group if anyone had seen us, a bunch of white people tramping around these barren hills carrying their cameras like a bunch of tourists. But half the beauty of the moment was that were no other people around, you felt as though you left everything you knew behind and had entered into a different world.IMG_4097

After walking for a bit, following cattle trails that crisscrossed the hilltop, we reached the point where we could go no further. Before us, stretching steeply down was another valley. Across from us another hill, probably the tallest of all, stood between us and the lake. However, on either side, the bluish gray waters spread out. It was breathtaking. Lake Albert, which divides this area of Congo from Uganda, is so vast that we were not even able to see across to the other side.The View

The ride back was much quieter as we all sat silently in the truck. The sun, wind, and walking had worn us out and everyone’s eyes were glazed over. Jebel, a 2-year old, basically fell asleep sitting up staring out the window. We laid him gently down on the seat and somehow he stayed asleep the rest of the way home despite being thrown around like a sack of potatoes each time we hit a bump – which was often.the walk

Days like these I think are needed to keep our sanity. So often we get caught up in the worries, stresses, or even routine of our daily lives and forget to stop and take a moment to ‘smell the roses.’ As John Muir says, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”sunset

As you approach the upcoming weekend, maybe think about taking a minute to get out of wherever you are. Go on adventure. Do something different. Spend a day in the hills.???????????????????????????????

“When the wind calls, you know, that somewhere in the mountains, it has found the answers that you were looking for. The pull of the horizon overcomes the inertia of reason…And you just have to go.”
(Vikram Oberoi)group

Keeping Kids in School

 “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

The large, old truck rumbled and groaned as it struggled up the small hill to the school. There were probably a flood of prayers offered up between the twenty of us who sat on back as we gripped tightly to the railing, hoping that the diesel engine still had the power to make it up even this small incline. I glanced down as I felt the surface beneath me shift. Beneath our feet lay thousands of pounds of food, all stacked and ordered based on size, type, and where they were going to be delivered.

Kids run out to greet usKids run out to greet us

The engine, by this point, was screaming in agony as it pressed forward, straining against the weight it carried. Finally, just before it appeared it was going to give in and let gravity pull it back down to the bottom, the front wheels crested the hill grabbing what little traction they could. Soon after the middle and back wheels under the truck bed followed. Everyone started clapping and mocking the doubters, although in reality it was just a show to build up their own courage. After all, this was just the first school of the day.

It was the beginning of April and we were out delivering the World Food Program (WFP) supplies to the schools under Samaritan’s Purse’s oversight. The WFP vision, per their website, is “to reduce hunger among schoolchildren so that hunger is not an obstacle to their development (1).” In essence, their goal is to provide meals to primary schools in order to help keep the children in school. It is an incentive for the kids to keep coming if they know they will get at least one good meal a day and is especially important for critical areas where hunger and malnutrition are rampant.  This is often the case in Eastern Congo as rebel groups often force people to move and flee resulting in little food security from gardens or even a consistent marketplace.

Children a school feeding program give me their greetings.
Children a school feeding program give me their greetings.

Samaritan’s Purse (SP) has partnered with WFP to serve in two localities helping over 100 schools. The remoteness of the Faradje/Aba territory where SP works has resulted in WFP giving SP complete control over the warehouse and distribution of the food. Food is delivered to the warehouse where SP staff takes control of it and enters it into the inventory. Then, during the first week or two of every month, distributions occur. At first it is possible to do several deliveries a day, but once the schools get more and more removed from the warehouse it takes longer to get to the locations and the roads get worse. The deliveries during rainy season, starting in mid-March, take twice as long as the dirt roads are destroyed by the rain making them rivers of mud where the trucks often get stuck.

Each school receives, in proportion to their size, bags of grain which are rice, flour, or corn, vegetables which are peas or beans, oil and salt.  They also receive non-food items like cooking pots and plates at the beginning of the school year. Parents volunteer to do the cooking on different rotations depending on the school. Although these meals are simple and repetitive, they provide the essential nutrients for the young children and it is often their only meal of the day. This, as the WFP website states, “allows children to focus on their studies and not their stomachs (1).”To have the joy of children.Kids cheering on the work.

As the truck summited the hill we were welcomed by hundreds of kids running toward us yelling and waving. Each one was dressed in the classic Congo school uniform of white-collared shirts and navy blue pants or skirts. They knew that the truck meant another month of food and stemming from their excitement formed a fan group cheering on the men as they unloaded the supplies into the school’s storage room. It was a gentle reminder that often the things we take for granted, like school cafeterias, security, and even education in general are considered luxuries in other places.

1 – World Food Program – http://www.wfp.org/school-meals

2 – Samaritan’s http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

p.s. sorry if you’ve seen these pictures before, the internet decided it was not in the mood to upload pictures this evening

The haphazard chronicles and musings of a global nomad.

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