Organization Helps Those Who Escaped from Boko Haram
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
With a slow but steady gait, a petite young woman approached a microphone with her audience expecting to hear her share a frightening tale of being kidnapped by terrorists — and how she escaped.
But instead, Patience, 19, a former schoolgirl in Chibok, Nigeria, who managed to get away from the terrorist group Boko Haram after they took over her school on April 14, 2014, broke out in song.
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see,” she sang.
And with that, Patience, one of 10 girls who have been attending school in the U.S., returned to her seat. All 10 continue to look for ways to heal wounds, emotional and physical, that still plague them after their harrowing experience.
The program, held at Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel in Northwest on Tuesday, April 14, focused on the one-year anniversary of the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. But its organizers said they also wanted to bring more attention to the plethora of challenges that continue to trouble those girls who escaped. In order to tell the story of what happened to the girls, the audience, which totaled over 50 in number, watched an animated cartoon told from the perspective of the girls who escaped.
“Many of the girls have since lost their homes (in Nigeria) and family members at the hands of terrorists,” said Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights attorney who has helped place several of the girls back in U.S.-based schools.
“Patience was the first of several girls with whom I met after their escape,” he said. “For her, it was a long crawl to freedom. But somehow she had the courage to take the first step. She recently lost her father who was being held in a refugee camp.”
“In the last eight months, we’ve been able to place 10 girls in schools in America. But they need so many things — and no donations from leading organizations have come in so far to help us. We’re a grassroots organization and we remain committed to our goal,” Ogebe said.
Ogebe added that while funds are needed in order to provide food, lodging, clothes and school supplies for the girls, one of the most difficult challenges has been securing visas.
“We have had great difficulty obtaining visas from the U.S. Embassy — sometimes we’ve had to pay several times. One girl had hoped to attend school here in the U.S. but couldn’t because we were unable to get a visa for her.”
One of the organizers of the program said she, along with a small delegation, planned to meet on Wednesday, April 15 with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in order to secure their support in getting visas for the girls.
“These girls were targeted because of the narrow belief that girls should not be educated in certain countries,” said Marcia L. Dyson, Ph.D., founder of the Women’s Global Initiative.