This is not my story but the story of a case worker for CARE International. It begins in Somalia and its ending is yet to be written. I found the story in the harsh and desperate world of a refugee camp in Kenya, just 30 miles from the border with Somalia, an area controlled by Al Shabaab, the terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda.
On a conference call to discuss the desperate need for grief counselors in the refugee camp of Dadaab, Kenya, where there is one counsel for every 50,000 people, I asked a rather naive question of Michael, the CARE employee, “Just how bad is it really for the children?” He paused and then said, “Let me tell you about Omar.”
Omar arrived in the camp ten days before he appeared at the CARE clinic located in the IFO expansion camp. Omar was accompanied by his young mother whose face and complexion added thirty years to her appearance. In front of Omar, she told a horror story not, unfortunately, all that uncommon among the recent refugees fleeing into Kenya. Her homestead had been raided by Al Shabaab and all the men were tortured and killed, including her husband. They warned the women they would be back in several days to confiscate all food items. Omar’s mother was terrified and feared for her own life.
On the day they arrived, Omar’s mother, with his help buried herself deep into the sand and used a hallow reed she inserted into her mouth in order to breathe. She instructed Omar to give the terrorists whatever they wanted but not to reveal her hiding place. They stopped 10 feet away from her hiding place. She could hear the exchange. They asked Omar for the location of his mother. He told them she had already left the homestead and was headed for Kenya. They knew it was a lie. They beat him and asked again. Torture and threats were not changing Omar’s story. His mother was gone, he shouted.
Finally, the leader changed tactics. He offered Omar a cup of water and a biscuit. After a long silence, Omar silently pointed to the burial shelter of his mother. He gave him his water and the biscuit. The four terrorists dug Omar’s mother out of her hiding place and gang raped her. When they finished, she found Omar sitting near a bush dividing up the biscuit – a piece for his sister, two pieces for his mother, and one for himself. Since that day he has said nothing and has turned his rage and silence against his mother and sister.
Michael repeated, “For a cup of water and a biscuit a starving child chooses to surrender his mother to the men that killed his father.” What can we expect? Michael was angry and turned to me and asked, “How many counselors can you get me and do you have people that can train counselors?”
The answer to Michael’s question is yes. Through African Nazarene University, we can do both. We began organizing and soon there will be volunteer counselors in place to help. Gender-Based Violence is a major crisis in the camps where crisis is the understatement of the year. Women are continually under threat. Children are in horrific pain.
When Michael asked me to help, Omar’s story became my story. It is now your story. Please pray for the Omars of this famine and for those of you that can do more – volunteer and donate so we can place counselors on the ground to bring healing to the soul, the mind, and the body. We can do this; therefore, we must do this! You can donate at www.ncm.org or at www.sai-dc.com.
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