Afabet Eritrea - November 27th 2006
Most people acquire some type of visual problem at some point in their lives. Some can no longer see objects far away, while others have problems reading small print. And some lose total sight. The five children of Mr. Mohamed Nur Abubeker
in Afabet belong to the last group.
Read more ......
The house in which the family is now living, is made of wood and grass and can be easily destroyed by one simple rainstorm. Earlier, the Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare
has given them 2,000 Nakfa, which they used to buy concrete blocks to build
a one room house; but they didnít manage it as they didnít have enough
The Eritrean Community in Holland started
raising funds for this family during the Festival Eritrea 2006 in Utrecht,
where children maintained the toilets (and donated all gains to the campaign), and
adults discussed and displayed various initiatives and activities, to help
this family financially.
With the cooperation of the Embassy of the
State of Eritrea in The Hague, the Ministry of Tourism, and the PFDJ, I
received a permit to travel to Afabet, to visit this family (usually
tourists are not allowed to visit this area).
Very early in the morning - it is still completely dark - I walk to the Keren bus station
with Afworki, who will take the bus to Asmara for a visit to the hospital.
It is before 6:00, but Afworki is just to
late to have the first bus to Asmara.
The bus to Afabet is waiting for its
last passengers, but it will not leave before 7:00 and even then it will
stop several times in the outskirts of Keren to collect cargo which is stored on its roof. It is an old bus, but it is strong enough to climb
over the hills and to cross the empty riverbeds.
After a stopover in Kelhamed (tea and
breakfast break) we pass the Afabet checkpoint at 10:00. The first stop in
Afabet is right in front of the administration building, so I am lucky to
skip the search for this building, and walk into the first office I pass, and all the luck will be
with me today. My fear for the "unknown" turns out to be
completely unnecessary. Everywhere I go, I meet kind assistance.
I show my letter of recommendation to a
female secretary, who guides me to a second office. The government worker,
introducing himself as Mehari, reads my letter and brings me to the room
of Ahmed Mohamenur, the City Administrator, the mayor of Afabet.
Administrator is surprised that there is a foreign visitor for the family
of the five blind children. He sends someone to make sure that the family
is complete, so I can meet the family as a whole, and we drink tea in front of a bar in
the main street of Afabet.
I tell him about the campaign for this
family, organized in Holland where Eritreans, both young and old. spend their energy
and time to raise money to help this unhappy family. The mayor is touched.
He explains that the Eritrean government is unable to manage all the
families in trouble. There are too many problems, and insufficient resources
to solve them all. The assistance of Eritreans living in the
Diaspora is therefore most appreciated.
After half an hour we walk to the compound, where the family Nur Abubeker lives in four small houses, made of
wooden poles. I am introduced to all family members, who come forward a few steps, so I can walk
the last steps towards them, since they are unable to see
me. We shake hands and with the help of the mayor and a second official, I
speak some words with the family.
I did not prepare a speech, nor did I think
in advance what to say to the family. But the least I can do is tell them that their
faith and their handicap has touched the hearts of the Eritrean Community
in The Netherlands. I tell them about the Eritrean children working for
them at the Festival Eritrea in Holland. "We consider you our
brother, now that you traveled this far to visit us, and bring us the good
news", the 60 year old mother Fatuma says.
The mayor shows me their house: four small
constructions made of wood. A bedroom for the four women, a bedroom for
the two men, a living room, and a kitchen. He also shows me the piles of
bricks, that have been made by the family themselves with the 2000 Nakfa
donated by the government, who also gave them a piece of land
to build a new house.
Idris shows me his savings account at the
Commercial Bank of Eritrea (I pictured it, but removed some non essential
areas, like signature and identity card numbers, for security reasons). The
essential data will be used to surprise the family with a transfer of
10,000 Nakfa from the Eritrean Community in Rotterdam (and more to come
from other Eritrean Communities in The Netherlands), so they will have
some financial backup from Holland to construct a decent house.
Ahmed and Mehari guide me to the Tsiku
Roman Hotel. It is a modest hotel, only a few years old. The price is only
40 Nakfa (two euro) for one
night. Shared toilets and shower. I drink some mineral water before I
follow the advice to buy a bus ticket for tomorrow (check-in at 15:00 today
and boarding at 5:00 tomorrow morning).
I walk through the village of Afabet,
having a typical vegetarian lunch called "fool", a mix of beans,
onions, tomatoes and chily, served with two small breads for 9 Nakfa only.
At the market I buy some bananas, some slices of water melon and some
local fried snacks. In various small bars I drink tea, to add to my daily
ration of four liters of liquid, to prevent dehydration.
I buy my ticket for tomorrow's bus, and at
16:00 when the Commercial Bank opens, I deposit the first 2,000 Nakfa on
the savings account of Idris Nur Abubeker. The rest will follow in Asmara,
since I don't want to travel with lots of money. The workers of the bank
are just as surprised as the mayor. Everyone in Afabet knows this family.
I spend the last hours before dark on the
streets of Afabet, making jokes with the children. When I visit their
school, I am surrounded by a few hundreds of them. I apologize towards one
of the teachers, for any inconvenience caused by my visit to the school.
"Be our guest" is their hospitable response.
When I leave the compound, lots of
children keep following me, and want me to picture them. It is too dark to
make pictures, but how do I explain this to the children, too young to
understand my English? Just to get rid of them, I visit the bank a second time, until the
children are out of sight.
When it is completely dark I return to the hotel to
drink some arakies to eliminate any remaining bacteria in my stomach. Two girls from France and
two Eritrean boys share my table. After introducing ourselves, we explain
our missions in Afabet. The French girls (both midwives), will train nurses
in the Afabet hospital. I tell them about the family I visited today.
At 9:00, after several power failures and
arakies illuminated by candle light (fortunately I brought an electric torch), I set
the alarm clock at 4:00 and go to sleep.
Stopover for breakfast at
Two blind daughters of
Mohamed Nur Abubeker in their settlement - Afabet.
|Idris Mohammed Nur
Commercial Bank of Eritrea
|Commercial Bank of
International Banking Division
Asmara - Eritrea
|Account number: 1358
||Swift Code: CBERERAIXXX
Idris, Mohammed Ali, Saedia,
and (mother) Fatuma - Afabet Eritrea.
Piles of stones manufactured by
the blind family - Afabet Eritrea.
Main Street - Afabet Eritrea.
Tsiku Roman Hotel - Afabet Eritrea.
Main street and mosque - Afabet Eritrea.
Small shop - Afabet Eritrea.
Water melon, one Nakfa per
slide - Afabet Eritrea.
Commercial Bank of Eritrea -
Library - Afabet Eritrea.