Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Up in flames

This is my friend Fatima. She has a small wooden table and stall in the local market of Yantala nearby. I go there almost every week, and when I am in need of veggies, I go to her table first. While her French is limited and my Zarma is almost non-existent, we have the funnest, smiley-est, high energy conversations. There is wild gesturing, hand shaking and even hugging. She is pure joy. I love how she works hard everyday in the market to support her kids. She is putting them through school on the strength of this little wooden table of veggies. I love the stories of strong women like Fati.Fati can’t get enough of hugging my kids Smile

This is the little storefront where I usually buy my flour and sugar in small 1 kg bags.

This is one of the aisles out front that I walk down almost every week. You can buy almost anything you need in this big market that is locally available. I buy my fabric here too. Kristi has her tailor here.

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In the inside of the big market cement building it is jam packed with stalls. Here is my friend Fatima from the Girls School buying meat from a butcher. You can see all the other little shacks in the background. They have thin tin walls and roofs and wood supports and shelves and they are crammed, mostly with food items.

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One more picture of Fati from a few months ago when I was there with Fatima. (So complicated when thousands of people share the same name!)

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This is Fati’s stall today. There was a massive fire at the market a few days ago and everything she had is gone. Her table and awning and her little stock of veggies is gone. Her customers are gone with no more market to draw them.

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This looks across an open area towards the market (her stall was just next to the opening on the left). This used to be jam packed with little huts and stores and selling everything you could imagine. Cloth sellers, cookware, soap, food, spoons, plastic mats, buckets, yarn, etc. Now all that is left is piles of the tin stacked up. The rest of their structures and all the contents are gone.

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The inside of the market place. This is the same building from the meat butcher picture above. Devastating.

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I wandered around a little bit carefully with a seller showing me what was destroyed. I have been to this market so often I could trace out what seller used to be where. I know who is gone, and who by God’s grace is still standing. Three or four rows of the market were spared and the outer ring shops, but 2/3 of the market is burnt to the ground.

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This is our friend Mohammed who has a big shop (well big by Niger standards) along the road. Thankfully his main shop escaped the fire. But in the middle of the market he had two side by side stalls where he stored a lot of his grain and oil. It was tin walls and wood. Those two squares you can see on the ground in front of him are where his shop stood. It is all gone.

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And you know what makes it even worse, so much was lost to looting. The fire broke out under suspicious circumstances at 2 in the morning and looters were all over the place. You see the blue door in the background left that is bent? The fire jumped past this building, but looters pried open the door and smashed the bricks to get in.

Our friend here was working with another friend at 2am to try to move some of their stock of rice and oil across the street so the fire wouldn’t reach it, and as they moved the sacks over, looters came and took some of it. Now Mohammed is not as poor off as my friend Fatima and her veggie stand, but he took a major hit with huge amounts of stock lost in the fire interior storage room , and a lot more taken by looters. Apparently looters broke into stores all over the place and it was chaotic and almost everyone lost from the looters. I walked by a shop this afternoon that normally sold all kinds of perfumes and sprays and such items. His walls were 3/4 empty and yet he had not been burned. He sadly said looters had broken in and taken most of it.

It makes me so angry! A fire I can understand, but  taking advantage of the situation to steal from other poor people who are working hard to make a living? I spoke with the police and they told me their working theory was that the fire was intentionally set by thieves to create chaos and mass stealing opportunity. Is this what it has come to? I know the refugee crunch from Mali and Libya is putting a lot of pressure on people. There is also a famine in Niger. According to the Police, this is just the type of explosive situations that desperate people create.

Will you pray with us for people like Fatima who lost everything they had, who were barely eeking out an existence even before this? Pray this would be a time we could be like Jesus with skin on to them. Help us to know the best way to comfort and support them.

4 comments :

Di said...

Oh...my! This is beyond sad. My heart is broken, I can not imagine what those of you there are feeling in the midst of it. Praying for wisdom...... trusting that God can translate the tears. Love you..

Anonymous said...

My heart aches. But praying. heather

Pamela said...

What a horrible tragedy for everyone - to lose what little you have, whether by fire or looting is devastating. It's worse when you realize the police probably won't find the culprit(s) so no one will be held responsible.

I will pray for your friends and for everyone affected. I will also pray for justice to be done - justice that clearly comes from God. I'm sad for you as well Chantelle - you and Paul and the kids. You put so much of yourselves into ministering in Niger and I know this has to hurt you deeply on a personal level as well. Please don't lose faith now...trust that God will use this situation to His glory.

Big hugs,
Pam

Linda said...

Oh, my heart breaks as I read and ponder what you've shared. Your photos and the fire bring back so many memories of our years in Africa. May God somehow bring beauty from those ashes.

God bless you all,
Linda