Bodeme visit part 4

Morning arrives much too quickly, the sun high and hot. Frito turns the eggs and onions we brought into a delicious breakfast, along with the left-over grubs from dinner, and hot coffee. Roasted peanuts round out the meal and my belly is happy and full once again. Our goal is to leave by noon, so we start putting more filters together, working as a team until the last are finished and we are ready to distribute. More training is done so that the headmasters and the head of the clinic know how to use the filters properly and we watch as they carry them away on the backs of bicycles and a motorcycle that just doesn’t want to start. In time, they are set up, though, and we hope that many, many people will have access to clean, filtered water, as the water source for this village is horrible, as a visit to it clearly proves. We march single file into the green jungle to look at the water hole and I am aghast to see a woman not only washing clothes, but bathing, and, then, taking water home to drink and to use for cooking.

Back at the chief’s house, we gather the seeds and solar lamps we brought, tying them to the back of Toussaint’s motorcycle, getting ready for a morning of distribution. We have been told that 100 families live in this village, so we brought enough for all. The clan heads come forward and each is asked to provide a list of the families in their clans, which seems to be a very difficult task for them to do. They keep telling us how many people live in their clans and we try every which way we can to explain that we need the number of families, not of people. I do not understand why it is so hard for them to break it down into families, but we wait, hoping that an answer will be found.

While getting together the items for distribution, a man from the local immigration office (DGM) shows up and asks for my passport. I give it to him, watching as he writes down all my information. He hands it back, asking what we are doing and when he realizes it is a distribution, he asks for a solar lamp. I tell him that we do not have extras, but offer him my personal one, which he quickly takes and puts in his pocket. He follows us and watches what we are doing for some time before going back to wherever he came from.

Finally deciding that we have some grasp on the numbers of families we’ll be distributing to today, we head to the first clan’s area, with the clan head in front of us. When the clan sees us coming, everything goes insane – people smother us, reaching for the items we’ve brought, pushing, fighting, crowding, yelling, and causing confusion. Mandaba and the guys try to get some control of the situation, to no avail. I push through people to stand under a tree and watch the fighting from the sanctuary of shade. The chief, tiny and inefficient, uses a loud voice to try to control the uncontrollable. The situation deteriorates quickly and Mandaba has a stern talk with the chief, pulling him aside and telling him that we will pack up and go if he cannot get things in order. Somehow, I am not quite sure how, some order is restored, and we hand out what we have to the patriarchs of ten families, moving on to the second clan.

Again, the situation is chaotic, with people reaching, grabbing, pulling, yelling, desperate in their poverty to get to the seeds and the lamps. I understand why they want these things and my heart goes out to them, even in the middle of chaos. But we can’t work this way, it is just not possible, and it is not safe.

I see Frito leave our group with the chief and am unsure why until we reach the third clan, where we find him under a shade area, my notebook and pen in hand, head bent as he writes something. Toussaint pulls his bike with the seeds and lamps directly under the shade, which forces me to be under the cover, as well, for which I am grateful. In a booming voice, Frito calls out the names of each family head and Mandaba stands behind the last one, so that no one else gets in line. As they respond to their name being called, I hand over seeds and a lamp to each. With tens and tens of children and adults surrounding the area, it gets very hot and stuffy quickly, but the situation is under control and we have a way to move forward. While Mandaba explains how to use the #LuminAID lamps and we discuss the various seeds they are receiving, the chief and Frito head off to the next clan in order to get everything set up for distribution.

I try to get a good photo of each group with their gifts, but they won’t smile. I practically beg for a smile, but instead, they look fierce and angry, which is their way. I try to capture the smiles I see when they converse with each other, but they disappear when the camera comes out, every single time. What constitutes a good photo here is so different from what I think of as a good photo, so I am left with a huge number of photos of angry-looking, grateful men and women.

2020-09-22T17:45:06+00:00