I wanted to take the opportunity to share some stories with you all. As some of you know, I have recently travelled back from Senegal where I spent the last 3 months. Going back to Casamance is always a way for me to reconnect with my home town, spend some time with my family, friends and get inspiration. I also led 2 drumming workshops and took part in a few performances. But this trip was also the opportunity for me to find out more about the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Senegal. I knew about some of their work. But it is their micro projects of rehabilitation that caught my attention and i was honoured to be invited to visit some of the people that received ICRC support.
One of the ICRC microproject is to support victims of landmine. The Red Cross engages for the first 6 months, where they monitor every person’s progress. They work in partnership with the Association Senegalaise des Victimes de Mine (ASVM), whose commitment is longer-term. The stories behind the people are heartbreaking and touching. But the people I met were just extraordinary. I was moved and inspired to see so much love for life. So here I am going to share 2 of many stories.
In this picture you can see Mr Ba. Mr Ba led a happy life in his village. He used to be a bike mechanics by trade. In his spare time, he was also farming in bush fields near his village called M’Pack (at the border between Senegal and Guinea Bissau). He did this to help feed his family. One day, while out farming, a landmine exploded. He was rushed to hospital and started his treatment. His family did not know what had happened to him. It took 2 days for the news to reach his wife. She was shocked.. so shocked that she fainted many times and became very weak. Within few days, she passed away. Now Ba was disabled and a widow. He had 3 children. His daughter was strong. She stayed with him at the hospital, even during revision time for her exam. Despite having lost her mum, she concentrated on her dad. She was a pillar in his recovery. While many of us would have reached rock bottom, he rised up to the challenge and was determined to not let that ruin his life. His belief in God had help him greatly, he says. With support from his children, he started a new life. And with funding from the ICRC and the ASVM, he has now set up a new bike repair business.
I was also very touched to hear the story of Martine Niafouna. 2 years ago, she had many things going for her. She was at the end of her training in hospitality, at Club Med in a touristic beach village of Casamance (Cap Skirring). During her holidays, she decided to visit her uncle in their village called Koureng. Her uncle was building a fence around the house and needed to collect some wood from a nearby bush fields. So she went with him. A landmine bomb exploded under her feet. She lost her leg. Martine did not have any family to support her back to life. And she is a single mum with 2 young children to look after. So the partnership between the ASVM and the ICRC was so crucial in helping her starting off a new life. She has now a small vegetable stall at the market. Slowly she is getting back her independence. Life is still tough, but she does not give up and she remains positive and hopeful for the future.
Ba and Martine have now artificial legs which make life easier for them. But they find it hard to walk around during the rainy season as the roads are usually flooded and muddy. There many more people recovering from a life changing trauma. Many more touching stories on our doorstep…Those people never give up and love life. Their stories give hope to others.
The staff at ICRC and at ASVM do not work for money or medal. They do their job because they care and believe in a better world. They too are amazing people behind these stories.
The ICRC is carrying out its humanitarian work in more than 80 countries in the world and is often the first humanitarian organisation here and there, ready to help others. This visit was really inspiring and I am more determined than ever to support the ICRC . Maybe you can help too? Find out more and donate to ICRC here.
All Pictures by : Felipe Jacome Marchan