I am not much of a fundraiser, I must admit, but after reading this here, you may understand why I am making an exception.
As a journalist, I have in the past come face to face with people affected by war. In Gulu, Northern Uganda , I stood face to face with five and six-year-old children who were looking for a safe place to stay for the night, so as not to fall into the hands of soldiers of Joseph Koni’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
I will never forget the empty houses packed with children in Gulu Town on one of the other nights I bivouacked there for a report.
Later I would travel overland to Congo DRC, Goma, Bukavu, traversed Lake Kivu. In Bukavu, I stayed in a rebel-dismantled hotel, I listened to the stories of the people of Bukavu, who were surprised that i had bever fled my house to hide for soldiers attacking your area.
In that same Bukavu, in the broom closet of a shelter for women, I interviewed about eight women who wanted to share with me their experience of things that before that time I would not have dared to imagine that people could do to each other.These are things that make rape sound innocent. The stories made it into the Leeuwarder Courant and De Standaard, among other newspapers.
As a journalist, I had the feeling that at that moment I was making stories that mattered: for myself because I understood people a little better, I thought, and for my readers, I thought because they heard stories from real people who were experiencing real things. All stripped of the rhetoric of politicians, and Congo and Northern Uganda were places where the word war got a face for me.
For the rest, like most people who are still reading this probably, I have had little direct contact with war lately. My main income shifted from journalism to the tourism industry years ago. Which collapsed a year and a half ago, we all know why and how.
In tourism, we work with people in a very intense way. You are spending with guests, of whom you constantly are managing the expectations.
Because of the Covid-19, I am hopefully temporarily in the Netherlands to support my family that stayed behind in Kenya.
That’s a comfortable position to be in, easy to also keep the developments in Africa at bay. ‘Enough of my head for a while,’ is easily thought and spoken.
Until last week, I received a WhatsApp-call from one of my friends from Lalibela in Ethiopia: how it goes.
We have known each other for almost ten years that I have been visiting Ethiopia. He is a former teacher, and nowadays, one of the better guides in Lalibela. People are glued to his lips when he tells how the Angels helped carve the eleven churches of Lalibela into the rock in one night, one of the highlights of a trip to Ethiopia.
Mesfin could draw people in when he stood in front of one of the Debre Libanos built into the rock and revealed the secret of Debre Libanos: the silence that followed when he shone his flashlight on a mass grave at the back of the cave and the laughter he managed to evoke in people when he drank a jet of holy water that came from the rock
I remember how I was invited to have a beer with him and his friends. Then we would chat about Ethiopian life, both of our upcoming fatherhood.
Mesfin is not the type of person who asks others for help when he is in need.
In our last conversation, he told how a few weeks ago he and his wife and two children had left their home, fleeing from “the terrorists” as he described them.
He described how he and his family had spent several weeks walking through the harsh terrain of Ethiopia on foot. How he and his young kids and his wife were sleeping in the open air.
His story has not let me go. Somewhere in my head the idea has taken hold that I must do something, as a human being, as a fellow human being, as a friend and perhaps as a privileged Dutchman and journalist.
Now, how is that my problem, you might say. I understand that, although I don’t agree. Overall, it’s all just a matter of definition: where does your We start? Do you define yourself: as a World Citizen, as a citizen of your country, maybe you have enough your main concern is your family and kids?
Fine, but I am talking to the people who made it up to her in this out-of-time-too-long text: you made it up to here. And if you agree that a small step for you can be a huge difference for others and if you have ever asked don’t ask.
Possibly the answer on why to give should my plain simple like this and the same answer as when you book a city trip of to Barcelona: because you can.
Together, you can achieve more, so I started this campaign because occasionally, you don’t have a choice and because I sometimes feel the duty that all the support I have received from people without being able to offer anything in return, now perhaps not to Return the Favour, but to Pay the Favour Forward.
With the in mind, I am asking in my first fundraiser ever: if you like the idea of paying a favourite forward, could you please send something you could miss supporting my friend Mesfin and his family help to survive, keeping in mind how much support in many forms you have met through the years?
On behalf of Mesfin and the kids: thank you a lot. You changed some lives for the better today.
Please find the account number below:
NL66 KNAB 0259 9745 28
Reference: Mesfin Family Lalibela