In this video, Ibrahim, a literacy teacher at the Bredgin refugee camp in eastern Chad, talks about the importance of learning to read and write Massalit.
The Massalit are refugees from the DarFur region of Sudan. It is a cross-boarder community, so some also have permanent residence in Chad. An SIL team has been assigned to eastern Chad to provide guidence to a literacy program.
“The reason that I’m back in Africa is because I left a piece of my heart here and [now] I’m here to get it back,” Eunice Kua said with a glint in her eye. Not only is Eunice back in Africa, she is in a remote village in eastern Chad called Hadjer Hadid working with refugees from Sudan—an environment for which her background rather unexpectedly prepared her.
Eunice, who is Chinese, was born and raised in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society. “It was after having been in the USA, where I studied Library Science, that I saw that Malaysia has a lot to offer in terms of its diversity. You grow up aware of differences but being comfortable with it.” It was during three-week volunteer program in South Africa with her university that Eunice got her first taste of life in Africa.
Eunice is now part of a small multi-national team who are providing guidance to a literacy program for the displaced Massalit people of Darfur. Her upbringing, coupled with experience living in a Western culture, has become an ideal platform for this work.
Angela Prinz from Germany is the team leader. She confirms that Eunice had a head start coming here. “Having come from Malaysia makes Eunice’s adjustment to living here much easier. She comes from a predominantly Muslim country so her understanding of the religion helps.” The Massalit are almost entirely Muslim. “Also, because of her Malay, Arabic comes easily.” Eunice adds, “And, English helps with French. The more languages you know the easier it is to learn.” According to Angela, her colleague is indeed a quick learner as, along with the Arabic and French, she is learning the Massalit language remarkably quickly.
Marthinus Steyn, a team member from South Africa, further substantiates Eunice’s quick adjustment to this foreign environment. “Eunice has no problem with the different foods here and as a result has not become ill like the rest of us. This really is a big help because this drains your energy and can take away from your work.”
Along with religion, language and food, Eunice found the cultural adjustment a fairly easy one as well. “Asian and African cultures share quite a few similarities. One is the respect for elders.” A further similarity is hospitality. “People feel free to drop in for a visit all the time which reminds me of home except these days [back home] you’re not sure if the person will actually be in or not,” Eunice said with a chuckle.
Even though Eunice has slotted into her new environment with relative ease, she did face some struggles in the first few months. One of these was unexpectedly having to live alone. “My first house mate left for two months and it was tough being alone in a new place, especially at night.” Then of course, there were the cultural adjustments. “Adjusting to a new place and culture makes you [mentally] tired. Oh, and learning three new languages at once does take it out of you.”
Eunice has no doubt that there will be future challenges. However, she feels secure knowing that this is where God wants her to be, and He will continue to equip her to face these challenges just as He has so far.
Photos (from the top):
Eunice talking with Massalit women at the Treguine refugee camp. Photo by Heather Pubols.
Angela, Marthinus and Eunice pray together after a team meeting. Photo by Zeke du Plessis.
Eunice at the Hadjer Hadid market.Photo by Zeke du Plessis.
Video (by Zeke du Plessis): Eunice is going over a lesson on reading and writing Massalit with Yaya, the guard at her compound. It is the first time that Yaya has written these words.