Friday, March 09, 2012

The pain of being white

This is going to sound odd. I can already feel the comments coming back at me Smile with tongue out But really, sometimes I really dislike being white. Don’t get me wrong- I love my country, my race, my color etc. But living here in Niger is made all the more difficult but the color of my skin. Oh how I long to blend in. To go to the market without being followed by people, paying more than usual because “white people can afford it” and have restrictions on work and travel because the color of my skin makes me a target. Let’s face it- that sucks.

We found out last week that there is potentially funding available from an interested donor to open up a satellite school of our Girls at Risk Vocational Training program up north. The Northern part of the country is where the majority of the Tuareg people live. The plight of young women is horrible in many instances and they are married off at 12, no skills, no hope. Crazy high maternal mortality and child mortality rates. We could access these girls and teach them, love them. But we can’t go. And we aren’t in a position yet where we have locals trained to be able to fully reproduce this on their own or who we have complete confidence in to run and manage a program this size. If I blended in I could go there and start this project or at least work with locals to run it and visit weekly for follow-up. But I can’t.

There is a refugee situation along the Mali border that is also concerning Tuareg people. They are fleeing the conflicts in Mali and crossing over just inside the border of Niger, where they are doing everything they can just to stay alive.

The ragtag shanty huts of the refugees


A malnourished grandmother, who walked for days, holding her equally malnourished grandchild.


I could help here too. There are distribution projects going on (although far too few to meet the need) that I could help with. I can speak the Tuareg’s language enough to help, talk with the people and deliver the aid. But we can’t go. Too dangerous being a white person to go there. I thought about wearing a full head to toe burka and gloves, but as soon as I opened my mouth they would know.

Our village feeding program needs more oversight and we miss seeing those groups of awesome children whom we love. We miss going! Increased security risks means us expat folks can’t go. Are you seeing a pattern here?

This lady had just arrived, walking days over the border. She was carrying her child and all she could of her belongings and left everything else behind.




* All photos courtesy of ADRA, editing by me.


So there you have it. My sadness at sticking out so much that it impedes my ability to do some of my work. I know that God knows all this and that I am deeply needed her in Niamey with our Girls School and their families, but it gets really tiring sometimes not being able to leave the city really.

SO….thanks for hearing me out. Has there even been a time you wish you could change your skin color for any reason?


Anonymous said...

Oh sweetheart! My heart aches selfishly. I thought I would have my time in Africa to help and can't do it all. But I feel your heart cry.

Heather said...

Hi Chantelle,

Just this week our family was reminiscing about the time we got share with Bennett, as I babysat him. Sierra giggled when I told her how she used to call him "Memmet." These sweet memories prompted me to look you up, and I am so thankful that I did!

What amazing work you are doing. Your photos tell such vivid stories. Bennett and Arielle are beautiful! You are acting out God's plan for your lives with courage, integrity, and His amazing Strength. I am in awe.

I know it's been a number of years since we've connected. I had "new mama" brain around the time you were planning your move to Niger. You had shared your wonderful news about Arielle, but I never got to meet her in person.

I'm so excited to keep up with your blog.

Must run now to fetch Rebecca (that new baby is now in Kindergarten) from the school bus.

Love to you all,


Di said...

Oh, My friend, I feel your heart. I pray that doors would open, that your safety would not be at risk, that you could do those things that are on your heart to do to help. I know a miricle is needed, but We have a big God who is in the business of miricles! ( I love the quote, Do not tell God how big your problems are tell your problems HOW BIG YOUR GOD IS!)