Surviving a day at a time

By Samuel Stephen

A fateful afternoon brought a horror that left Naomi great deal to struggle with, as she questioned the essence of friendship seeing how her father was dragged and cut in pieces by the Islamic terror group Boko Haram. At 9 she has seen it all – good, bad and the ugly though ill prepared for. Seeking refuge with her mother through arid lands hundreds of miles to the city of Jos, she arrived at a camp house with a school. Naomi had time to reflect on her father’s death as she pondered on brutality and betreyal.

“they didn’t even like my father”, she said, “but they were his friends, I wondered why they didn’t liked him”. From her narrations it appeared her father offended some of his friends that supported the terror group and they came to send gravious message by killing him.

 All is however a history to now 11 year old Naomi; a ghastly one to her conscience which will keep shaping her view on friendship. A subtle disposition in her interactions with peers prove a rise from despondency. Naomi continues to remain in a camp for displaced children while her mother visits twice a year. Events had her settled into a brand new life with steep transitions and little time to make sense of life. School to attend, shared living space in a chocked room, unhygenic bathroom, hardly any food to eat and deep trauma without chance to process.

 Despite her struggles she did well accepting the future. Naomi fitted well into what forms the anchor of her existence. Pressure being one of many factors tipped her to making friends and learning to trust. Relationship dynamic in the camp is filled with close ties between peers allowing Naomi get through her days distracted from her father’s incident. Added to her distractions for better are morning meetings to empower them all for the day. A typical day starts at 5:00am with songs, followed by shower and finally breakfast. With all the children gone to school at 7:45am an empty camp is a common sight with buckets tossed around walk paths and clothing hung on corroded window frames in their rush to walk 12 minutes to school. Like all other children, Naomi must be present at the “City of Refuge” school enrolled in grade 5.

 While her psychological predicament could be dealt with slowly, other necessities may provoke even further abuse, namely, near naked girls waiting in shower lines. With the boys’ dormitory windows opened to ladies bathroom just yards away, girls in queue waiting for shower are a common sights. Most of them have a shirt and skirt. The camp is falling apart, with unvailable funding for renovation. Some Dutch missionaries volunteered the previous year to rebuild a few classrooms however.

 Given her reality she is stuck with 2 questions: why do friends betray one another? How long will the present struggles continue? Far from satisfactory answers, Naomi survives a day at a time in company of similar peers with even challenging stories untold. Active throughout the day playing, she is haunted by dispicable horror on a shared pillow laid upon piece of cloth defining bed at nights. Robbed from well deserved sleep, Naomi could still imagine a brighter future by continuing to attend school. Her second chance in life had already begun and she dares to make use of it.

Picture of Samuel Stephen

Samuel Stephen

Displaced Children of Northern Nigeria and Other Stories. 9th February 2020.