by Brittany Breedlove, the program development officer in Niger, who showed our staff around Guidan Gado for Raise a Village
The people of Niger have a unique depth of their character despite a lack of physical means. Their determination and resilience to continue against all odds and circumstances is surprising.
For example, Auta, who we interviewed for Raise a Village, virtually has nothing. But she isn’t crying about it, and she is not depressed. She carries on because she has to and still finds joy in little, simple things each day. She did not even have any millet to eat in her home. Millet (which in the U.S. is used as bird seed and horse feed) would be a luxury to Auta. Instead, she gets by off of tree leaves and the shavings/leftovers from other people’s grain that is usually given to animals. Can you imagine what type of character, courage, and humility it takes a person, especially an elderly female, to carry on in such a respectable way?
And Auta is not alone. Her story is far too common not just in Guidan Gado but in all of Niger. The women here continue to impress me, and I look up to them in a respectful way. They are simple, they don’t have that many needs, and they are overjoyed and satisfied with even the simple gestures of care or consideration. They are always willing to welcome strangers and offer them whatever they have, even if they know they will not eat dinner because they gave the strangers the rest of their millet porridge.
What makes Nigeriens stand out the most is their strong roots in their traditions and their fight to keep peace in their land. They are peaceful people. They would rather hold onto their burdens and struggles internally than cause a fight. They are accepting to outsiders and extremely hospitable and friendly. They will do whatever it takes in most cases to keep the peace and keep everyone happy. That is very important to them and is a quality that I admire.
In terms of traditions, Nigeriens seem to be slow to accept change and rooted in their beliefs and traditions that have been passed down for centuries. Thus working with them takes patience, love, and prayer.
What continues to amaze me is that they have such incredible faith and determination while also carrying the air of oppression and hopelessness internally. They do such a good job of hiding their emotions and feelings. They put on a good face every day to face the harshness that awaits them. They are much stronger than I could ever be. The women will openly welcome the idea of their spouse taking on a second wife because they say she will reduce their workload, but in private they confess the inner turmoil and jealousy they constantly struggle with by having to share their husband. It’s a strange life, a life we could never completely understand.
Most people in Niger are not materially blessed the way that the rest of the world has been. They cannot even imagine the extravagant luxuries that people in America have come to expect and depend on every day. But they don’t know how unfortunate they are in our eyes. They are poor and know they don’t have money, but they don’t strive for a car when they turn 16 or cake and ice cream on their birthdays. Their desires and dreams are much more simple: desires to have enough food (whatever food that might be) tomorrow and enough water to drink.
Despite how much the things I mention above seem to separate the people in Niger from us (Americans), we are all still very similar and very human. Nigerians call me their daughter and accept me as a best friend or sister despite my skin color, religious beliefs, or background. We have the same desires to be loved. We all cherish and swoon over cute babies, we value beauty and want to look pretty, we take joy in a good laugh.
Most of the people who have supported Raise a Village will never meet the people of Guidan Gado, but I hope through the photos, stories, and videos shared this week that they were able to get a small taste of the personality in the community.
I want to emphasize their kindness and hospitality and their simplicity and appreciation for the small and most basic things in life. They are amazing people, and I’m so excited that we’ll be able to provide them with basic necessities to help them improve their lives.