Going the extra mile(s)

Mohammed is the CURE Clubfoot Counselor in Tahoua, Niger. He is a tall man with a big personality to match. We were happy to meet him and his wide, welcoming smile. He informed us that we were welcome to attend a special home visit with him.

We traveled over 700 kilometers to get from Niamey to Tahoua in order to meet Mohammed to see how his counseling program was going. All of our clubfoot counselors occasionally do home visits. Home visits give the counselor an opportunity to meet with the entire family in a comfortable environment, so that the counselors can encourage them during a child’s treatment.

Mohammed had known this particular family for a little more than two months. He was the one who received the call that they had been involved in a terrible accident. The family lived 100 kilometers outside of Tahoua and they always rode their motorcycle into the city for treatment. However, things did not go well on their last trip. They hit a bump in the road, the motorcycle flipped over, the family was thrown off onto the road, and their baby hit his head on the tough concrete. The baby was rushed to a hospital where he passed away a few hours later. Mom and dad had only suffered a few bruises, but this incident left them emotionally broken. When Mohammed heard the news, he pulled out his counselor’s book and made a small note saying that he would pay the family a visit.

Mother holding the twin brother of the child who passed away

We travelled for well over an hour on a bumpy, tarred road with large potholes. We then found ourselves turning onto a gravel road going towards a small village. We met the dad on the way there. He was riding his motorcycle and led us into the village. Our Land Cruiser swerved around bends and cracks in the road while our driver kept an eye on the father whose motorcycle had no trouble going through the rough terrain.

We arrived in a beautifully constructed village. The family’s house sat on the edge of a big valley. We were led into a room where the mom sat waiting for us. The whole room smelled of incense, a strong, almost-sweet smell that our nostrils relished and that filled the large room with smoke. We crowded into the room, sitting on a floor mat prepared just for us. Outside, under a shady spot, a calabash lay on a small table with a traditional drink and spoon to help scoop it out for visitors. The welcome we received was heartwarming, and Mohammed took the lead in the discussion. He started by thanking the family for taking time to host us and the father’s kind gesture of bringing us into the village.

Heads were bowed and African sounds, which cannot be described in English but represent sadness, were shared.

In the room with us was Saratou, our Program Manager. She wore a headscarf, showing her respect for the house and sympathizing with the mom and other family members who had gathered in the room with us.

Mohammed had the tough task of giving counsel to the family and helping them find comfort amidst this tragedy. Everyone kept nodding at every word that Mohammed said. His familiarity with the family and his relationship with them made the talk heartfelt.

After a moment of silence, the father spoke up and thanked us all for coming.

“What you are doing with those children is amazing. We may no longer be in the program, but we saw the difference your program is doing in the lives of many people like us. Do not despair and keep up with the good work. We will never forget this kindness.”

Heads nodded and smiles were shared.

Mohammed led the way out of the room. Everyone went outside and sat around the little calabash, pouring the cold, sweet drink into cups.

Mohammed and the dad sat to chat some more and laughs were shared between men while Saratou held a conversation with the mother and admired the child in her lap. The child who died was a twin, and the mother is thankful that her other child is safe.

As we finished visiting, the father escorted us to the car and the mother came running towards us with a paper bag full of vegetables.

“You never leave a house empty handed. We just want to thank you for all you did.”

The team took the vegetables, gave our final goodbyes, and we were on our way back to the city of Tahoua with a bittersweet feeling of gratitude for counselors like Mohammed who build relationships that have such a positive impact on our clubfoot program.