KISS THE CAMEL GOOD NIGHT:
The Christmas Gift That Changed Waru's Life
by Caro Froom
The woman, Waru, experienced the pain and loss of widowhood three years ago when men burst into her house and killed her husband while the family was eating a meal. Within moments, Waru and her four children became impoverished, grief-stricken outcasts.
As tradition dictates, all of the family assets went to her husband’s family, and Waru was left to raise her children with no income. She also lost all standing in society as, in her culture, without any livestock, a person has no voice in the community.
Widows who are supporting their children alone are desperate in seeking food for them, and beg from already impoverished families. Survival is day to day as the society they live in doesn’t have the social assistance that Canadians are able to access. Illiteracy, hunger and homelessness are common.
So where is the hope for a woman like Waru? The hope comes from people motivated by the words of Isaiah 1:17: “Do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Plead for the widow.”
The financial support ERDO receives is enabling good things. By working alongside our partner, Sauti Moja, and with the Rendille tribe in northern Kenya, ERDO’s Christmas gift catalogue program has delivered goats, camels and donkeys to widowed and abandoned women like Waru. Through the Christmas gifts of 2012, Waru was the recipient of a camel which she named “Moyo Wangu” or “my heart.”
Waru spoke to Gillian Rumney, ERDO’s program officer, earlier this year about her life before she received her camel. Waru described it this way: “I used to get up every morning and start the fire, even though there was nothing to cook. I would take a bowl and go from house to house in the village begging for milk for my children, ending up at the chief’s door to beg for some food.”
During Gillian’s visit to Waru’s community, she met with the village chief to ask about the impact of “Moyo Wangu” and the other livestock that donations to ERDO’s Christmas gift catalogue supplied. The chief saw the program as a great relief. “I try to ensure that I have something available for the widows from my own home and the elders’ homes when they come, but it is very little because there are so many,” he added. “Waru’s life has changed, and she no longer comes to my home to ask for food.”
Waru told Gillian that God’s gift to her of a camel has changed her life. She explained how she sometimes dreamed that in the future, one of her children’s children might be fortunate enough to own such a valuable animal as a camel. In Rendille culture, the word for camel translates as “one half of God” because it is so important. Waru never dared pray for such a gift for herself. She prayed only that through selling the water she collected and carried daily from over six kilometres away and the kindness of others, she would be able to provide for her children’s daily needs.
Now, almost two years since she received her camel, Waru shows her gratitude for God’s blessing daily through action. She is now the one who is approached by those in need and gladly shares some of her camel’s milk with others. She also collects jugs of water for paying customers, using her camel to transport the heavy containers. She fills one large jug every day for other widows so they don’t have to beg for it as she once did. Waru has been able to purchase goats from the proceeds of her milk and water sales and is building her goat herd so she has animals to sell and pay for her children’s school fees.
Waru grasped Gillian’s arm and took her to meet Moyo Wangu. She told Gillian shyly that she visits her camel every evening and kisses it. Waru’s camel has now given birth to a beautiful female calf. As part of the livestock program, the first female offspring must be passed on to another widow. It is the price for receiving such a valuable gift.
These gifts of livestock bring immeasurable joy to women who now don’t have to beg at the doors of their neighbours or see their children suffer with hunger and the stigma of not being able to attend school.
Christmas is a time to celebrate special people in our lives with small gifts that honour them. Imagine if we even took what the typical family spends on stocking stuffers and decided to do something different, giving back to a person in need. That would be powerful shopping! Waru’s life and many others have changed because people generously shared with those in need at Christmas.
Gifts from the ERDO Christmas 2013 gift catalogue also helped “do good” by covering more than 110 children and their families with mosquito nets. These insecticide-treated nets are effective in reducing the risk of malaria spread through infected mosquitos. In countries like Malawi, malaria is one of the leading causes of child death in children under the age of five.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released their “World Malaria Report 2013” and cited that there is good news in fighting this killer of children and adults alike: “Global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have saved an estimated 3.3 million lives since 2000, reducing malaria mortality rates by 45% and by 49% in Africa.”
The threat of malaria is far from over, with WHO reporting that “the proportion of the population with access to an insecticide-treated bed net remained well under 50% in 2013.” The lack of bed nets is the reason why ERDO is featuring this as an item to give at Christmas in place of the classic under-used Christmas sweater or another box of chocolates.
Besides camels that provide income to widows and malaria nets that keep children safe, ERDO has selected a number of items to feature for Christmas 2014 that help people overcome poverty or care for their physical or educational needs.
Gillian Rumney, who works closely with ERDO’s partners to purchase and deliver such items, has seen firsthand what a difference many of these items make in communities. “Seeing Waru’s love for her camel and the difference it made in her life is a highlight for me. Seeing children and families receiving their mosquito nets is also important. In communities where there aren’t enough nets, I have seen children being treated for malaria.”
This Christmas, why not share the story of Waru, her gratitude, and her camel with those you love? Together, look through the catalogue on the following pages and find projects that inspire and challenge. As you reach out and touch the lives of those like Waru, your own life will be impacted, and you may have a more exciting Christmas than you can imagine.
ERDO (Emergency Relief & Development Overseas) is the humanitarian agency of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ERDO is involved in four key areas: Crisis Response, Food Assistance, ChildCARE Plus (Child Sponsorship), and Community Development. Carol Froom is the Director of Resource Development. Visit our Christmas items at www.erdo.ca/giftcatalogue.
In an area of northern Kenya, a lone woman looks up from the dry earth to the evening sky, gives thanks, and kisses her camel good night.
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