Life in African villages. Even the youngest have work to do.
Western life is often far removed from what most of the rest of the world experiences. It is easy to think of other people’s lives being similar to our own until we really see how they live. I would like to share what I have experienced in hopes of bringing understanding and a better picture of life in foreign lands.
Life in undeveloped Western African countries is all about survival. The people grow their own food to survive, which is called subsistence farming.. They have no electricity or running water and there are no luxuries such as medication, cell phones, toys, books or things we use day to day without a thought. Everyone from the young to the old have their jobs to do each day just to keep surviving including to tend the garden, hunt, gather food, gather wood to make a fire to cook the food, get water for drinking, washing clothes and bathing. So many things we take for granted in our world are luxuries or not available in other lands.
Children are put to work as soon as they are able. The youngest infant is put in the care of the next youngest child who can manage. Gathering sticks for the fire or fruit which has fallen off a tree are jobs given to the little ones. Boys are given the job of shepherds to watch over and tend to the goats, sheep or other animals the family raise. One job which is most important and always needed is to bring water to the hut. You will see even the smallest children carrying a container to fill at the well. I am always amazed at the resourcefulness of the children. Tying large containers they call “bidons” filled with 5 gallons of water which weigh about 42 pounds on the back of a bicycle and making it balance to roll back home is a challenge, but they make it work! Even with the littlest one on top the bike! The alternative is bearing the weight of the water over your shoulders and carrying it home, all while watching a younger sibling and trying to eat a piece of corn!
The children develop muscles very early as a result of the work they have to do and are amazingly strong. This work is shared by the family and valued! The children help each other and share in the work and are happy to do so! They are proud of their efforts, know it is important and they can contribute something of value to help their family. This can also be a difficult burden and children miss out on going to school. Children can be overworked, taken advantage of and abused. In times of the year when there is drought or little food, everyone suffers and it is often the littlest which it takes its greatest toll on. This is why we do the work we do to help.