24 February 2012


Earlier this week I was in Niamey . . . and while waiting for a colleague to join me there, I ended up with a 'free' afternoon.  And thanks to the old-friend-just-passing-through of a friend-of-mine, I found myself tagging along with a filmmaker from the UN's fundraising division as she went with the director of the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) Niger out to a village east of Niamey to find some hope in the midst of Niger's food crisis.

They were going to visit Oumou.*

At the age of 12, Oumou contracted polio and never walked again.  Now, as a woman in her 40's, Oumou sits with her legs curled up beneath her.  But as our Djarma-to-French translator says, she has no interest in keeping her arms crossed!

In 2006, CBM financed the digging of a well on Oumou's land.  Then, they taught her how to plant a garden, maintain it, harvest the yield, keep seeds, and rotate plants with the seasons.  As the CBM director stated over and over again, Oumou's garden has produce 12 months out of 12!

We were welcomed by a small hoard of young women . . . Oumou's nieces.  They ushered us to Oumou's house, where we were warmly greeted by the woman we came to see.  Within minutes, her sisters arrived as well.  Together with all the children and grandchildren, we were becoming quite the crowd.

The women offered us mats to sit on as it was explained to us the criteria for the five-year Garden Subsidy Program:

  1. The person must be disabled.
  2. The person must own his/her own piece of land . . . either through inheritance or purchase.
  3. There must be two able-bodied individuals willing to help with the necessary labor.
Eventually we were taken to see the garden first hand.

Oumou uses a velo, a hand-powered tricycle, that was provided for her by CBM as well.  The problem is, the terrain around her house is incredibly sandy, so she cannot actively push herself through (that and the bike chain broke) . . . but not to worry, she has plenty of grand-nieces and nephews to propel her!
Oumou crawls through her garden

She showed us her routine.  Someone draws water from the well and fills up buckets for her.  Oumou descends from her trike and crawls over to the line of buckets.  She lifts one to her head.  Without spilling or splashing, she balances the plastic bucket and crawls around the gate and into the garden.

Stopping at the first row, she lowers the container and gently waters her plants.  When the bucket is empty, she searches the ground for weeds.  She checks for mature peppers, plucks them, and places them in the watering bucket.

This is a daily routine that takes hours. 

In her garden, Oumou currently has an abundance of peppers, corn, pumpkins, watermelon, lettuce, cassava, maringa,  and a few things they only knew the Djarma name for.

Her interview was fantastic!

When asked how she felt about her garden, she humbly admitted that it made her very proud.  She feeds her family.  She works hard and watches as her garden grows.

When asked how her garden has changed her life, she told us that before her life was limited to her house.  She sat around all day, doing nothing.  There was very little she was able to contribute to her family.  But now, she has work.  She has purpose.  She has changed everything for her whole family.

When asked how she felt about her friends and neighbors who have been displaced or are suffering because of the food crisis, she said more people need gardens like her's, because 'at times like this, the disabled are always the last to receive help'.

Oumou waits for the interview to start.
When asked what she'd like to tell the world about the problems in Niger, she said 'Thank you!  Thank you for what you have already given us.'  Then she asked that the rest of the world not forget about the people of Niger.

With seeds saved from past crops, each of Oumou's brothers and sisters and their respective families all have their own individual gardens.  Their children eat until they are full and together the larger family sells the excess in Niamey.  With this income, they can afford school fees . . . and since their home is in such close proximity to the well and their gardens, the children have time to go to school.

In a society where the disabled rest on the bottom rung, where a girl is not a woman until she is married, and woman's worth is measured by the number of children she has, we find a handicapped, unmarried, childless WOMAN who has rescued her family and given them hope for generations to come!

If only the world were filled with Oumous!

Some of the kiddos of the family play in Oumou's garden while their
mommas work.

 Oumou's niece carries maringa leaves back to the house.

After collecting branches, Oumou's sister-in-law and nieces pluck
maringa leaves.

The older girls carry buckets of water back to the house as the
younger children push Oumou's wheelchair.

*Oumou gave us permission to use her name and image.


Barb said...


Kat said...

such a great story, thanks for sharing Deb!

Bobnrobn said...

Wow, what a wonderful example is Oumou.....her family is truly blessed....xoxox

Joyful said...

A fantastic story of how much a hand up can do to help a community.

S. said...

Praise to our great God who takes tragedies and turns them into blessings!

Donprater said...

I was the doctor at the embassy from 1999 to 2002. Just wondering if we could correspond by email

Anderson Deanna said...

That's awesome!

Cliff Peters said...

I find this very inspiring! Glad to see moringa being planted and used there, it's an incredible plant. Thanks, Deb!

Chcpe said...

Wow, how cool is that...and I complain when my knee is sore. Tim is in China at Shepherd's Field Orhanage (with Timmy Willey). We hear they are doing well. Hope you are well. Speaking of wells...isn't it amazing what a well/water can do for people!

Elisabeth Barnett said...

How encouraging. CBM haas interesting projects world wide; Elisabeth

Gloria Ryniak said...

What a great story!  

Deb. said...

We need to start this in Galmi, don't you think??

Deb. said...

Thanks for reading, Kat (and congrats again!!)

Deb. said...

Yeah, she is!

Deb. said...

It's so true . . . just this week someone was talking to me about how the American mentality of 'pull yourself up from your own bootstraps' only works if 1. your bootstraps aren't broken, and 2. you actually have a pair of boots!

Deb. said...


Deb. said...

Sure Don.

Deb. said...

Yeah, great story, hey?

Hope all is well!

Deb. said...

Yeah, lots of moringa around these parts! Thanks for reading, Cliff!

Deb. said...

Yeah, it really is an amazing story!

So Tim is BACK in China!?!?! Brilliant! (now if only we could get him to come here!)

Deb. said...

They really do! I checked them out before I signed on with SIM.

Deb. said...

She was an amazing lady to meet!

Davidanitac said...

This story belongs in a magazine!!!!!