Smile4Peace – A Journey To Remember: Inside the daily lives of Boko Haram’s survivors


Hi everyone I am Jesse Happy, the coordinator of the project. We could have collected donations and sent it over to you. But, we chose to physically come and meet you because we will be building this country together. So it is important that from today we get to know and meet each other in order to build the country together. From the 17th to 24th May 2015, period marking the celebration of National Unity, the Smile4Peace Team travelled to the Far North region of Cameroon to support the victims of terrorist attacks by Islamist sect, Boko Haram. We had a very disturbing night We were told this morning that we have not yet gone half of the journey. But it’s for the best. We stay strong. Smile4Peace! Boarding hall, Ngaoundere train station Someone should look after our luggage. Go ahead, and secure our seats. 12:40pm – Departure to Maroua 23:15pm – Arrival in Maroua This is Malleh John, he will be our driver during your stay. The Smile4Peace Team is about to leave the hotel located in the Bamare area in Maroua and we’re heading to the Mora refugee camp, close to the toll gate of Djamakia. We are kick starting our mission today. I cannot wait to see what we will be uncover. First day and I believe we are ready. We are at the Djamakia refugee camp where most refugees are natives from Manawashi Limani (Nigeria) This camp holds approximately 350 people abandoned to themselves. People who have almost lost everything: their belongings and family. This is why the Smile4Peace team is coming to their rescue by bringing them bags of millet, oil, clothes, biscuits, soap, medicines, sugar and salt to galvanize them. We are moving to the second step of our meeting which is the visit of the community to understand their lifestyles. Get into the tents. You will have a better view from the inside. These are the toilets, where people bath and defecate. This is the Hilton of the area. How do you intend dealing with the rainy season? They have nothing. When they have some cash, they would rather buy millet to feed themselves instead of buying tents. Is it possible to sow on this soil? Yes, it’s possible. If you are provided with seeds, what would be able to grow on this soil? Millet, cotton, beans and maize could be sown here in any season. We would love you to inform your partners in case they would love to be of assistance to the displaced population. These are people who have been forced to run away from their villages due to the threat of Boko Haram that has killed various families near the Nigerian border. Boko Haram has killed, slaughtered and destroyed many families. They are left with nothing. So they ran away to find refuge in a calmer and more peaceful place. Their living conditions are really pitiful as you can witness. They have nothing, no food, and as we have told you they do not even own land to sow on. We have been working hard for about 10 months to assist them but we are running out of means. With your help and everything you have brought we hope that, with the help of civilians, the displaced population can have a better assistance in the future. We are confident that the team will not give up. We will work harder to mobilize more resources to rescue these communities affected by the atrocities of Boko Haram. 12:30pm – Arrival in Kourgui Kourgui is a locality which is approximately 7 kilometers from Ganse, the latest location attacked by Boko Haram. It is basically the border between Boko Haram and the country’s hinterland. Since the beginning of the conflicts, the majority of schools located in risky areas of the far North region have been closed. Primary school of Kourgui These are the student chairs. The teacher sits here. Is this a primary school? Yes, it is. This school was created in 1996. I started working here in 2010. As you can see, this school is almost 20 years old. This was the first building of the school. The staff is made up of 7 people. How many pupils? Nearly 150 We are here in Mora, at the sultanate of Wandala created in the year 900 and as you can see it is one of the oldest of Africa and in the world which was built under the Ottoman empire. It is the navel of the Mandara tradition. It is here in Mora that the World War 1 ended, at the peak of this mountain that you see in front of you. This war was opposing France and Germany. We are at the Sultan’s house, we will try speaking Arabic and get inspired. We would be glad to eat something though. You are humanists and you love your brothers. You do not want to see them suffer. That’s what caught my attention. When someone comes from far to see the sufferings of others and come to their rescue this is encouraging. Thank you very much. May God be with you. So much wisdom. Ibrahim said something really deep during the meeting: traditional leaders last forever, while authorities come and go. We need to revisit our priorities in Africa and know who comes first and not who is above the other. as well as know who plays what role. And from there, start building a continent. So this is the message I am taking away and which I believe we will keep sharing. Smile4Peace! 19 May 2015, Mozogo, Far North So we are now heading to Mozogo, to the displaced persons camps of Achigachia, Bokoro and all localities bordering Nigeria. The living conditions are not easy here. Millet cups are so expensive that we cannot even afford them. Back in the days, we used to sleep close to the mountain which is in front of us and every time we would hear gun shots, we would all be running in this direction. The place is calm again but we are still frightened by the gunshots which are still very frequent We are really struggling especially myself as Chief of Achigachia, a neighbour village to Nigeria. The same applies to the Chiefs of Zamnga and Talakachi. We thank you, as God has sent you to help us. We cannot say anything else, but thank you. This old man, who is the chief of Talakachi, has spent about 28 days as a Boko Haram hostage. He is old, sick and has gone through two surgeries. They might have been released him because of his sickness. That day, more than 40 of them came and took away his sheep and took him away. They were all armed In this camp, there are mainly women because most of their husbands who used to live here are dead and many of them had fled to the Nigerian side to hide. Nobody has heard from them till date. 2:15pm – Lamidat of Mozogo There are people amongst them who had foster families here they fled and came here. Because it is your brother, you have to care for him even if you only have a small cabana. Others here did not have anywhere else to go They had nobody to provide them with shelter so they moved to a small camp somewhere behind this town. They have seen their children and husbands being slaughtered right before their eyes. So many men were killed that women had to burry all the corpses by themselves. Now there are more women than men in villages. And small children. On the educational plan, this is a blank academic year. Because in this district, 17 schools have closed their doors. They (Boko haram) target teachers, nurses and traditional chiefs. Everyone that represents the State authority. I do not have much to say if not thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is such a joyful feeling to receive help while facing adversity. We can only be happy about this. May God grant them the wisdom to continue collecting gifts and donations to help us. We are truly happy. You can write down a word, anything, to say “thank you” with the name of the region so we can send it to the donors. The particularity of today’s donations is that people in this camp are coming from diverse horizons. This is the reason why we decided to gather all the district leaders from Djaoro and others at the Mozogo chieftaincy and give them the donation so that they will redistribute them to their people who stay at a displaced persons camp located outside the town. Bye bye Maroua! Thank you! May 21st, 2015
Back to Yaounde This marks the end of the “Smile4Peace Trip”. Sometimes a little goes a long way, which applies to the “Smile4Peace” adventure. And meeting all these people during the trip, be it Ibrahim or the displaced population and some refugees made this experience a fantastic one. When we are in our comfort zone, we do not know what is really happening. But when we go and meet people and hear their stories not only do we grow personally but we give ourselves the means to share and empower others. I am truly happy because at the beginning, all we wanted was to put a smile on their face and finally, we did more than that. We gave them hope. We’ve also tried to deliver messages of support and encouragement to these people who had lost everything. And I know that, being back in Yaoundé now, I have left them with a strong message. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this journey is that we can truly rise by letting go. By doing so, you are able to do a lot for yourself and be of greater service to others. Thanks to more than 300 contributions, more than 400 people living in the camps of Mora and Mozogo have received material and moral support. But the needs are increasingly alarming. Support the initiative

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