The most recent statistics I’ve seen show that 137,093 Ivorian refugees have registered in Liberia, though the actual number could be as high as 180,000 due to the high number of unregistered refugees. The tribal conflict going on across the border remains fragile. The camp at Solo town has grown from 3000 people to almost 5000 over the last several weeks. I had an opportunity to talk with a few individuals as well as a couple families residing at the refugee camp. We wanted to hear their story and to find out how they are fairing. Communication was definitely a challenge. They speak French so we needed an interpreter. Not only that, but the Rwandan doing the translating and I definitely had some miscommunication issues. I wonder how fluently my questions were interpreted and how much information was lost in translation.
This Ivorian family of twelve shares a two-room tent. Their story, though similar to others, pierced something inside of me.
Their father, I observed had dark, contemplative eyes and an air of humble authority about him. He had been working as an accountant for his community’s town hall, a relatively esteemed position for this society, when rebels invaded and set fire to their town. His family fled in such a fright that virtually all their belongings were left behind. I don’t know anything about their home, but can’t imagine being torn from mine is such a way.
It is difficult, he explained, to calculate just how many kilometers they had to walk from their home to reach the Solo Refugee camp because they did not use main roads. Rather, they weaved their way through the forest and from village to village seeking refuge from the rebels and looking for food. They wandered like this for about a month, sleeping on the ground and taking shelter wherever possible. Upon arrival to the camp, they were provided with shelter, food, water and a relative peace of mind.
After being settled in the camp for a little over a month, this family has already begun their own small business selling an assortment of dry food items. The father hopes to find a small part-time job in the area while they wait out the conflict back home.
Although, grateful for the provisions of the camp, they are of course anxious to return to their lives in Ivory Coast…their home, jobs and school.
On the days, especially recently, when I find myself feeling homesick and starkly out of place, I am reminded of this family who are far from home. They cannot speak the official language and are living out of a tent in one of the most rainy countries on earth. I am prompted to pray that God gives them the grace to survive these next several months, possibly years in an unfamiliar place.
To check out a short video of the camp, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is5Z_Tj2f5A