Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Nelly who lived in a small town in a war-torn country. This war-torn country was the DRC, and Nelly and her family lived there and persisted as long as they could. Nelly was a happy and adventurous child who loved to explore the world around her. She would often wander into the nearby forest and spend hours admiring the beautiful baobab trees and birds of paradise purple flowers. These flowers were small in oranges and purples with a bit of blue.
One day, everything changed. When Nelly was in the forest, she heard a gunshot from her village. She came out of the forest and wanted to find out what was happening. Then she entered her village and saw people running up and down the street. These gunshots were part of a violent conflict, and Nelly’s family was forced to flee their home in search of safety from maltreatment, murder, and rape. They packed a few belongings, such as clothes, plates, bed sheets, and maize flour, since the maize flour was carried to be used for porridge and at other times as pap, a traditional African food that in Swahili is called ugali. They set off on a long and treacherous journey, not knowing what lay ahead.
As they journeyed further and further away from their home, Nelly’s family faced hunger, thirst, and exhaustion and often had to sleep in the open air with no shelter from the elements. Along with Nelly were her parents and two of her aunts, who were also victims of rape. They all dreamed of safety and a better place where they could find security with much assurance and where all these women who fled from the village would be safe. It feels so bad in such traumatic and sad moments, and they did not carry enough food or water that could have helped them throughout that long journey, except the maize flour. The journey was long, with no rest.
Despite all the difficulties, Nelly remained optimistic and hopeful. She would often sing songs to lift the spirits of her family and the other refugees they met along the way. She sang lyrics such as “When life becomes so hard, you never know how it feels until you go through the hard times.” She sang lyrics such as “there is a melody in my heart.. Aaah people suffered so ooh many times uuuuh,” because the travelers were looking for the sounds of peace, comfort, and calmness. Her infectious laughter and bright smile brought a glimmer of joy to even the bleakest of situations.
Nelly had so many dreams for the community to help the most vulnerable children around the globe, specifically orphans, street kids, and children with disabilities. As they walked through a foreign land called Catala, they often encountered children without parents, and most of them had neither shelter to lay down their heads nor food to feed their stomachs. Nelly had the habit of approaching kids in the street whenever she saw them crying or in pain; she always found ways of taking used items from her parents to help other children in need.
Eventually, after weeks of walking and hitchhiking, Nelly’s family arrived at a refugee camp on the border of a neighboring country. Here, they were provided with food, water, and a temporary shelter. It was not much, but it was a safe haven from the violence they had left behind. It felt warm and calm to finally arrive at a place where they could live without experiencing such conflicts. They were grieving deep inside and crying all day. After crying, they kneeled down and prayed in deep pain, saying out loud that what happened to them must never happen to any other person Whenever one of them remembered how the lives of so many women were destroyed and lost during that conflict, they cried until they fell asleep.
Nelly quickly made friends with the other children in the camp and spent her days playing games and telling stories. Despite the difficult conditions, she remained cheerful and optimistic, always finding a reason to smile. At this new place, Nelly thought the major problem was that orphans and street kids were being maltreated by the community and their fellow children. Some parents thought it was forbidden for an orphan child or street kid to play with their children due to their condition. This kind of feeling decreased the love among the children, and a spirit of hatred took place in them. They hated each other. This pained someone like Nelly.
Although Nelly had to leave behind the home she had known all her life, she never lost her sense of adventure and curiosity. The experience of this journey from its beginning until the end was unforgettable. She continued to explore the world around her, making new friends and experiencing new cultures. She learned more from this new forest and imagined how the maize flour could be used to make something new to eat.
9 June, 2023