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What Hunger Looks Like

by | Jul 6, 2012 | Africa, Mission Trips | 1 comment

Have you ever seen a really really hungry person? I know I’m always saying, “I’m starving!” but before today, I didn’t really know what starving looked like.

Today was chaos. Hundreds of children everywhere, no structure, no organized tasks for us to do…just chaos. There were so many kids, that we were afraid to even get out toys and play with them. As soon as they see a toy or a soccer ball or stickers, dozens and dozens of kids start climbing all over, pulling you, punching the other kids, screaming “YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!” Because of this, we never even got out stuff to play with. Unlike Noel Orphanage in Rwanda, these kids are not supervised, most of them are not well fed, and there is no one in charge. We spent the day breaking up fights as kids pushed one another just to get close enough to ask us “Candy? Gum? Football?” It was difficult and honestly it was not the most fulfilling mission work.

Well, the highlight of my day was when we got to feed lunch. Our team put money together and purchased 2 goats. This morning, the goats were slaughtered and cooked. The kids here rarely get to eat meat, so this is a HUGE deal. One of the many dogs that wander in Korah had somehow gotten the head of the slaughtered goat and was eating it in the middle of the courtyard the kids play in. We were all grossed out, but the kids were excited to see that a goat had been slaughtered and didn’t mind playing right next to it. And no, that specific part was not the highlight of my day. When it came time for lunch, the kids all gathered in the church (which is a big tarp tent), and we passed out plates and then a few of us were able to serve the kids with the goat meat and a spongy bread called ngera (probably destroyed that spelling). They were so excited to be eating this delicacy! It was awesome seeing their happy faces.

And then… the worst thing ever happened. The Ethiopian girl whom I was helping to serve asked me to help her carry the huge pot of goat meat. I of course said sure, picked it up, and followed her. I thought we were just carrying it to the back of the church or maybe just outside the building. But no. She led me outside the church gate and there were hundreds… literally hundreds of people had gathered outside the walls in search of food. Suddenly I knew why ALL the kids hadn’t been in the church for lunch. The ones we had fed were only the sponsored kids. All the other kids were outside… still hungry.

The girl pulled me along as we went through the mob of people, pointing at the food I’m carrying and asking, crying out for food. It was mostly children, but adults and elderly were there too. All with their hands out making eating motions. They were pulling on me and grabbing my clothes and there were just so many of them. We were taking the food to a separate building with a separate gate. We got to the gate and it was locked, so the girl just kept knocking and knocking. The whole time people were pressing in on us, trying to stick their hands in the pot. Finally, the gate was opened. A flood of children ran inside the courtyard in front of us. We handed off the food to 2 other women, but then there were still dozens of kids who needed to be herded outside of the gate again. Some men came and started pushing the kids out of the gate. These gates have metal poles that you have to step over and there’s about a 4 inch gap between the poles and the mud below. As children were leaving through the gate and being pushed, I heard a scream. There were so many bodies, I couldn’t even see what happened. I moved some kids out of the way to see a boy, about 5 years old, with his little leg stuck under the metal pole. He was bent forward and children were stepping all over him. He was completely covered in mud. He reached his little hand out toward me and I was able to pull him up so he wouldn’t be trampled anymore. He was crying hysterically. An older boy came and took him from me. I needed to get out of the gate and back to the church with my team. I stepped out of the gate, back into the main corridor, and all the people were still there crying out for food. Since they had seen me carrying it (and since I’m white) they thought I could give it to them. They all pressed in around me with their hungry faces and sunken eyes. I had no one else with me to help me get through them or to speak in their language and explain that I couldn’t give them food. Some men came and started pushing kids again, and this time they had plastic bats that they were hitting the children with in order to get them away from me.

I felt so helpless. I felt horrified. I felt scared. I wanted to throw up. Finally I was able to get back into the church. Then I immediately found Blake and cried in his shoulder. Now I know what starving looks like.

If you would like to help the children of Korah, please visit p61.org. They are not taking any more sponsored children right now because they have no room for any more. However, you can donate to the organization so that they can continue to expand and make room for more children to be sponsored.