Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meet Bambay, the most extraordinary man in Sierra Leone

What's your goal in life? Finish school? Get a good job? Marry a rich widow? Travel around the World? I guess we all have different goals we want to achieve, but the question is: how far are you willing to go for your dreams?

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting our Agricultural Project, here in Sierra Leone, about an hour drive away from Freetown. All those who have been there before told me that if I get to know only 1 of the trainees, it should be Bambay - but they didn't tell me, why. Because you cannot come and meet him, I am sharing the reason with you all now.

Reka with some of students standing in the middle of their corn field


Bambay is an extraordinary individual, whose life’s goal is not typical;  “he doesn't want to be a beggar.” This reflects the sad reality of life in Sierra Leone after their brutally violent ten-year civil war. The conflict devastated the people and left the country in shambles and poverty.

During the war, Bambay, his mother and two younger siblings fled from their village and hid in the bush for a month. When they ran out of food, Bambay went back to his village to find something – anything – they could eat. He planned to return to his family that day, but it was late. So, he accepted an invitation to stay until the next morning. It was a disastrous decision.

During the night, the village was attacked by rebel soldiers. “You voted for this president!” they shouted. Bambay tried to explain that he was only 15 and couldn’t vote for anyone. But they wouldn’t listen. They chopped off both his hands and left him for dead . . . along with the other villagers who had been mutilated.

Later that day, he was found by a roving seller of goods and taken to a nun at a nearby church. She took him to a hospital and then nursed him back to health. While Bambay was in her care, she asked him what he’d do if he ever found the man who cut off his hands. “I would kill him!” said Bambay.

The nun began to plant the seeds of forgiveness into Bambay’s thinking. She told him how important it was for his future to relinquish the hate and anger that fueled his unforgiveness. The nun also did what she could to prepare the young man for life on his own. She arranged a surgery that would split the hacked ends of his arm, allowing him to grasp things.

One day Bambay was out with his friends when he saw “Sewer Poison,” the nickname given to the man who had cut off his hands. He went after him and caught him, but couldn’t bring himself to kill the man. The seeds of forgiveness had been well-planted. His friends offered to kill the man for him, but Bambay wouldn’t allow it. The man pleaded for his life, and Bambay forgave him.

That forgiveness enabled Bambay to move on with his own life. He eventually met and married Mary, and today they have a seven-month-old baby daughter, Ann.

Jean-Claude (in red T) giving some practical teaching to the trainees
Today, Bambay is a trainee in the Food for Life Program that was started in Benin by Mercy Ships.  The goal of the program is to train people in organic farming methods and in leadership principles. These trainees will, in turn, teach others in their communities. In this way, the program is duplicating easily in Sierra Leone. It has the potential of transforming food-growing in the country, as it improves the financial status of those involved.

Bambay wants to be involved in using the program’s biblical concepts to help rehabilitate the mentally ill, as well as drug and alcohol addicts. Bambay is, indeed, a remarkable man who is achieving much, much more than his goal to “not to be a beggar.” 

So, you can imagine my initial shock when I saw him for the first time... Not knowing what to expect I just smiled at him, but he drew me close for a big hug and welcomed me into their community like a long lost friend. :) I had a FABULOUS day with them on the fields. They were all super excited to show me their lot and educate me on basic farming should I ever need to know how to cross breed bad mango trees with good brunches... :)
Mary, Bambay's wife carrying her daughter on her back
and fresh lettuce for us to eat on her head - African style :)
The trainees graduated a few weeks ago and now it's up to them to go back to their respected villages and teach their communities what they have learnt here and maybe one day the Sierra Leonean mango will be the best know and most demanded fruit on the planet... Who knows? They sure won my heart! :)))

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