A Strong Family in Madianna, The Gambia

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The rain fell hard and the wind blew heavy on that day in The Gambia. It was a day during my first few months of Peace Crops training. Myself and the other trainees in my group had just completed Marathon March. We were led on a day hike through some of The Gambia’s forests and mangrove swamps. It was an awesome time, and being an avid hiker, it was certainly up my alley. We left in the afternoon to return to our training villages and our respective host families. I stayed in a village called Madianna with the Kijera family.

After we arrived in the village, Peace Corps drivers began going around to each of our compounds to drop us off. The rain was still falling pretty heavily. But I was in good spirits after having so much fun during Marathon March. However, that quickly went away once we pulled up to my host family’s compound. For what I saw absolutely horrified me.

The roof of my host family’s house had been blown off by the heavy winds and was collapsed in the front of the house. “Oh my God.” I said out loud as I rushed into the compound. Immediately I started looking around trying to get eyes on my host family. I saw my host mothers and the children huddled underneath the roof covering the porch of my house. My house was built separate from their’s, and didn’t appear to be damaged. My host father and eldest brother were in the center of the compound talking with a couple other villagers. I went over to speak with my host brother, Bubacar, for he was the only one in the family who spoke English. He told me that the winds ruined some of the other houses in the village as well.

I sat on my porch with the rest of the family. Needless to say I was feeling absolutely terrible. I asked myself questions like, “Where are they going to sleep? How are they going to get by?” And I also thought to myself, “Will it just stop fucking raining already?!” Never in my life have I ever hated rain so much.

My host father and Bubacar came over. My host father looked at me with a smile and started saying something in Sarahule. Sarahule was the language that I was learning, but was hardly proficient at. I looked at Bubacar hoping that he’d translate. He smiled at me too and said, “He says that you look sad but you shouldn’t be, everyone is okay.” I really didn’t know what to say right away. I just gave a half-smile and nodded my head in agreement. He was correct after all.

Once the rain finally let up one of my younger host brothers, Jarru, ran off into the village. As I watched him run away Bubacar approached me. And what he said next brought on flood of emotions (no pun intended!). He said, “We weren’t able to prepare you dinner, so Jarru is going into the village to get you some food.” After hearing him say that I almost wanted to start crying. I just couldn’t believe it. My host family’s house was in ruins, yet they seemed to be more concerned with making sure I had something to eat.

When Jarru returned with some food for me I thought I’d might feel guilty somehow if I ate it. But I knew that I shouldn’t refuse this kind gesture that they were offering. These were strong and caring people who have taken great care of me since I came to them almost two months earlier. And they made it a point to not let this storm and the current circumstances get to them, or me. So I graciously accepted the food. And I began feeling better because of their kindness and their optimism.

The next morning I awoke feeling much better. After a quick breakfast I went straight to work to help clean up the compound. My host family was very pleased to have my help, but it was the least I could do for them. Not long after some of the other villagers came by to help get the roof back onto the house as best as possible. Wasn’t as good as new, but at least it was progress. Myself, some of the other trainees, and Peace Corps staff pitched in some money to give to my host family as well as another trainee’s host family who had the same misfortune. They were very grateful, and I was happy that we were able to raise it for them.

What I took from this experience was a reminder to just simply remain positive. Getting upset about the situation did absolutely nothing to improve it, and my host family knew that. I tried to remember that every time I came across a difficult situation during my two years of service, and there were definitely a lot of them! But I’ll share those in later posts. Even now I still reflect on this every now and then when I’m facing a tough situation. I think about the Kijeras and their strength and their positive outlook that leads them to overcome hardships.

I hope you enjoyed this story! How do you find positivity in your life? Leave a comment below and share your ideas! Thank you for visiting my blog today and I’ll see you in the next post!

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