Yemen: An Incredible JourneyIt' 3 August 2012, sunset, the time for "iftar" (breaking of the fast). Villagers throng our car, obstructing it, raising voices at each other, insisting that the occupants of the vehicle must be their guests to partake in the "breaking" of the fast. Men and women engage in a verbal dual as to who gets priority in the tradition of hospitality and generosity consistent with the honour afforded to guests.
We had commenced our journey several hours earlier driving huge distances "discovering" village upon village clustered in several districts in the search for extremely malnourished children. We snake through the areas walking on gravel and rain-induced water logged roads. Sanitation and drainage is non-existent. We are stunned by the living conditions; mules, goats, dogs, cats and their excreta share a mini "kraal" with distinctly extended families living as one. The "kitchen" and "bathroom" triggers internal turmoil in our soul.
Not a single adult or child is obese, every teenager is thin, almost every baby is underweight, children are short, an indication of stunted growth, all from a casual observation. Malaria is prevalent, some children are cerebral palsied, others have measles and general primary health care conditions associated with this type of setting. It's day two, we still can't find the extremely malnourished child in the searing heat, actually in the furnace. It's time to move on to the next village, nothing to be found here, and as the lady vocals out to the men to invite us for the termination of the fast, realisation suddenly dawns as to what we have missed. Our eyes were wide shut.
In the quest for the malnourished child we missed the fact that entire villages were hungry, 100%. Their warm spirit, tender greeting, respect to their guests, the joyful ecstasy of children seeing their faces on an ipad and the broad smile; oh, that smile, the smile that disarms, that deceives, that belies the real pain, the hunger, the deprivation and the reality of their misery. They don't have food to feed themselves or their children, they are all uneducated and unemployed, there is no water source, no proper health and no medical supplies yet they smile and invite us to partake in the termination of the fast, which implies that whatever they have or "do not" have will be consumed by the guest and they will smile yet again having fulfilled the etiquette of respect to one's guest.
You realise the power of the Almighty as He manifests His own Mercy, honouring the poor, protecting their dignity; they don't beg, they don't ask, they don't wail and they don't complain; yet simultaneously He alerts our inner eye and our deep consciousness to a sobering thought: "did you not notice that in every kraal there was not a grain of rice, nor a drop of oil, a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, not even a single baby bottle in families with 8 to 11 children; didn't it strike you that something was hugely wrong with this setting where even a glass of water was non-existent".
Realisation hits home hard and strong. That same Mercy compels us that we cannot come here empty-handed. We make the call to South Africa to start loading the containers with basic food aid, nutritional supplements, water, new clothing and shoes; we've observed adults and children walking barefooted on tar in 40 degree heat.
Yemen will be the 35th country to receive assistance from Gift of the Givers as it celebrates it's 20th anniversary on Monday, 6 August 2012. Having delivered R750 million in aid to 34 countries our focus is the province of Al Hodeidah, Yemen, from which we almost walked away blindly had it not been for the Mercy of the Almighty. Twenty years on and we are still learning. Help us celebrate our 20th anniversary, having overwhelmingly supported us on every other occasion, as we undertake this noble endeavour to feed a starving nation whose government is hamstrung caught up simultaneously in wars on three fronts internally.
We thank every donor, well wisher, corporate, government, media, trade union, professional, religious teacher, learner, educator, staff, counsellor and volunteer locally and internationally for what we have achieved in our 20 year history for without you, the guidance of our Spiritual Master and the Grace of the Almighty this would never be possible.
May the Almighty bless you all. On behalf of the Gift of the Givers team with gratitude, prayer and in all humility:
Cel. +27 832364029.