You sat with us…

We sat together in a refugee compound. A wall of metal sheeting and a couple of small “buildings” made out of metal sheets and thatch surrounded us. We sat on plastic chairs and sipped on Cokes graciously provided by our Somali host.

Bianca was our translator. She is originally from Burundi and identifies herself as a Christian. She’s 28 years old and has an 11 month old baby. Her husband left them because Bianca is diabetic and is often weak and sick. The harsh climate is brutal for diabetics. She was battling malaria, along with exhaustion and despair, during our visit.

She told us that she is afraid of losing her job with one of the humanitarian agencies due to impending UN budget cuts (30%). Decisions made by donor countries and distant offices directly affect her life and that of her baby. She is pretty sure she will be let go because she is often sick and too weak to work. She has no idea as to how they will survive when that happens.

It was difficult to listen to her as there was nothing I could do to help them. At least that is what I was thinking as she spoke.

But when it was time to leave, she left us with the following words:

“Most white people come and chat for five minutes and leave – but you have sat with us for more than an hour. When you came, I felt too weak and sick – but now we have talked and prayed and I feel better. I feel I have hope again.”

It was a good reminder of the value of simply sitting with people and offering presence. Life without hope is among the heaviest of burdens. And hope comes through presence.

I’m grateful to be part of IAFR, an organisation that values not only service – but relationship. It is often what is missing in the lives of those in refugee camps or traversing continents and seas in search of safety and peace. People who care and who will simply take time to sit together, listen to one another and pray together.

We will never be able to solve all of the problems of the people here in Kakuma. But we can be present with them.

It’s important to also mention that I came away from our visit changed as well. I am inspired by the faith and perseverance of Mama and Bianca as they face incredible daily challenges and yet remain welcoming, hospitable and generous with what they have (did I mention Mama offered me a meal as we sat together?).

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