I secured my first job just a few months out of high school. I had some time before I was due at university and I heard that the International Committee of the Red Cross was hiring clerks for a big project. I offered my services as a volunteer and after stubbornly sitting at their reception on Dennis Pritt Road in Nairobi every morning for weeks, I finally got a position.
We started our work, opening files, attaching photos to cards and logging in details. As the days went by, the importance of what we were doing dawned on me. Our focus was Sudan where a large number of children, boys to be precise, were making a trek into Kenya. We had a picture of each child taken at a camp within Sudan. We had details of their names, ages, height, description and some family information. After a few days we would receive information that we had to log in. This information was registration data from a stop over point closer to Kenya. But some of the boys were not on the registration list. We would separate those files, close them and hand them to a different office.
Eventually I asked what happened to they boys who had not registered.
“They did not make it.” I was told.
They did not make it…
Each file I closed was a life lost…. They did not make it…
I asked why these boys were walking all by themselves, so young, too weak to carry supplies, at the mercy of the animals and the harsh environment, with only each other to hold onto. “It is the only way we can get them into Kenya and getting them into Kenya is their best chance of survival.”
I was horrified. Upset. Angry. I wished I had money to send trucks to pick them up… ‘Why can’t we do more?’ I lamented internally. But all I could do was wait expectantly for the next report.
I shed tears for the boys who did not make it.
I shed tears that they all had to endure such suffering.
I shed tears for the girls did not even stand a chance.
I shed tears for the families that were torn apart.
I shed tears that this was my Africa.
That was my first job. It was the early nineties and those were the Lost Boys of Sudan. While media reports indicate that the boys were between 7 to 17 years old, I recall that there were toddlers who made that journey. Many were young, many were just babes, protected and cared for by the older boys. I recall some of the older boys lost their lives fighting off wild animals that would trail behind them, hoping to feed on the weak and tired boys who fell back. What sheer strength and character!
It breaks my heart that they suffered…
I wonder where some of those boys are today. They are heroes, all of them. At such a tender age facing the choice of that arduous trek or imminent death.
May they all be blessed abundantly, may their cups spilleth over for their burden was too great, and they were far too young. We owe them a better Africa, we owe ourselves a better Africa. I pray that we get there.
At a personal level I realized that we all face a great arduous trek in life, but for some of us it is more severe than it is for others. For some of us it comes when we are young, for others the worst hits us later. How we conduct ourselves through the great trek will determine much of our life to come. The question is can we make it through the trek with our dignity intact? Can we make it through the great trek with grace, courage and love? For if we are driven by hate and destruction, selfishness and cowardice, the trek will destroy us even as the journey begins.